Favorites from 2017.

I didn't think it would be proper to dive into new content without taking a good look at what 2017 really was. 2017 was the most emotionally stretching year of my life! I can't believe it's already over, because it flewwwwww by. Like, hi and bye, 2017. I think having two little ones rocking my world has caused the social media mama prophesy to be fulfilled - "the days are long but the years are short." That phrase perfectly encapsulates how I feel about 2017. Perfectly.

I'm taking this week to share some of my reflections here on the blog. Want to take a walk down memory lane with me?


My Favorite Moments!

1. Bringing Daxton home from the hospital.
I know that this technically happened at the end of December 2016, but whew, the Christmas holiday was marked by c-section recovery and caring for a newborn, so it definitely melted into January (and February and March and April...) It was intense, but he was so, so worth every hard moment. I will never forget looking over my hospital bed and staring into his little lucite baby bed, sleeping so serenely. So big and so serene, my little sweetheart. I still get choked up when I think back to those first few weeks.

2. 10-year Anniversary with Stevie!
Stevie and I celebrated our 10-year wedding anniversary on June 23! We had THE BEST TIME ever at Bacchinalea, this ridiculous restaurant in Atlanta that I have always wanted to try. It is a total tasting experience, and for someone who cooks a lot, I felt like I had such a deep appreciation for how special this meal was. I could never cook up something that fancy! It was kind of an epic experience, and he gave me a beautiful piece of jewelry and I just felt like such a grown up woman. 10 years with this man! TEN YEARS. I love him more than ever. Marriage is the craziest experience. No wait, having kids is. Okay, THEY BOTH ARE.

3. Disney World!
I can't say enough great and grand things about this trip - I just wanna re-live it over and over again! We sooooo got bit by the Disney bug!
See more from our Disney trip here and here.

4. My 30th Birthday!
I lovvvvved getting to celebrate my 30th with my favorite girls! I felt really loved that they all took the time out of their busy lives to spend 24 hours with me - it's a big deal in this stage of life! And I always loved getting away to Serenbe because it's just mega lovely and inspiring and I always come away from the place feeling refreshed.

5. Tea time with my Mom & Sis!
I have a weird obsession with high tea. Please let me try all the high teas everywhere! Tea time at the St. Regis Atlanta with my mom and sis is something I will always treasure. I just love the whole experience and I wish it was "a thing" to do tea on the regular. Those Brits. They really know how to party. TEA PARTY.
See more from our tea party here.



Least Favorite Moments
(to keep things real)

My Least Favorite Moments of 2017:
1. Recovering from the c-section.
It took longer than I could have ever imagined. It took longer than anyone I've ever heard of. The pain was with me throughout almost the entire year. And still, if my kids jump on me while we play on my bed and accidentally land on my stomach, my gut wrenches in pain. I've seen my doctor about it and it is healing, but the whole c-section healing experiences was incredibly sluggish and unexpectedly AWFUL. I have a new appreciation for medical doctors and what they do - I probably wouldn't be here if it wasn't for that c-section. So as awful as it was, I am here and my baby boy is here! Bless God.
More about recovery here and here and here.

2. My experience with postpartum anxiety.
I've talked about it here, and I won't harp on it too much now. But it's a black hole and it requires lots of communication and tools to overcome it. I'm grateful for the people in my life who continue to check in with me to support me - it's been a long road! But life is too short to live with anxiety - if you battle with it, let this be the year that you seek help! Sidenote - getting help for this was probably my best decision of 2017, truly.
More about postpartum anxiety here.

3. Getting Slapped in the Face by my Son.
It was either get bangs or a tattoo, because I needed something to look different. So I got bangs! And when I went to pick Everett up from school, he FREAKED. He slapped my head and said, "Get them off, get them off!" Then he melted on the floor into a panic and silenced the entire school with his precious self. I have to say, one of my least favorite moments of the year. P.S. He likes them now. He even told me he wants to get bangs :)



Favorite Travels!

Favorite Travel of 2017:
1. Disney World!!!
We had such a complete blast at Disney and I never ever want to forget the look on my kids' faces as they met characters and experienced the magic. And the meal plan - no cooking for a week! SIGN ME UP AGAIN.
More about this trip here! (Don't forget to scroll and see Dax's face when we meet characters - priceless.)

2. New York City at Christmas!
It was kind of stupidly cold, but it was absolute magic from start to finish. I got to see so many dear friends, I got to take my boys on amazing adventures all over my favorite city, and I got to feel what it would be like to have kids in that city. I've wondered ever since we moved away. Plus, we didn't lose a week of Daddy time just before Christmas, since Stevie needed to be up there for work. This trip was an unexpected and gleeful surprise! Plus, I SAW THE FONZ.
More about this trip here!

3. Beach trip with friends!
We had our first beach getaway with our buds Elliot & Lena and Elizabeth & Garrett this year. It might seem weird that we've never really done a friend vacation, but we realized we usually travel alone or with our extended family! We haven't done a lot of friend travel so our time in Perdito Key with our friends and their kiddos was so much fun and weirdly NOT stressful at all.
More from this trip.

4. Visiting my BFF in Mobile!
After spending a year talking about it, we finally made our way out to Mobile, Alabama to see my girl Natalie and her husband in their element. They run a Chick-fil-A business there, and it was so much fun seeing their life and getting time with her on her turf. I miss my friendships so much, because it seems be the thing that I have the least time for, day-to-day in this season of life. Do any of you mamas feel that way? But when I get friend time, I savor it so!!
More from our time in Mobile.

4. Family Vaycays.
We did our annual trek down to the beach in Florida with Stevie's family, and it was just so low-key and wonderful. I love this trip every year and really look forward to it as a time to rest together as a family. We also did an adults-only trip to Asheville in the fall - and I CANNOT WAIT to go back. The Biltmore is mesmerizing. And just last week we spent time with my side of the family in the Blue Ridge mountains! I am so grateful for that time, because it's not often that I get to see my two sister at the same time! So so special. It makes me want to plan more intentional sister trips in 2018!
More from our Beach trip here.


2017 Goals Accomplished.

Because it's good to celebrate, even the small things.

Personal Goals Met.
1. Date Nights!
Stevie and I have tried to be better about going on regular dates this year, and there are a lot of them that I remember and cherish. Once we went out to dinner in our sweats, and I loved how we were so under-dressed compared to everyone else in the restaurant. We didn't care, we were child-free and comfy and it was awesome! And another time, about 2 months after Daxton was born, we went out and it was pouring rain, so we stayed in the restaurant for like 4 hours! We did dinner and dessert and 2 cups of coffee and kept talking until the rain lightened up - I will always remember that one, too. And of course, our coin jar date night! We laughed so hard that night. This is something I want to continue in the new year - having regular date nights, even if we just stay home in our jammies!

2. Getting help for anxiety.
Like I mentioned above, I struggled hard during the first half of the year with postpartum anxiety. It manifested in lots of ways and I was having trouble coping with simple, simple tasks. I am so glad that I got help early on  - it was super humbling having to get on medication, getting babysitters so I could go to counseling sessions, asking my mom to come over for extended amounts of time while Stevie was on the road for work, etc.  It was hard to admit that I had needs that I couldn't get met on my own. But looking back, that challenge is also my biggest victory of 2017. It took time to overcome that one, and I still have moments that tempt me to go back down that road of stress and worry, but I've learned over the course of this year what my triggers are and I am empowered with more tools to help quench a panic attach before it fully develops. It's been a mega victory and I am so grateful to feel better!
More about getting help with anxiety here.

3. Keeping my kids alive.
I'm just being real - this counts as an accomplishment right?? It was an intense year, learning how to care for my two boys simultaneously was like WHOA. And I was stressed! But they are alive and happy most of the time, so I count that as a win.

4. Investing in myself.
It was hard to keep a routine this year. It just was. But I did carve out time to get myself to the gym or Pure Barre about twice a week, which was a HUGE accomplishment for me. I also continued to create content here on the blog, which I love so much, and I continued getting educated on essential oils, which was something I was drawn more and more to as I learned about how to overcome anxiety. These things, exercise and creativity, are two major outlets for me, and I am so grateful that Stevie is all for me doing them. He's honestly my biggest fan and I wouldn't have been able to keep up this blog this year without his help - his taking the kids, his helping me time manage, his encouragement to get a babysitter so I could go to the gym while he worked. Truly, without his support, I would be a shell of a woman!

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Work Goals Accomplished!

Work Goals Met.
1. Keeping this blog going!
It's hard to understand the behind-the-scenes of what it takes to keep this blog going, but it's a goooood bit of work. Writing, editing, photographing, editing some more, pitching, accounting, advertising - it's a lot! I love it, and I will continue to blog as long as it makes sense for me and my family. It's been an amazing outlet for me creatively, but it's also allowed me to connect with brands that I love and share about them with you, people that I love! And like I mentioned, if it wasn't for the support of my family (thanks Stevie & Mom!), I don't think I would have been able to keep my head above water this year, let alone keep investing time here. I'm so grateful that this space is still such a special outlet!

2. Blog & Instagram Collaborations!
I love the opportunity this blog allows me, to work with brands whose products I love and use anyway. And it's allowed me to get introduced to new brands and find new things I love, so it's always a creative and discovery process for me. This year I had some interesting learning curves in terms of working with brands (like, the good, the bad and the ugly), but it's also probably the most fun I've ever had in terms of collaborations, including working with companies like Banana Republic (multiple times! Such a dream come true!), Ergobaby (another dream come true!), Earth Mama Organics, Workman Publishing, OXO, Pinkblush, Little Barn Apothecary, Mama & Little, Lucky Palmtree and more! And others on Instagram, like Halo Top, Dietz & Watson & Kroger. It's been so much fun! I can't wait for what this year has in store :)

3. Writing for 5 Minutes for Mom.
I love this blog for so many reasons, and one of them is the opportunity it gives me to write for others! I have loved connecting with Susan over at 5 Minutes for Mom and writing posts for their site! Those ladies are the sweetest and have given me the chance to write about some really amazing products. If you're interested in checking some out, just type "Kristen Hale" in the search bar.
Visit 5 Minutes for Mom.

4. Launching My doTERRA Business!
This amazing company made such an impact on my life in 2017. If you would have told me a year ago that I would eventually join doTERRA and sell the products, I would have laughed so hard at you. And told you I didn't have the time for that. Life is funny that way. You guys, I AM LOVING IT. I am still figuring out how to manage my time - doing mom life, maintaining and growing this blog and doing doTERRA, but I am feeling more fulfilled than I have in years so I'm going to keep honing in on how to do all these things well. These oils are so precious and I just want to get them in as many people's hands as possible so they can see the difference it can make in their own life. So yeah, you could say I'm pretty amped. SO AMPED. Let me know if you want more information about doTERRA, I'd love to share more with you!
P.S. - Shameless plug - My personal doTERRA site here.

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And there you have it, friends! A recap of 2017, some of the best (and some of the worst :) Thanks for hanging out with me here in this little corner of the internet world - it means more than you will ever know! Tomorrow's post is on your favorite blog posts of 2017 (and mine!)

xx Kristen

My 2016 Resolutions.

Oooooh MONDAY. I'm ready for you this time. I hope your weekend was a blast, friends. We spent the weekend cleaning out Christmas (I might have dragged it out a bit) and rearranging all our furniture. Because, January. I'll have to post some of our living room photos over the next few weeks, because I am really liking our new set up. But that's not what today is about at all.

Resolutions, guys! Resolutions!! I am feeling so motivated! This is one of my favorite times of year, because the slate is clean and the mind is clear and there is NOTHING holding me back. Except for the limitations I put on myself.

Some of you might remember my Intentional October journey, which really kick-started my personal motivation and helped me develop a bit more discipline in some areas of my life that were lacking. Not all of those disciplines have stuck around, but I am ready to enact (most) of them again, because I felt so amazing when I was in that mode. Waking up super early, spending time stretching and reading the bible and writing before Everett even made a peep. It was glorious. And going to bed early, NOT watching TV, reading books. It sounds so silly and simple. But I never felt so good. My mind was clear, my body was rested, and I felt really energetic. As my bro-in-law Brent would say, I was running on Tiger Blood. I think that means something really good.

So Intentional October is following me throughout January. And I know it's going to make a big different in the rest of my resolutions... Here they are.

Clean up my diet. Prepare healthier, delicious meals for myself and my family.

Why? Because I want to live long and be really strong. We eat pretty healthy as a family, and mostly cook at home, but there is definitely room for improvement. I love to cook, but I find myself in a rut a lot of the time, and I tend to fall back on making the same comfort foods when I don't know what else to make. As a way to kick some bad habits and create some healthier ones, Stevie and I are beginning the Whole30 challenge TODAY, and I welcome anyone who wants to join me. It's a 30-day wellness eating plan (NOT a diet), focusing on whole foods such as protein, vegetables and fruits. There is a ton of wonderful info about it up on the site, and I found this book and this cook book extremely enlightening as I made my plan.

Gym 2X per week. Cardio 2X per week.

I have the time. There is always time. I just have to manage my time more efficiently to make this commitment a non-negotiable one in my schedule. That's what it's really all about with any of these resolutions, right? Make them appointments in your planner, things that can't be bumped by other commitments.

If I can hit the gym on the days that Everett is at "school" and take him on jogs/walks (usually over to his favorite park) on other days of the week, then we would be golden. It sounds easy, but over the past several weeks, the crazy amounts of rain and freezing cold windy weather has really cramped our healthy, outdoorsy style. I've actually been squeezing in some of Tracy Anderson's quick shape-up videos in my living room and I am loving them! She is so intense and so good.

Budget and save better than ever.

We bought a house this year. That's the biggest item I've ever bought. By far. And along with that comes the desire to make changes and decorate and blah blah blah - basically I want to empty our bank account into our home design budget. In an effort to NOT blow the budget and instead save even more responsibly than ever, we have decided to host a Dave Ramsey Financial Freedom course at our house with some friends from church. By host, I mean be the host house. We are in no way advising friends on finances haha, that's Dave's job. But I am excited for the camaraderie and making a really strategic plan for our budget. We love using our budget tool, YNAB to keep track of our expenses and stay on track, but there is always room to be more disciplined and strategic. We want to be generous people, excellent stewards of what we have, and have a healthy mindset when it comes to our finances. So we begin our course this week! Wahoo. Oh adulthood. I never in my life thought I would be excited about a FINANCE class.

Make more music.

You know that I love to write. But you might not know that writing music is how Stevie and I fell in love. Yes, you can groan while imagining my googly face right now. A good ten years ago, we were writing music together and drinking Starbucks apple cider and those lyrics in my notebook turned into moments of love. Before and after we were married, we had the privilege of playing, singing and leading worship together at our church, and spent a ton of our free time writing and developing music. When we moved to Boston and he went to grad school and I pursued acting in NYC and then we HAD A BABY and bought at house, music kind of took a backseat. But it's something that is so intrinsic to who we are and we miss it. A lot. So we are putting it back in the front seat and making time to develop our sound once again. We are still hammering out the details of what this goal looks like - do we want to have written 100 songs by the end of the year? That was a resolution goal of our friend John a few years ago, and he totally slam dunked it. Such an inspiration. Do we want to play in coffee shops/bars? Do we want to record an EP? Haha we are in the dreaming phase again. But we do know we are dedicating an evening a week to it. And we shall see how this artistic side of ourselves develops once again :)

There it is! I feel pretty vulnerable putting my resolutions out there for everyone to see every year, but I know that it will help solidify my commitment to them. I am using my handy dandy self-made proverb to encourage myself and keep my head on straight. You know, along with the actual Proverbs :)

How are your resolutions stacking up? Any resolution-keeping tips?

P.S. - If you haven't already taken the reader survey, I would love it if you would take 2 minutes to share what you think about the blog! And many thanks to all of you who have already taken it - I've been reading the results as they come in. Your words and suggestions are speaking to my heart, so thank you. xox

Why You Should Create a New Year's Resolution Proverb.

New Year's resolutions can be so daunting. It always feels like a long laundry list of reactive items - eat better, exercise more, watch less TV, read more books, etc. It just seems like a reaction to bad behavior. Which makes the resolutions seems a bit like punishment. I'm not a self-punisher type. I don't get motivated by that kind of pain. So I took some time to really think during the gap week between Christmas and New Years about resolutions. The ones I made last year, and how they worked out for me. I actually did accomplish them, each in unique ways. It's always funny and a little embarrassing to look back on previous resolutions, because I personally am always like, "Really?? That was a goal of mine?!" But it was. I'm learning to own my stuff.

As for the resolutions themselves - last year's were so whimsical it still makes me laugh. I actually did a fair amount of bird watching, I watercolor painted greeting cards and mailed them out to friends, I definitely exercised more than I did the previous year (when I was pregnant, haha), and I vastly improved the function, aesthetic and content of this blog. Those were all my resolution goals from last year, and I made great strides in all those areas. Pat on the back, Kristen.

Looking ahead, I have so many ideas for 2016. My mind is spilling over like a bowl full of punch, and I am splashing all over the places the past few days, spewing out ideas to Stevie every other hour. Which is good. I feel like a Pantone color book of swatches - so many shades and tints and so many ideas and they're all beautiful and fascinating and exotic and exciting and how can I possibly anchor all of these?! So I'm trying to take some deep breaths, and you know, edit. But I will say that I've finally honed in on my proverb/mantra/motto (choose your favorite term) for the New Year, and I feel an enormous amount of conviction in it.

Simplify everything.

Be brave and know that you belong.

Follow your instinct.

You can totally make mistakes.

Be excellent and intentional in everything.

These five sentences are my guidepost. I will have to remind myself of them over and over again, but they will serve as my cornerstone encouragement for the year. These words just strike the right chord in my heart.

Why should you create a New Year's Resolution Proverb?

1. To encourage yourself in moments of doubt.

2. To strengthen yourself in moments of weakness.

3. To remind yourself of who you are. And why you're here.

4. And because tailoring your own Proverb totally makes your resolutions feel more significant. Am I right?

Figuring out your Proverb is actually a lot easier than it seems. Don't think, just let a few words flow. Sometimes our convictions are just on the tip of our tongue, or the forefront of our mind. We just have to give ourselves a bit of permission to encourage ourselves. Isn't that kind of funny? It's so easy to encourage our friends and loved ones, but ourselves? Sometimes we have a tricky time with it. Just do it! Figuring out your Proverb (or "guidepost") will help point you towards your goals every single time.

Or if you're having writer's block, you can totally use mine. I love sharing.

How are you feeling about New Years?! How are your resolutions shaping up? Does having a Proverb seem like a strange concept, or does that totally make sense to you? Talk to me!

Forgiving Yourself.

Resolutions are so fleeting, friends. Which is why I've really taken some time to think through mine this time around. And as I've been making little lists all over the house for things I need to do, buy, get rid of, replace - something kind of significant hit me.

I've been weighed down by some self-imposed guilt.

Some of you might think, well, what's new? Self-guilt is so obviously a part of our lives, as women and especially as moms.

But you guys! It shouldn't be. We shouldn't be walking around with a tally in our heads, of what we didn't accomplish for the day. It's self-sabotage. And it's working! Do any of you do that? Am I alone in this? I know I'm not. I can't be.

Dishes didn't get done.
House looks trashed.
Blog post didn't get posted.
Didn't send out enough pitch emails today.
Did I play enough with Everett? Does he feel well-loved by me today?
Didn't make a healthy dinner. Grilled cheese.
Clearly didn't exercise. Gym? What gym??
Didn't spend enough quality time with Stevie. Does he feel well-loved by me today?

Do I feel well-loved by me today??

The questions and judgements are dizzying. And they didn't come from anyone else. No one asked me those questions. No one pointed that finger at me. Except for me.

Sometimes I'm hard on myself. But that's not a cute realization. It's not a form of humility, being hard on yourself. It doesn't sharpen me into being a better person. And it certainly doesn't inform my marriage, my motherhood, my friendships or my work in a healthy way. In fact, over time, this way of thinking will drain my energy and creativity for all those entities.

So before I even think about goals, or resolutions, or dreams for the new year, I need to level with myself.

Are you ready to level with yourself?

I've been thinking a lot about this. If I'm going to make any kind of difference in my personal life this year, probably the best thing I can do is start with forgiveness. I need to be good to myself.

I forgive me. For sometimes crapping out on stuff.

I am going to try to do better this year. I might not do better, but I am giving myself permission to start with a fresh, clean slate. A clean, bright horizon for new possibilities. I am not going to be weighed down by what I "should have done better/more of/less of" in 2015. That list is long. Whatever. I am visualizing that long list. And now I am visualizing throwing that list in the trash.

Actually, I just slam dunked it. In some really fresh Nikes.

I encourage you to forgive yourself today. There is nothing that is more freeing, more illuminating, and more nourishing than being really good to yourself. Recognizing where your strengths ran out in the past. Coming to terms with the areas where you made mistakes. Understanding what held you back from being your best version of you. Gossip, love of money, lack of money, fear, fear of rejection, dreams lost, doors closed, relationships ending badly - whatever it may be, it's truly in the past now. And the best you can do for you is to see it for what it is, acknowledge its part of your journey, and say goodbye. Forgive others, if you need to. Forgive yourself, most definitely.

And now. There is nothing holding you back from running fast and strong into the rising blue-skied horizon. That horizon is yours. And you can run (in some really fresh Nikes) toward all the goals bursting forth in your heart. Without resentment. Without punishment. Without that gnawing self-sabotage lurking just behind you.

Join me. Begin this year by being really, really good to yourself.

Happy New Year - and Thank YOU.

Friends, it's the dawn of a new year. A year that has never been before. We are living in an exciting time, in almost every single way! I am breathless over the promise and possibility that 2016 brings. I know there will be joy and pain and challenge and surprise, and I am finally ready to enjoy the journey, not just the accomplishment of achieving goals. The journey! The journey is gold! 2016, bring on the gold!

I want to take a moment to thank you, yes you, from the very bottom of my heart. Some of you have been reading this little blog for a while, and some of you are new friends to this forum.

Thank you so much for reading. You are priceless.

I am grateful that you value this space enough to share a few moments here every now and then. Your time is precious and I don't take it lightly that you share your open moments foraging through these trailing thoughts of mine. I have worked hard this year to develop more compelling content more often while still allowing myself to write authentically and just be me. The blog world is saturated, and I don't want to feel like a fool in ten years if I look back and realize I allowed someone else's vision dictate this personal space of mine. However, I am always looking to the horizon, seeking to challenge myself and hoping to lend encouragement to you.

You aren't the reason that I write. But you are the reason that I share. Thanks for all the positive feedback from the past year - I value and respond to each and every blog post comment, Instagram tag, and Facebook message because I like you. I want to continue to grow the content and direction of this blog, and I would love to know what you think. Which is why I am going to offer you a reader's survey later on this week. I want your input as I plan ahead for 2016 content here :) More on that later.

This week, I am going to share a little bit every day about one of my favorite times of the year - which is NOW. I love dreaming, goal-making, reflection and resolutions. These are some of my favorite things. Along with the reader survey, this week I will also be sharing some of my own resolutions, a few tools that help me shape my organization, and some encouragement from around the web on goal-making and resolutions.

Does 2016 excite you or terrify you? Are you knee-deep in your goals already? Have your resolutions already gotten stale in your mind? Haha, I'll tell you a little secret... I haven't enacted ANY of my goals yet. That what the ENTIRE month of January is for, friends! No need to rush the goal-compiling. I would just encourage you to not look to your friends or family for whatever their goals may be this year... take some time to just ponder YOU. And see where some of that reflection leads.

Let's check in tomorrow! Love to you!