The Power of Alone Time: Solo retreat rundown

About a month ago, I was feeling incredibly overwhelmed. All day. Every day. I was relentlessly busy, and I didn’t feel willing to give up a single thing. This obviously lead to multiple dropped balls, lots of junk food, and lots of crying (for “no reason”). 

I was looking at my Google Calendar, obsessively planning the upcoming month (typical), and I saw a blank weekend. My immediate reaction: how can I spend that weekend 100% alone?

I am very introverted. I enjoy time with family and friends so much, but I need a lot of time to decompress and recharge afterwards. There are often entire weeks where the only alone time that I get is consumed with chores and work. If I don’t plan relaxing alone time, it just doesn’t happen.

So I planned alone time. I got an Airbnb, packed sweats, jammies, and no makeup, and spent Friday afternoon-Sunday lunch in total solitude. The only person I saw was a cute lady who sold me kettle corn.

I feel like so many of you can relate: I am constantly, unendingly doing stuff for others. My husband, my family, my job, my readers. And I, for the most part, really enjoy the things that I do. I love love love interacting with and supporting my people. BUT it’s so easy to get overwhelmed and run down. Scheduling purposeful alone time saved my sanity.

I had 36 hours where I didn’t have to make anyone else dinner, I didn’t have to make small talk, I didn’t have to get dressed, I didn’t have to do anything.

This gave me the chance to do SO many things that I hadn’t made time for in months: I watched TV, I did 1,000,000 administrative tasks for the blog and for life, I set up systems to streamline a lot of the things I do every week, and I wrote. I wrote uninterruptedly. I wrote about nothing, and then copy and pasted the paragraphs that were worth saving into upcoming blog posts. I journaled and brainstormed and ate a bunch of chicken, mayo, and potato chip sandwiches (so, so good, I promise).

This weekend away gave me two things that I don’t get enough of: focused work and intentional alone time.

While I highly HIGHLY recommend that everyone get a weekend away when they can (even if it’s just volunteering to housesit for a friend), that’s not always practical. I can’t spend the money on an Airbnb or hotel room every time I need a reset.

What I can do? Build more focused time and intentional alone time into my weeks so I need this reset less urgently and less often. (I still plan to take at least one night away for myself every six months or so. I need it, and I’m willing to cut corners in other places to make it happen.)

FOCUSED WORK

Focusing on ONE task for an extended period of time is the best way I know to be productive. I don’t mean the emails that you write while you wait for dinner to finish simmering or the TV you watch while you schedule your week.

My cute little carriage house

I mean sitting for 45 minutes and writing an entire blog post. I mean putting your phone on airplane mode, turning on an awesome playlist, and cleaning that cluttered af room in your house. I mean DOING THE WORK without distraction.

It’s so hard to make this happen. I know I’m not alone. The list of things that must get done each day is 1,000 items long, and it often feels easier to multitask. But I’ve learned the hard way that too much multitasking and not enough heads-down time makes me mean and teary. 

By scheduling time for FOCUSED WORK, I relieve stress from the rest of the week. I have several two-hour blocks scheduled each week, and I use that time to plug in, ignore my phone, and power through. There are so many administrative tasks that support the work, but they can eat up all the time that you have to do the actual work. For me, that’s writing. 

I can design graphics and schedule FB posts and send emails with the TV on or while listening to a podcast, but I can’t write while I’m distracted. At least nothing that’s worth reading.

Making time for this uninterrupted, focused work isn’t easy. I get up very, very early, even on the weekend. This is what works for me. I’m a morning person by nature, and I love killing that to-do list pre-10 a.m. I would rather write from 4:30-6:30 a.m. than give up my evening with Grant or drinks with a friend. And, to be honest, I often get the non-focused work done in the evening, regardless. Formatting a blog post or returning Instagram messages can totally happen during the Bachelorette.

INTENTIONAL ALONE TIME

Spending time alone is so essential to my level of happiness. If we meet for drinks and I am spaced out or having a hard time following the conversation, it’s likely that I haven’t had a substantial chunk of alone time recently.

I’m sure all of you — especially those of you with kids! — understand how difficult it is to get chunks of time to be alone. There are always errands to run and meetings to get to and endless family obligations to meet. And I usually use little tricks to fit alone time in the gaps: taking the long way home from an event so I can listen to a podcast, going for a walk, exercising with really loud music. But these don’t really count. They bandaid the issue.

To really feel restored and ready to take on another jam-packed day or week or month, I need several hours or more. I need time where I can be alone with my thoughts. I need several hours to watch what I want on TV or read without a timer that reminds me to move onto the next chore. I need time to zone out while I’m eating a sandwich.

I don’t think I’m alone in constantly running through the day’s agenda in my mind. What needs to get done next, what needs to get done tomorrow, what tasks I need to add to the to-do list at some point. I’ve got a lot of balls in the air, and this level of organization is required.

Taking chunks of time where I don’t have to think this way is meditative. It’s restorative. It feels like a nap, but without the weird hangover.

But the reality is that this time doesn’t just happen. I rarely get a four-hour block of Saturday without an event or task on the agenda.

So when it does happen — whether by chance or by plan — I want to spend it intentionally.

I’ve talked about this before — this means not scrolling on my phone. Not channel surfing. It means doing the things that I always wish that I had time for. Reading a book. Watching a favorite TV show. Going for a walk with a thermos of wine. Not talking to annnnnnnyone. If I spend this time on purpose, that means that I don’t waste one of my two free hours on Instagram.

I try to do this when I can in my everyday life. I often beat Grant home from work, and I’ll set a thirty minute timer and read before I need to start making dinner. Or I’ll wake up early on a Saturday so I can read in bed with my coffee before the day really starts.

Basically, I’ve learned that alone time isn’t going to just happen. I have to make it. And then make the most of it.

View from a brainstorming walk.

I am so thankful that I took the time and spent the money to go on a solo retreat. I am SO lucky that I can afford to do this (both with my time and with my disposable income). I am not blind to that. If you can’t take time away, you can hopefully implement an at-home version of my retreat. Make time for focused work and intentional alone time on a weekly basis, and watch your life change.

A real-time example of this focused work and alone time colliding: I got to a bar an hour before my friend. I’m enjoying a class of happy hour champagne and putting the finishing touches on this post.

Since my retreat, I’ve seen my stress levels drop and my daily mood improve. I also think that I’m sleeping better. When I take time for myself, I’m less likely to wake up sweating at 2 a.m. (which I’m sure is stress nightmare related).

What I’m saying is that I’m spread thin, sometimes too thin, and I’m working to fix that. My weekend away was the beginning, and I don’t plan to stop anytime soon.

June Isn’t Too Late: Recommitting to your best year ever

Hi! It’s JUNE! Which means that we’re entering the latter half of 2018. Isn’t it still 2001? Wasn’t I just sitting in my inflatable chair, listening to N*SYNC and reading a Dear America book (please tell me you read those, too)?

Nope. It’s SUMMER 2018. We’re halfway through the year that we promised would be the best ever

How ya doing? How are those intentions that you set with me back in December? I’m going to be real honest and say that I am doing MEDIUM. A solid C+. I may be doing well, in general, but I am not killing it when it comes to the intentions that I set.

But I’m not going to feel bad about that. Not even for one minute. Can you imagine how much work you and I would get done if we didn’t waste a single second wallowing? Life is hard enough. We should be our own best cheerleaders, not the jerk that won’t shut up about our failures. And “failure”? Failing isn’t a negative thing. It’s a learning opportunity. If you fail at something, it means that you were trying to grow. Without failure, growth isn’t possible. Mistakes are mandatory.

This year has been full of mistakes for me. I’ve overslept, skipped workouts, chosen T.V. over writing, snapped at my husband, left dishes all over the kitchen (and living room).

But it’s also been full of triumphs, ones that make my eyes tear up as I type this: we’ve hosted friends and family in our home, regardless of its imperfections. We celebrated a perfect anniversary weekend. I pushed myself to do Facebook Live, something that made my heart jump out of my chest. I ran four miles without stopping.

Life is to be LIVED, not obsessed over. There is such a fine line between living with intention and living with restriction. Finding the balance is incredibly personal. I know that I will always struggle with this — I do so well with schedule and routine, that I immediately give up if even one thing goes awry.

If I injure my foot and can’t exercise, I might as well eat like crap all week, too. If I oversleep and miss a morning of writing, I might as well skip tomorrow as well.

This is bullshit. It’s holding me back. It’s making me believe that I can’t do hard things when I know that I can. I can do hard things. I can get back on track.

And the first step to get back on track is giving myself credit where it’s due. Even though I haven’t been perfect, I have done a lot this year.

So, here it is, a mid-year check-in on my Fruitful Intentions for 2018:

GROW THE FRUITFUL BLOG

This is going pretty well! I’m making changes, working hard, and I’m currently typing this from a writing retreat that I booked myself to get AHEAD on this goal.

View from my retreat AirBNB ♥️

 

But here’s the reality of growing a presence online: It is a LOT of work. A lot of work that has nothing at all to do with writing. A lot of research and online classes and scheduling Facebook posts to publish at peak times.

There’s a lot of stuff that goes into making sure that the words I write are being read. Stuff that I’d rather not do. I let that bog me down a lot in the earlier part of the year, but NO MORE. I’m moving forward because I know that I have a message to share. I know that my words will help women, and that means I should keep moving, even if that means doing the parts I’m less interested in.

One of my intentions was to take a class monthly, and I have NOT been keeping up with that. I am, however, taking a class today (Sunday), and I took one last week. I share that example to say: if you haven’t been meeting your monthly intentions all year, SO WHAT. Start now. Don’t wait until January so you can have a “perfect year.” That’s not how it works, and you know it. The only way real change can happen is NOW, today. So just start.

INVEST IN OUR MARRIAGE

This is also going medium! Haha. We’ve had a lot of fun dates this year, and even a couple trips. We’ve also had weeks where we’ve barely seen each other and plenty of weeks with no purposeful date night. I’ll make sure this changes.

We also haven’t even picked up one marriage or relationship book, so, um… I’ll work on that as well. It seems like just another thing to add to the to-do list, if I’m being honest. But I think it will be useful, so we’ll make it happen.

COZY OUR HOME

This is going really, really well. Projects are moving along, furniture is being purchased, and we’re using our home to entertain like we never have before.

Decluttering is going very, very slowly. It basically only happens if I have a free Saturday, and that hasn’t happened in a good while. G and I have joined forces, though, to rid our house of junk. Slowly but surely.

GET EVEN STRONGER

I’ve had some major fitness wins this year: running the hilliest 5K I could imagine in the Ozarks, running a four-mile race at my personal best mile time, beating my best distance in spin class.

But I’m also in the middle of an exercise-free spell. And not to rest from running a marathon or anything. I’m just not exercising.

I do the best when I exercise every day. I feel more mentally clear, I’m less tempted to eat the junk food that wrecks my skin and my focus, and it keeps me emotionally stable. Sundays are my day of rest, but I should be sweating every other day.

Knowing that this is true about myself doesn’t mean that I stick to it well or easily. An extra hour of sleep or some time with my current novel often sounds more appealing than an hour on the spin bike (plus the time in the car and the extra time getting ready). But that doesn’t matter. Exercise is good for my heart and my body and my relationships. It should be a high-priority task.

SAVE MONEY

This is perhaps going the worst of all. I have no excuses, just the reality: I bought a lot of stuff in the beginning of the year. And I used the excuse that we’ve had lots of people over for dinner to totally bust my grocery budget.

So here I am, recommitting to my spending goals. Starting this week, I will get back on my budget, back on my thriftiness, and back to saving as much money as I can.

I started by NOT going grocery shopping this week at all. We’ve got plenty of food in the house, and we’re going to eat it all before I by more, goshdarnit!!!!!

Pantry meal ⤵⤵⤵


Say it with me: LIFE IS TOUGH, BUT SO AM I. We can do this. We can recommit to our goals (or continue to SMASH them). We can revise as necessary, but never quit. We can make 2018 awesome, even though it’s halfway gone.

Perfection isn’t a real goal. It’s totally unattainable. Life is constantly changing around you. People change, circumstances change, and you change, too. Those changes mean that every day is a new challenge. Under those conditions, I think a C+ is just fine. As long as I’m constantly striving to do a little better tomorrow, my average will always be improving.

My 10 Takeaways from RISE Women’s Conference by Rachel Hollis RISExLA 2018 recap

At the beginning of April, I flew to Los Angeles to meet my friend Brooke for our annual personal development weekend at the RISE women’s conference by Rachel Hollis. RISE is full of great speakers and dancing and crying and genuine, revelatory breakthroughs — but it’s also kind of hard to write about. So much goes on during the weekend, but trying to describe it to an outsider is daunting. There are the standard key notes from famous women, but also meditations on self, the future, and limiting beliefs. There’s hugging and cocktails and compulsory dancing. It’s a totally absorbing experience, but one that sort of defies description.

But, here I am, trying to describe it. Because this experience — feverishly taking notes while crying in a room full of hundreds of women doing the same — you need to have it, too.

MY TEN TAKEAWAYS FROM RISE 2018

These points are all lifted from my RISE notes. I’ll credit in parentheses when the idea can be attributed to a specific speaker. The thoughts are my own, but the amazing speakers at the conference planted the seed.

  • I don’t start things because I’m afraid they’ll be too hard. (Rachel Hollis)
    Yes, I’m starting with a big one. This realization is on page one of my notes, so the conference started with a bang, too.
    How often have I talked myself out of something before I even started it? How often have I been my own roadblock on the way to an opportunity?
    I’m not scared of hard work. I’m afraid of uncertainty. Of doing something and not doing it well. Last year, I attended RISE, and I kept putting off writing a recap of the conference because I thought it would be hard. Sure, I had other excuses and reasons and blah blah blah, but: I didn’t want to do it because it would be too hard and maybe it wouldn’t be great. And I never wrote it.
    Jen Hatmaker said at RISE “as soon as you muster the courage to stand up, you’ll be asked to sit back down — maybe by yourself.” There are enough roadblocks in this world — I need to stop being my own barrier.
  • The excuse “somebody else beat me to it” is just an excuse. (Rachel Hollis)
    When I’m working towards something, it’s really easy for this negative voice to speak to me: “there are thousands of inspirational Instagram accounts; there are thousands of motivational blogs; you are just another woman talking into the abyss.” And those things are ALL TRUE. BUT they don’t matter. Just because I didn’t do something first doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t do it.
    What really hammered this home: Rachel Hollis and Jen Hatmaker do
    very similar things. But they’re both here, wildly succeeding.
    And, on this theme, Rachel reminded us all that we’re not competing with each other, just with the versions ourselves from yesterday. OR, as Queen Cardi B says: “I’m my own competition/I’m competing with myself.”

    RISE wouldn’t be the same without my buddy Brooke, all decked out for the ’90s dance party in front of our Airbnb. (And, yes, we hung out with other people and made new friends, but I didn’t take any photos of that!)
  • They may have your best interests at heart and still be wrong.(Rachel Hollis)
    When you set out to change your life, people will be full of suggestions, advice, and warnings. And those are all appreciated. I love that they care about my life and my business and my health. But here’s the thing: no one knows what you need better than you do. Yes, you should ask for and accept the guidance of trusted advisors — but those people aren’t the people I’m talking about. The people that ask the questions that scare you out of trying? Maybe ignore them.
    They have your best interests at heart, but — unless they’re an expert in the field and also a licensed therapist probably — they don’t know what they’re talking about!
    The path to success includes a million mistakes, so get busy making them, and ignore the haters (that may be disguised as well-intentioned family members or coworkers or best friends).
  • The time will pass anyway! (Rachel Hollis)
    This is my new shit-calling phrase. If I find myself making an excuse about why I can’t do something or how it will take too much time or WHATEVER, I remind myself that the time will pass regardless of whether or not I take the next step. In twelve months, a year will have passed whether or not I’ve done a year’s worth of work. This is sobering and motivating. The time will pass anyway, SO WHAT THE HELL AM I WAITING FOR?

    Gorgeous view from our Airbnb patio.
  • The fruit of the uncertain tree is unbelievably better tasting. (Dave Hollis)
    This phrase made me feel so courageous. He’s so right — life isn’t about doing the same things over and over again to see the same certain outcome. Life is about growth and change and uncertainty. Hearing that idea in this poetic way really motivated me to try new things. I have so many ideas for my blog and social media, but I’ve allowed uncertainty to derail my best intentions. UNCERTAINTY is the the POINT! How have I been missing this? Nothing cool ever happened because the outcomes were sure.
    Some context here: Dave is leaving his big VP-level job at DISNEY to be CEO of his wife’s company (she’ll be chief creative officer and continue to be the face of the company). He knows about big leaps! They have FOUR kids. That decision could not have been reached easily.

    The best photo booth at the ’90s party
  • SAME YOU/NEW MOOD (Rachel Hollis)
    This is my new MOTTO, okay?! Life is hard. Lunches get forgotten, meetings go poorly, ankles get twisted, your spouse annoys the hell out of you. BUT, but, BUT, here’s the thing. You get to CHOOSE how you react. You can take a deep breath and react with positivity, not yelling (guilty).
    Rachel shared this idea, and I think it’s pretty genius. If you take a moment to snap yourself out of it, maybe you won’t yell at your husband. If you take a moment to think “SAME YOU. NEW MOOD,” maybe you won’t start crying at work (less guilty, but not totally innocent). She said it works extra well if you add a physical action. SAME YOU. CLAP. NEW MOOD. The clap snaps you out of the negative thoughts and allows you to make a more positive decision.
    I am the queen of letting one bad thing color my whole day with negativity. No more.
  • Make a list of the six things you’ll do tomorrow. (Mica May)
    This one is so simple, but it kind of rocked me. All too often, I am sprinting through 1,000,000 tasks and just trying to get through as much as I can each day. Hearing Mica say that she shoots for six tasks each day refreshed my brain and reminded me how much happier I am when I map my to-do list across the whole week, instead of trying to get it all done every day (and inevitably pushing a lot of it to the next day. Every day). This week, I wanted to get a ton of house organizing projects done (more on that in number 8), so I mapped out which day I’d tackle which project (with a blank day for a schedule cushion), and it’s WORKING! I have finished the kitchen and swapped my winter and spring clothes.

    The beautiful Brookie!
  • CLUTTER CLUTTERS YOUR MIND. (Rachel Hollis)
    Of all the ideas on this list, this is the least revolutionary. But it’s one that spoke to me HARD. If you follow me on Insta Stories, you know that I have a closet/guest room/pit where all clutter goes to die. And a pile of wedding stuff in our shared office. And a bad habit of letting the kitchen counters get cluttered. Hearing Rachel say this was a great reminder to recommit to my 2018 intention of cleaning up the house to FREE MY MIND for creativity, focus, and not feeling like my brain has exploded when I come home in the evenings.
    I started before RISE with the project to go room-by-room, organizing and decluttering. So far, I’ve done our room, the linen closet, a guest room (not THE guest room of despair, but a different one), and the kitchen. I feel so, so much better already, and I am determined to keep it UP until the whole house feels a little more manageable.
  • Ask for what you need with less wishbone and more backbone. (Elizabeth Lascaze)
    Design by the incredible Brooke Schelar of Proud Salemander and Common Era Collective

    This one elicited actual gasps from the audience. First off, this woman is incredible. Her appearance at RISE was her first day back at work after the birth of her five-month-old twins, she KILLED IT, and she is maybe the most beautiful woman I have ever seen in real life (and I have seen BEYONCE in real life). She’s a powerful consultant at Deloitte and had so much knowledge to share about getting what you need to excel professionally.
    But this advice gave me chills. How many times have I missed out on an opportunity because I thought of it as a “want” rather than a “need”? Just think about how much further you’d be along in your career if you killed the wishy-washy-ness in favor of determination. Use that backbone, girl!
    And this doesn’t just apply to professional goals. When was the last time you asked for help around the house? And not as a “want.” As a “need.” It’s so easy to drown in the million daily tasks before you give a single second to pursuing MORE than the daily drudgery. Ask for help or pay for help, but get some help. Use that backbone to make the space in your day for MORE: more exercise, more reading, more writing, more relaxation, prayer, meditation, WHATEVER.

  • You’ve been given this mountain to show other women that it can be moved. (Rachel Hollis)
    On the second day, we did a meditation that focused on our future selves. We imagined our lives — down to the cars we drive and the outfits we wear — in five years, ten years, twenty years. We were instructed to envision every detail of the life we’re working toward. And then we were asked to pick a single word that could be a reminder of that vision. A word that, when we thought of it, could recenter us on our mission to build that life. I chose MOTIVATOR. It didn’t feel like a conscious decision. It felt like that word was there, waiting for me to find it.
    I went to RISE with a question: why the hell am I sharing so much of my life and spending all this time blogging and Instagramming? And I found an answer: I want to show all of you that since I can change my life, you can change yours, too. I want to motivate you to be better, more, stronger.
    We can’t change society. The problems are too big, too scary, too complicated. But we can change ourselves. And if enough of us change — into strong, healthy, compassionate people — society will change around us. From the inside out.


    OK, if you made it this far, I LOVE YOU. I tried to edit this post down multiple times, but there was too much to share. If you made it this far, RISE may be for you, too 💖 In 2019, there will be one-day mini-RISEs in several cities (including KC!), and the main conference will be held in June in Minneapolis. I hope I see ALL OF YOU there. We can laugh and cry together and also dance and drink and lose our voices. Like always, you can find me over on Insta if you have questions, or leave a comment here! If you were at RISE, I’d love to hear your power word!

Would you consider a conference like RISE? If no, why not? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

How I Prepare for Personal Development Conferences My Prep List for RISExLA 2018

In just two days, I’ll be in sunny L.A. for a women’s personal development conference. Unless you’re brand new here, you know that this is right up my alley. I love journaling and feelings and self-improvement. I attended this same conference — RISE by Rachel Hollis — last year, and I was drawn to it for a lot of reasons, but the primary draw was this: Rachel’s biggest personal value is growth. She lives her whole life around the idea that she’s good now, but she has the potential to be better, and that potential is wasted if she doesn’t work to grow, change, and improve. She delivers this message without an ounce of self-hate, and it is totally infectious.

I went to RISE last year without any preparation (minus way too much time spent packing). I showed up in my meticulously selected outfits, ready to learn, and I cried, danced (on stage, no less), and made new friends. I took so much knowledge and motivation home with me that I cannot begin to imagine how fulfilling this weekend will be now that I have the tools to prepare better beforehand.

If you’re also attending RISE this weekend, or if you are heading to any development conference at any point, following these steps will lead to a better, more fulfilling, more bang-for-your-buck experience. I promise.

REFLECT: Before you jet off to another state (or drive to your local convention center), spend some reflecting. Go on some walks without headphones, take a bath without a book, or let your mind wander during your commute. Before your butt is in the conference seat, have an answer to this question: What do I want to get out of this experience?
The more specific your answer, the more rich your return will be. If you want to go for inspiration and networking, AWESOME. Me too. But try to get more specific than that.
What are your pain points? What trips you up every day? When you’re working on your business or your career or your marriage, what are the issues that come up time and time again? Think on these questions and WRITE IT DOWN. I often use the voice-to-text option on my phone, or I’ll write in my notebook. Sometimes I’ll even talk it out on my Instagram story.
If none of those questions sparked an interest, here’s one that really worked for me: What do you complain about? What are the things that make you miserable, time and time again? The things you bring up to your sister, your partner, or your mom? These things — your job, your home, your husband — may be in your control to change, but they may not be. That’s OK. You can change how you handle anything. 
I wrote a post on Instagram about my WHAT for Rise 2018. If you share your why for any conference (or even independent personal development), tag me! @caitlinmwallace and #FruitfulWHAT.

View this post on Instagram

Over the weekend, a friend asked me what I want to do. What I’m moving towards with all of this work and writing and oversharing. And I realized that I don’t really know. I’m spending all this time and energy, but for what? . I don’t think that life is full of concrete ideas, and I don’t think that this question needs an answer tomorrow. BUT, now I know what I’ll be focusing on at RISE. . @letsrise.co is a two-day personal development conference hosted by @msrachelhollis. It’s uplifting and fun and equally full of dancing and hard, hard work. I cried a lot last year, and I expect much of the same next month. Figuring out what I want to do with my life is a hard question. Maybe the answer will a be a little scary. But if I’m not going to use two days of self reflection to think about the scary questions, then why am I going in the first place? ✨✨✨

A post shared by Caitlin Wallace (@caitlinmwallace) on

REST: This one is super challenging, at least for me. In the days leading up to a trip, I’m always running around with errands and last-minute work and packing and making sure that the fridge is stocked. But being RESTED AND WELL is crucial to getting every last ounce of conference knowledge.
If you follow me on Instagram, you know that we had a disasterous Monday evening. I made the huge mistake of putting too much leftover soup down the garbage disposal, and our old-old (mid-century modern?) cast iron pipes didn’t like it one bit. There were chunks of kale, sweet potato, and smushed red lentils all over the laundry room (which is in the unfinished basement THANK GOD). It looked like when Kevin spills his famous chili on The Office. So… I didn’t get a ton of sleep last night. But tonight and tomorrow EARLY BEDTIME is my highest priority. I cannot be nodding off when I need to be taking notes and learning.

PACK SMART: Don’t let a bad packing decision ruin your conference experience. Pack layers. Pack a water bottle. Pack discreet snacks (nuts in a ziplock bag are perfect for eating one-by-one). PACK AN EXTERNAL CHARGER. Pack business cards (mine are coming next-day delivery from Moo.com, thanks to a suggestion from my friend Jennylynn). Extra pens are a smart choice and a good way to make friends.
Being uncomfortable because you forgot something is a great way to miss out on the experience, so make that list and check it twice. In advance. Not an hour before your flight. (I am preaching to the choir here, OK!)

LEAVE INHIBITION AT HOME: OK, OK, I don’t mean like that 😈  This isn’t Spring Break in Mexico on Laguna Beach (remember the denim miniskirts?!). What I mean: don’t waste your time and money attending a personal development conference if you’re going to be too embarrassed to participate. If you don’t go all-in, you won’t grow. You won’t change. You won’t get what you paid for and took off work for and looked forward to for months.
Every person in the room is there to grow and change, too. We’re all on this mission together, and while we may not be crying at the same moments, we’ll all be crying at some point. If you’re asked to dance, DANCE. If you’re asked to write a letter to yourself, write the hell out of it.
Be honest with yourself and DO THE DAMN THING, or what is the point?

OK, that’s all I got! I am psyched to head to Rise, work on growth, spend time with my bestie, and eat lots of great food. I’ll come back a changed woman, for sure. You may not see it, but I’ll feel it. And that’s what makes all of this ⤴ worth it. 

If I’ll see you at Rise, leave a comment! I’d love to meet in real life.

Intention Check-in: Kicking the junk with a food diary

I’m checking in on the progress of my 2018 intentions. Read all about my fruitful year here, and see my other intention check-in here

If you follow me on Instagram stories, you may already know: last week was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week when it came to junk food. I ate things that weren’t worth it multiple times; I felt sluggish; I felt irritable; I felt angry at myself.

I have no problem eating a donut from my favorite shop or sharing nachos with friends or having a glass of wine on a date night. BUT, I shouldn’t be buying junk food from the convenience store at work. Ever. There’s no reason to buy peanut M&Ms or Doritos or any of the junk that’s available. Having a handful of free M&Ms is very different from buying a “sharing size” bag and eating them all myself.

To get myself back on track, I documented a week’s worth of meals. Not only did this keep me accountable, helping me to skip the junk a couple times, but it’s a good opportunity to answer the question I get most: What do you even eat as a kind-of vegan?

What follows was a pretty typical week of prepped food, a night out, and a couple splurges.

SUNDAY

Breakfast: What I call the Christmas leftovers smoothie, with frozen banana, leftover frozen beets, leftover frozen cranberries, frozen mixed berries, frozen green peas, collagen peptides, peanut butter, and water.

My mom roasted beets for a Christmas day salad, and we had leftovers. I froze them in a flat layer in a gallon bag, and I’ve been putting them in my smoothies ever since. You can taste them a little, but the main flavor is berries and nut butter.

Snack: pre-popped popcorn

Lunch: Salad! Spinach, arugula, bell peppers, shallots, and hummus tuna salad with celery (just make tuna salad with hummus instead of mayo). I drizzled the salad with this leftover peanut sauce.  

Snack: pink lady apple with extra sharp cheddar (BEST SNACK!)

Dinner: Spaghetti with a red lentil and mushroom tomato sauce, salad, and red wine

And, as hard as it was, I ate this one helping and let Grant finish the leftovers. Because white pasta is not a nutrient-dense food. But it’s probably my favorite food.

MONDAY

Breakfast: Oatmeal with peanut butter, blackberry jelly, and coconut milk

Snack: Veggies and hummus. I often slice up a bunch of carrots, bell peppers, and celery and bring them to work with a container of hummus. They last all week in the break room fridge. The ultimate junk food deterrent.

Lunch: Quinoa, black bean, and lentil chili, leftover from last week. Grapes.

Dinner: Buffalo chickpeas, sautéed broccoli, sweet potato wedges, salad, and vegan ranch. The vegan ranch is a total budget splurge, but it’s GOOD.

Dessert: G and I both were craving something sweet, so I defrosted homemade vegan banana muffins from the freezer.

Note: This is the only day that was totally vegan. Grant doesn’t eat any of the animal products, but I still do.

TUESDAY

Breakfast: oatmeal with almond butter, jelly, coconut milk, and flax seeds.

Snack: almonds (I keep them in my desk)

Lunch: a repeat of the hummus tuna and greens salad, plus grapes and pepitas, and sub a balsamic dressing.

Snack: hummus and veggies

Dinner: This is where the wheels fell off a tiny bit. I got caught in traffic on the way to the movies (go see I, Tonya, everyone!), and didn’t have time to swing by my sister’s to heat up my packed dinner. I ate an Rx bar in the car and then ordered cheese, salami, and crackers at the movie theater. I also had a glass of wine.

There was nothing spicy about the hot salami, but it was still tasty.

WEDNESDAY

I’m especially proud of this day because I didn’t sleep well the night before. Which means the junk food cravings were strong. I didn’t cave.

Breakfast: I woke up so hungry. Two pieces of sourdough, spread with garlic hummus and sprinkled with everything but the bagel seasoning. Grapes.

I made peppermint tea to drink on the way to work, and I added two scoops of collagen peptides. I think this is my new trick to stay full until lunch!

Lunch: Salad with arugula, spinach, shallot, bell peppers, buffalo chickpeas, and a banana (on the side, not in the salad).

Snack: Clementines and roasted edamame

Dinner: vegan lasagna from the freezer (yay freezer meals! Saving my butt one day at a time!)

THURSDAY

Breakfast: More oatmeal! Almond butter, jelly, coconut milk.

And more peppermint tea with collagen.

Snack: almonds

Lunch: Salad with hummus tuna salad, shallots, bell pepper, grapes, and balsamic. I forgot the pepitas, and I missed them. Clementines on the side.

Snack: bell peppers and hummus from my fridge stash around 2:30, and then an Rx bar around 4. We went to the gym after work, so I knew I needed a more sustainable snack for the evening. Rx bars are my favorite protein bars because they’re made of whole ingredients, like eggs, instead of weird chemicals and powders.

Dinner: My red lentil and sweet potato daal with brown rice and extra sriracha.

There’s naan in this photo from last year, but I didn’t eat naan this time, ok?!

Lessons (re)learned:

I’m totally capable of making it through a week without the vending machine. I will eat salads if they’re prepped ahead of time. Having protein ready at all times is crucial to staying on track (thanks tuna and hummus!).

Another thing — this was totally a pantry cooking week! I ate out of the freezer, worked on my red lentil stash, and most of my lunches were tuna from the back of the pantry.

Also, as a total pep talk to myself, I posted this design on Instagram.

It’s ok that last week was shit. For real. It doesn’t matter that I totally failed at my food intentions. I just got back on the horse this Sunday. My life (and my body) is molded by what I do consistently — not the junk food I repeatedly ate last week. So I haven’t had a perfect January. That doesn’t mean that I can write off the rest of the month (or the rest of the year). I just start over tomorrow.

What’s the best thing you ate this week? Would you all enjoy more posts like this? I am super nosy and love reading about what people ate, but that may just be me.