how I'm getting back on track after life got crazy

Sometimes life doesn't go as planned and a single life event can throw things off-kilter for weeks.

I didn't plan to give birth in February but my sweet Beyla came two whole weeks after her January due date. The first quarter of my year has been crazy, but with important deadlines and events coming up I knew I had to get back on track as soon after the birth as I could.

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I started with a single page brain-dump of everything I needed to do. I kept this as a running list through the end of March, adding to it anytime something came to mind. My brain was like a sieve surrounding the birth—what am I saying? It still is!—so if I didn't write it down it was lost to me. Likewise when I had a few moments free I wouldn't have known what to work on without the list.

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I had too much clutter in my mental and physical space following the birth, so I needed my overview for the month of March to be as sparse as possible. I decided on a layout inspired by @minimal.paper on Instagram.

Having the whole month on one spread helps me to get my bearings and picture what life looks like in context. This layout focuses on that and removes everything else. Even the numbers are subtle and the header with the days of the week is minimal.

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Finally, I'm returning to my writing habit. As I process this new thing called motherhood my musings go into one journal and business writing goes into the other.

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The number-one thing that is helping me to get my life back on track is writing.

Putting pen to paper makes the scrambled elements of my life tangible and helps me to get a handle on them. Once something appears in writing I can decide whether it is actually important or not. I can keep track of the things that I do deem important, but without trying to hold them in my memory until the relevant moment. Beyond my to-do list, I can use journaling to untangle the thoughts and emotions swirling inside me after a life-changing experience.

This is why I write: because I'm lost if I don't.

on finding your voice

Dear Little One,

The day before we boarded the plane
you found your voice.

You made beautiful sounds
from the day you were born
but this was different.
After finding your voice
you vocalized with purpose.

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Oma taught you to sing
while we stayed at her house.
She sang a line and let you
fill in the last word.
You do love music.

Before I know it
these sweet coos and hums
will turn into words and songs.
With such word-lovers for parents
I won't be surprised if you are one too.

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You joined us at the festival where
your father debuted his book
and I also shared mine.
Both give voice to thoughts that came
through complicated phases of life.

For you see, finding your voice
is not something you do once.
It is an ongoing process,
a discipline, a practice.
One I will nurture in you.

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This is why I carry you with me:
so that I may share my passions
and not miss milestones—
so that you will hear my voice
and I will hear yours.

You have now begun to find your voice...
may you never stop.

The topic of this letter to my little one was inspired by Sakura Bloom's Sling Diary prompt: Voice.

this transformation that is motherhood

Dear Little One,

Three weeks ago
you and I
went through a dramatic, almost violent change.

For weeks and months
leading up to it
I eagerly anticipated that trasition...

So impatient
to hold you
in my arms, and now I do hour upon hour.

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I have spent
my whole life
looking forward to becoming a mother — your mother.

This trasformation
did not happen
at the moment of conception or moment of birth,

For just as both
conception and birth
are a process, an experience, so is becoming a mother.

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As a mother
I am not
someone entirely new, but I have changed.

I still write
I still work
but now you join me, cradled against my chest.

I love you
so very much
my dear daughter, my first-born, my wonderful child.

I'm excited to watch
you transform and grow
in stature and wisdom and favor with God and man.

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The topic of this letter to my little one was inspired by Sakura Bloom's Sling Diary prompt: Transformation.

why (and how) I am building a writing habit ...still

I have been a writer since before I can remember. I started blogging more than half my life ago and journaling by hand years before that. I can’t help but write. Even when words don’t make sense I try to make sense of words by putting them to paper. Even through the ugliest parts of my life I write to try to find beauty. Even when I think no one is reading I put my words out in public. It is my habit.

Still, my writing habit isn’t near as strong as I would like.

This habit is one that needs cultivating. Sure I have a natural bent toward it, but I also have a natural inclination toward abandoning it completely when my words feel imperfect or pointless. I write when I feel like it. Fortunately I feel like it a lot of the time, but I go through phases when I don’t feel like it at all and when I fall into one of those phases it’s hard to pull myself out again.

I spent much of 2017 not feeling like writing, but because I kept writing anyway I published a book and started writing for clients.

I might not have felt like writing, but I showed up to write anyway and ultimately it felt good. Maybe it didn’t feel good to force myself to put words on the page, especially certain awful rough drafts, but it felt good to have written: weekly blog posts for not only my own blog but also a client’s, a package of case studies for another client, much of the course I will be launching later this year… and many more private words that I haven’t shared.

In December I used prompts provided by Kara at bohoberry to rekindle my habit of personal journaling. Having a predetermined topic each day reminded me how helpful it is to know what I will be writing about before I pick up my pen or begin typing. Instead of continuing to use personal journaling prompts in January, I decided to go through Sean McCabe’s 30 Days to Better Writing course a second time. I had taken the course once before when it first came out so I knew it would be a helpful exercise to participate a second time. This time I’m not so much focused on learning anything new, but rather rekindling my professional writing habit like I rekindled my personal journaling habit in December.

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More than halfway through January I haven’t actually written every day. My little one’s imminent birth is distracting to say the least, and makes it quite difficult to focus on my business, but I’m choosing not to let a skipped yesterday be an excuse not to write today.

Some days it’s hard to put a single word on the page, but occasionally I write thousands of words because as my hands and conscious mind are nesting and preparing the nursery, my subconscious is working on my business. The fact that I have been working on strengthening my writing habit makes it easy to record those thoughts when they finally came together.

I’m focusing my daily writing efforts on producing content surrounding case studies which I will publish weekly beginning in February. Make sure you subscribe to the newsletter below if you’re interested in reading that content, as it will be separate from this blog!

but first, remember

Dear Little One,

Memory is an interesting thing.
It makes us laugh
or cry
or want to forget.

Sometimes forgetting seems the easy way out
and while there is a time to forget what lies behind
to press on toward a better future,
there is also a time for ebenezer stones,
monuments of memory that remind us
of the better future we have already tasted.

I am all too often
too quick to forget.
So I write
to choose to remember.

Because remembering the most important things
doesn't come naturally.
Even after she was admonished repeatedly,
"remember, remember, remember,"
Jill forgets every vital sign until almost too late.
Thank God for grace.

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Your father
reminds me often
to remember,
remember, remember.

To remember who I am and who he has made me,
for a member of the Aspen family has a peculiar identity.
To remember where I have been and where I am going,
for they are such different places.
To remember who supports and leads me,
for to follow your father is to follow a great King.

Memory is not only
our perception of
the past;
it shapes the future.

So let us together embrace these experiences
choosing to see in the memories
visions of future hope.
For even the worst memories speak of survival
and the best are tastes of heaven.

The topic of this letter to my little one was inspired by Sakura Bloom's Sling Diary prompt: Memory.