Category Archives: Inspiration

How to Pick a Theme for 2016

Photo: Devon A. Aragona

The theme of 2016: Purposeful. The list of the things I want to do keeps growing. (Photo: Devon A. Aragona)

Wow…This first week in January has flown by, and to be honest, it was just stressful.

I was so excited for the new year! It meant new beginnings, new outlooks, and a great time to start some new things so naturally, a lot of new projects. It is a fresh start to do wonderful things.

But old habits die hard. My Not To-Do list had very quickly become my need to-do list. I was overwhelmed with all my ideas and trying to figure out how I was going to get everything done that I wanted to accomplish in 2016… and it was only like six days in. I felt overwhelmed and frustrated by everything.

In the midst of all this, I read a recent blog post that one of my best friend’s, Lauren , wrote about taking back your life in 2016 . In it, she talked about something I said to her in a recent conversation. It that went something along the lines of this: “But you have to find a way to look at life differently, in a more joyful and grateful way. Yeah, what you’re fighting is awful and scary, but you’re alive and you get to deal with it.”

As we talked to about how as bad as the bad stuff gets, I thought it was important to remember that we were still alive and had the opportunity to deal with all of the uncertainty and overwhelming parts of life. In her post, she talked about how much this statement She vowed that in 2016, she was going to change her mindset and take back her life.

I sat back and laughed at myself. I needed to take my own advice!

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It is time to start something new and wonderful.

I had learned so much in 2015. I had been faced with a lot of tough questions: What do I want to do with my life? What did I want to get out of life? What was I willing to sacrifice? What were my priorities? What can I not live without doing in life. What do I enjoy? I felt pulled in a lot of directions. There were also a lot of life lessons and tough realizations. So I decided it was time to start applying  my new found knowledge to 2016.

The two things I determined were the biggest lessons:

  • Not letting myself get overwhelmed: More specifically, not being overwhelmed y what I didn’t know, what I wanted to learn, and how much there was to know and grow. I was excited about it and needed to know it all. Right now. But Rome wasn’t built in a day.
  • Being purposeful: I realized that everything I did, even the smallest things, had an impact on my time and on my life.

I have so many interests and ideas and things I want to see and do in life. It is hard to know where to begin sometimes and feel as if I am not accomplish anything fast enough. So I try and do everything at once. That doesn’t work.

In Mark Zuckerberg’s New Year’s post, he talks about a theme for the year. I really liked that idea.

So I decided that my theme of 2016 is purposefulness.

I need to be conscious of being purposeful about things in my life: the people I see, the decisions I make, and what I do in my everyday life.  The biggest  battle of all is I have to make decisions about my time. I have become more aware of that than ever. It is so easy to simply blink, and my day is gone. Having become aware of how much I wanted to accomplish in life was a fact that was quite overwhelming once I started trying to make time for it all. Prioritizing rather than fantasizing and becoming overwhelmed is an important skill to develop if I want to put my ideas into action.

I started making a list of what I wanted to accomplish or work on in 2016. I also started mind mapping what I wanted both short term and long term in life. It helped seeing everything; even getting the scrawniest of ideas or dreams out so I could start doing something wonderful to work towards learning and doing all these things.

So I ask you now: what is your theme this year? What is the intention behind what you are doing right now?

I encourage you to take some time this weekend, make make a list, mind map, journal, and figure out what it is that you want to accomplish this year and in life. Now, is what you are doing getting you to were you think you want to go? Figure out what you need to do to accomplish those things. How can you be more purposeful about what you are doing in your life? Don’t just promise yourself you are going to do something, start figuring out how you are going to do it.

It’s only week one, you still have plenty of time to start something wonderful.

If you would like to share how you are changing in 2016, want to share your theme of the year, or want to share however you may be taking back your life, feel free to use the hashtag Lauren at Making Life Sweet started for the year: #ABrighter2016. Who knows, maybe you will help someone else find their theme too.

My Not-To-Do List

T’was the Monday before Christmas and all through my mind, nothing  was stirring, but a panicked need to scream.

I was sitting at my desk, staring at a mess of post-it notes, a computer screen full of open tabs, a blank look and this oncoming feeling of anxiety.

I had a jumbled list of projects that I wanted to work on in my head, each one trying to yell louder than the other for attention. I was working on developing a calendar for social media at work, I had helpful blog articles to read, coding lessons waiting, an inbox to clean out. There were photos to edit, new photography equipment to test out. The list goes on and on. All I could see were all of these projects, accomplishments, and ideas that I wanted to get done in 2015, but how was I going to get everything done?Where had my year gone?!?

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I get so many ideas and goals that I loose track of everything and don’t even know where to begin.

My internet browser was suddenly a scary representation of my head and I was so overwhelmed that I just wanted to run away from it screaming. It isn’t that I wanted to give up and not accomplish anything, it was more of a need to not feel overwhelmed.

That is when I stopped and grabbed a piece of paper.

I began writing about everything that was going on in my head. My ideas, my frustrations about not knowing where to begin, a broad list of areas that I had projects in. Suddenly, that piece of paper was my best friend, and I was having a vent fest to it. I got a majority of my frustrations out. I sat back and was like ok… that helped me feel better, but now what am I going to do about it all?

Realistically, I have maybe four more days this year where I can plan to get much of anything, besides wrapping my Christmas gifts, accomplished; The rest is going to be family and travel filled. So I took a moment to be disappointed in myself for not being more diligent about certain things, and to recognize the areas I needed to work on. I recognized that I need to focus less on being scared about what I am doing with my life and more focused on just getting certain things accomplished.  Then I forgave myself and thought “you will do better next time.”


Next, I made a list of things that I was not going to accomplish this year. A list of things I’m going to set aside until 2016:NotToDo

  • Coding: Yes, I have been slowly trying to teach myself to code. Nothing fancy, just a basic understanding so that I can do more with designing blogs and website. I want to be able to make them look exactly how I want them to. (There are actually quite a few tools out there if you want to learn.) I had started this awesome class called CS50 from Harvard through but had failed to keep up with it as I had planned.I thought I had let this great opportunity slip through my fingers but that was my own fault. I knew I couldn’t teach myself to code in four days so, I promise I would put that aside coding for now. To my happy surprise, I found out that the class started January 1st again.
  • My Blog Redesign: Yes! I have been itching to do this! As much as I love my blog now, I built it when I was first learning about blogs, web design, and I was younger. I have grown up a lot and with that my taste has changed. I got a bee in my bonnet some months back to do something different but for anyone who knows what it is like trying to do a redesign, it can be hard. Picking colors, fonts, deciding on a new theme, should I go Genesis frame work, what host to use, the list goes on! I had really wanted to start off 2016 with a new look, new post-college me. But at this point, I could either get it done, or wait and really do it right. Also on that list, figuring out how to make a mood board.
  • My car getting cleaned: Yes, I am going to get my shoes out, but the vacuuming and detail work, that just isn’t happening before next year. I am traveling and going to be all over of the next couple weeks. Sorry pumpkin.*
  • Some Christmas gifts: I’m not a terrible person I swear, but some people I won’t see till after New Year’s anyway. So for those of you who I don’t see till January, you will get it when I see you and not a moment sooner. My apologies now.
  • Various projects: Whether it is photos I want to edit, or ideas for other projects I want to try, some of them I am simply going to have to sketch for now and make later.

This time of year can be stressful. We feel this need to accomplish all of these things, and we look back and see what we didn’t do.


What are some things that you could really say, “I’m going to accomplish these next year and that is ok.” Make a list somewhere and then put it away until 2016. If that doesn’t sound appealing, make a list of things that you have accomplished in 2015.

However you choose to do it, give yourself permission to relax and enjoy the rest of 2015.

*My car is fondly referred to as pumpkin.

Handling the Holidays

I like to make my Christmas list fun, that way I get excited about using it.

I like to make my Christmas list fun, that way I get excited about using it.

We got our first couple of inches of snow this weekend and that solidified it: that most wonderful time of the year is almost upon us again!

With all of the beautiful snow, the twinkling lights, and the celebrations comes the crowds, the shopping, and the wrapping. All done with love, but none the less a little stressful.

This is my first Christmas as a “full-blown adult” without the excuse of being a poor college student, paired with an expanding Christmas list, I was feeling slightly overwhelmed. (I may not be a student anymore, but now I have student loans coming due…Happy New Year).

Luckily, this year my family helped me out by doing a name draw. We draw names out of a hat and do presents for that person (I got my sister, woot woot!). So that helped take some of the pressure off. But there were still plenty of others, and there is still much to be done in the next month! Oh where to begin?

  1. Make a list! This sounds simple enough but quickly gets complicated. You may randomly remember someone who you need to add while grocery shopping, or you suddenly realize you need to buy a co-worker something. It is easy to get multiple lists going at once. Stop it. Put it in a planner, make it a list on your phone, or a google document. Keep your list centralized though. I like to make mine pretty so I get excited to add to it. This is also a great place to put ideas of what you want to buy for people, so space out accordingly.
  2. Make a budget. This is so important. Figure out how much money to spend, preferably exactly, but even an idea is a good.
  3. Track your gift. No, I don’t mean make sure you know the tracking number of your latest shipment from Amazon (though that is important). I mean, as you start to actually buy gifts, put how much it costs next to that person on your list. You see what you have spent so far and keep track of where you are at overall. And if you are anything like me, you remember what you bought for who when it comes time to wrap.
  4. Get creative. Now that you have a budget, you know what you won’t be able to buy for people (sorry sis, that Kate Spade purse will come at another time). You may have to get creative. That gives you the perfect excuse scour Pinterest.
      • Make a homemade recipe book
      • Make a “movie night” basket that has a movie and popcorn and some candy.
      • Get a couple in the family a restaurant gift card that says they have to use it on a date night (bonus: add in that you will babysit.)
      • Find a beautiful quote or poem, print or hand write it, and frame it.

    Also check out Etsy for some creative gifts that would be unique. Watch for sales that are happening all over the place. If you are really brave there is this thing called Black Friday coming up-may the odds be ever in your favor!For those people who are just hard to buy for, ask them. I get the whole surprise thing but you want to make sure they like what they are getting. Maybe there is something they need.

  5. Speaking of asking people what they want…if you are annoyed by that question from family and friends, or really dig the surprise element, make a Pinterest board. I made a secret Pinterest board and invited my immediate family to view it. I try to add things that I would really like, that would be appropriate gifts, to it throughout the year. That way, when my Nana asks my mom what I want for Christmas, she can just check the board. Even click on a link that will lead them right to the gift. Simpler for everyone.
  6. Plan. I know… I’m not great at planning ahead either, but try have some short-term goals, like getting one present done a week. If you have to order something, try to do that first. If you are going to make something, remember that paint has to dry, and it takes time to get pictures printed. And all of this has to be wrapped, sometimes mailed.


Remember to stop and enjoy the spirit of the holidays. Take in the lights, the smells, and the time with people. It is not so much about gifts as the thoughts behind them. And…

Acts of kindness go a long way.

Happy Valentines Day!

Happy Valentines Day

Everyone could use a little more love in their lives.

A Surprise Birthday Worth Remembering

A couple weeks back was my spring break. And while most college students head south to catch some sun, I headed home to cold and wintery weather, for good reason.

It was my moms 50th birthday and we were throwing her a surprise party.

Growing up, my household mostly consisted of my sister, my mother, and me. We had our dog, two cats, and two horses, with many other wonderful friends thrown in to the crazy mix that was my life.

Some of my oldest memories are of my mom reading to my sister, Avery, and I. Almost every night, we would snuggle down, occasionally with some tea, and read stories about Henry Huggins and Ribsy, Zeus, Hera, and the lessons to be learned from greek mythology, Harry Potter, and countless other tales that my mom gave voice to.

This voice is what gave life to the values and lessons that have made me who I am today. Our childhood had been one filled with adventures and imagination. As we grew older, she did her best to protect us from growing up too quickly.

 Her girls were her whole world. This never wavered. 

My parents divorced when I was 12, and this only reinforced my mothers love for us. She was determined to give us a normal up bringing. She worked tirelessly to finish school, while still fulfilling her motherly duties. I remember sitting on the couch with her, watching her do her homework while I did mine. Even through the rough spots, she was strong for my sister and I.

As we grew older, she was the rock that held our family together. 

It was never a question of IF my mom would do something for us. It was WHAT could she do to help us.  She would wake up  in the morning thinking of us: how to provide for us, what our problems were, how to help us. She wanted nothing but the best for her two daughters, that was something that no one could ever question.

My mom taught my sister and I how to be caring considerate people. She taught us so many life lessons, such as how important it was to loose with grace and the importance of considering others and their needs.

She encouraged her daughters to pursue their dreams, whatever they may be. She pushed us to be the very best people we could possibly be.

It was through her guidance that I have been able to believe in my dreams. Even today, I can still hear the echoes of my mom’s voice in my head. Guiding me. Encouraging me.

It was Avery and I’s turn to give something to her. So we planned a get together of some of her closest friends.

To help me out, I called in some reinforcements. 

One of my best friends,Lauren Hardy, is a master chief and baker. Me, well I can cook, but I didn’t even know how to begin making a menu for 14(ish) people.

After deciding on italian food, she put together three different menus and sent them to my sister and I to make the final decision. The winner:

 Mushroom Ragu Lasagna


So while my sister took my mom and some of her friends to get their nails done and covered for me, Lauren and I borrowed a friend’s kitchen started cooking up a storm. (Ok, I was chopping and taking pictures, Lauren did most of the cooking. I am a great assistant)


The evening wouldn’t be complete without a cake which was taken care of by non-other than our local Adam’s Cake Shop. It was an amazing vanilla cake with raspberry filling that I still get cravings for.

The evening went off without a hitch (other than some fingers accidentally mussing the cake while trying to pick it up). My mother, actually a little confused at first, was thoroughly surprised.

The evening was filled with lots of laughter, food and memories, but most importantly, loved ones. No trip to Florida could have been as good as getting to spend that evening with my friends, and family.

The look on my mom’s face was better than any memory than Florida could have given me.

So today, I encourage you to spend some time with your loved ones, even if you think that your missing out on something else.

To try this amazing meal, visit my friend’s blog, 

Happy First Day of Spring!!

Robin P. Williams

Robin P. Williams

I know it doesn’t feel very springy for most of us today. It is still somehow freezing outside.

However, today still marks the beginning of the astronomical year,It means longer days are coming, a changing season.

A new beginning.

So try to enjoy one last cup of cocoa, and eat a few more bowls of soup, because soon we will be pulling out our shorts and digging around for our beach towels.

Words of Wisdom From Manet

Word From Manet



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Laughter, a Lost Earring, and Some Bruises

My Excitement and My Death

Let me be quite honest: I am not the most naturally athletic person in the world. I like to tell myself that I am but it is not something that comes easily by any means. However I enjoy being active, and don’t shy away from a new challenge when it comes along.

This past weekend, a challenge to try something that I have always wanted to attempt came along: snowboarding.

A local slope had started a college night and some of my friends who were going up agreed to teach a friend and fellow newbie and I how to snowboard. Though I highly doubt they knew what they were getting into.

So Friday after all of our classes were done, 4 of us bundled up, packed up, and headed an hour South. The drive was filled with music and chatter about the week and the next day’s horse show. We were all looking forward to a good night on the slopes.

You couldn’t miss the ski lodge as we drove up. It was the most elevation that I had ever seen in the otherwise desolate and flat landscape that is Ohio. It was nearing dusk and the snow was in stark contrast with the trees that scattered the mountain side. Apparently this mountain was a baby compared to what most of my friends were used to. To me, it looked plenty intimidating.

I was suited up in my new snow pants, two layers of coldgear, a winter coat, scarf and mittens. I had hand warmers in my pocket in case it got too cold. I had rented my boots and my snowboard. I was ready.

Emily (fellow newbie) and I learned how to strap into our bindings and then we hit the bunny hill. Our two friends/teachers Melissa and Micah, decided that it would be best to divide and conquer. So Melissa patiently started teaching me the basics, trying to explain how to shift in order for the board to turn, and how to stop –which happened to be the hardest part for me.

As the night went on I suddenly understood the many people who had jokingly told me to wear padded snow pants and wrist guards. Except that shouldn’t have been a joke.

I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I fell. Over and over again, just as I thought I was getting it, SMACK, I loose track of something and go plummeting down a few feet until I came to a crash landing.. As I lay there, in the middle of the slope, flat on my back, I couldn’t help but laugh hysterically. Melissa by my side laughing as well because I had somehow taken her down with me.

I was completely out of my element and I felt exhilarated.

The falls reminded me that I really wanted to learn to stand on my own and make it down the mountain. And No one else could do that for me. A determination to succeed burned within me.

Let me tell you, the pride and elation I felt when I finally did snowboard more than ten feet without falling made every fall worth it. But it was more than that.

I couldn’t help but laugh at how much my body hurt, at how hard learning to steer was. I felt like a newborn colt trying to find its legs. It was so hard. My body did plenty of complaining. But I didn’t care.

By the end of the night I was aching all over, bruised multiple areas of my body, lost an earring, and laughed harder than I had in a VERY long time.

What I take away from that night on the mountain, beside a bruised tailbone and ego, were the memories. Laying in the snow and looking up at the night sky during a few moments of rest and loving how the stars looked.  How good everything smelled. How hilarious most of my falls were.

I took away a new skill and an even better story.

It is ok to fall over and over again. It is ok to feel a idiotic at times, as long as you remember to laugh at yourself in the process. And it helps when you do it in the company of friends.

So the next time you try something that puts you flat on your backside a couple of times, just remember to laugh at yourself as you get back up and try it again. Because there is no fun in giving up and walking down the mountain, carrying your snowboard. I know I would much rather, one day, glide down. It is just going to take some falling first.

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