weekly gems



 Sunset in Columbus last weekend



101 Things in 1,001 Days

With it being New Year’s Day, I, like a lot of society, am excited for a new year and fresh start. I’ve written New Year’s resolutions pretty much every year for as long as I can remember. Recently, in the years 2011, 2012, and 2013, I created and followed what I called the New Year’s All Year Challenge. It went okay for me in 2011, and pretty well for me in 2012, but I did not keep up with in 2013. A lot of changes occurred in my life this past year (like moving out of my parents’ house, getting married, a new job, etc.), and trying to stay focused on multiple goals every month on top of those changes started to feel very overwhelming for me. I eventually let go of them because I tend to be a perfectionist and my lack of progress on them (due to focusing on all the other big events and adjustments going on) was unnecessarily stressing me out. While my 2014 isn’t currently shaping up to have the type of life-changing events 2013, I have decided to forgo doing a 2014 New Year’s All Year Challenge for the similar reasons. I want to achieve my goals in life, but I want to make sure I am doing so in a balanced way that doesn’t put unneeded pressure on myself.  I want to enjoy the journey and make sure I am having fun and spending time with those I love.

I am a longtime fan of Mackenzie Horan of Design Darling, and I recently realized her 101 Things in 1,001 Days project is perfect way for me to approach the next year. Well, really, the next 2.75 years. As she described it, it’s a “happy medium between writing a to do list and keeping a bucket list. It’s a way to dream big and make regular progress toward meeting those longer term goals.” So, I have crafted my own list and will begin my journey today! I look forward to sharing my progress and experiences with everyone. Happy New Year!!! : )

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Start: January 1, 2014


  1. Compete in a masters swim meet.
  2. Complete a triathlon.
  3. Meet my goal weight.
  4. Do yoga every day for a month.
  5. Stop biting my nails.
  6. Complete a Bible study.
  7. Try every fitness class offered at my gym.
  8. Take a self-defense class.
  9. Give up swearing for Lent (and see if it lasts after that!).
  10. Complete a plank challenge.
  11. Floss every other day for a month (and see if I can finally maintain the habit).
  12. Go to the eye doctor.
  13. Eat as a vegetarian for a month.
  14. Complete a squat challenge.
  15. Try 20 different workouts from what I have saved from magazines over the years.
  16. Practice meditation/mindfulness every day for a month.


  1. Attend a musical I’ve never seen before.
  2. Revisit the major museums in Cleveland (4).
  3. Go to a Blue Jackets game.
  4. Go apple or berry picking.
  5. Attend a live comedy show.
  6. Ride the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad.
  7. Eat at five new-to-me restaurants in the Cleveland or Columbus area.
  8. Go on a tour of a brewery.
  9. Attend a professional orchestra concert.
  10. Visit the Cleveland Botanical Gardens.
  11. Go camping.
  12. Visit the Underground Railroad museum in Cincinnati.
  13. Obtain a passport and use it, even if only to travel to Canada (the only other country I have ever been in besides the U.S.).
  14. Visit the National Museum of the Air Force in Dayton.
  15. Take Madison to the dog beach.
  16. Visit Cooperstown and the Baseball Hall of Fame.
  17. Attend Dinner on the Diamond again.
  18. See a major league baseball game in a stadium I have never been to before.
  19. Go to a BGSU home football game.


  1. Send Christmas cards to all of our family and friends before the holiday.
  2. Host a book club meeting.
  3. Prepare a meal for my family using an outdoor grill.
  4. Do something extra special for each member of my family.
  5. Host a fancy brunch for my friends.
  6. Mail my closest friends and family cards for each birthday during these 1,001 days.
  7. Throw a party for my parents’ 35th wedding anniversary.


  1. Donate to PAWS in Madison’s name.
  2. Donate toys to kids in need.
  3. Donate to BGSU.
  4. Complete 25 random acts of kindness.
  5. Donate blankets or coats to those in need.
  6. “Pay it forward” at a coffee shop or at a tollbooth.
  7. Donate books to an organization that distributes them to those who need them or volunteer with a literacy organization.
  8. Complete 40 service hours.
  9. Sponsor an athlete at PSH or donate to scholarships offered through PCSD.


  1. Read 75 books I have never read before.
  2. Bake a pie from scratch.
  3. Make a pizza (dough and sauce) from scratch.
  4. Complete compiling and order a full wedding album.
  5. See a classic movie in a movie theater.
  6. Knit a scarf.
  7. Make 15 recipes out of Mastering the Art of French Cooking.
  8. Be inspired by Pinterest 10 times to either create/bake/cook something or utilize a cleaning/organization tip.
  9. Back up all my photos.
  10. Make a T-shirt quilt.
  11. Watch 10 Best Picture winning films I haven’t see before.
  12. Back up all my music.
  13. Create Snapfish or Shutterfly albums for each year since high school.
  14. Bake 12 different recipes of cookies and cut each recipe into an unique shape using our Year Of Cookies cookie cutters we were gifted for our wedding.
  15. Spend at least two months blogging consistently (five days a week).
  16. Watch Gone With the Wind again.
  17. Organize all my workout and recipe clippings from magazines into navigable binders/digital files.


  1. Start a history podcast and publish at least three episodes.
  2. Organize all my previously written swim practices and planning into navigable binders/digital files.
  3. Obtain a full-time classroom position and/or begin earning my masters degree.
  4. Learn all of the world’s capital cities and the names and locations of major rivers, mountains, etc.
  5. Develop my Honors Project (from college) into a full book.
  6. Organize all my lesson plans and resources into navigable binders/digital files.
  7. Find a way to combine my loves of social media and the field of education into something that serves a resource and/or community for either teachers or students.
  8. Truly study (not just skim/index through) all the swimming books I own and organize my notes on them into navigable binders/digital files.

Things That Scare Me

  1. Sing karaoke
  2. Buy a bikini and wear it in public.
  3. Get another tattoo.


  1. Pay off the Honda Civic Dan and I purchased in March 2013 ahead of schedule.
  2. Save at least $5,000.
  3. Create a solid budget and begin cultivating spending/saving tracking habits by following it successfully for at least two months.
  4. Finish changing name on all accounts/relevant records.
  5. Write a will and a living will.


  1. Buy big plastic bins and use them to organize the storage space/seasonal decorations.
  2. Set up a home office.
  3. Create and implement a rotating cleaning schedule and follow it for at least two months straight.
  4. Do an intake of my belongings, donate or toss what I don’t need, and organize what I am keeping.
  5. Find a more effective system for receiving mail, disposing of it/filing it, and responding to it.
  6. Style our bedroom.
  7. Style our living room.
  8. Buy an actual address book and use it.
  9. Clean my car and keep it tidy for at least two months.


  1. Find a skincare regimen that works for me and follow it for at least 30 days.
  2. Buy a grown up watch, and wear it regularly.
  3. Learn 5 new ways to style my hair.
  4. Get a pedicure.
  5. Find the perfect little black dress.
  6. Get grown-up luggage and use it (instead of using my backpack from high school!).
  7. Find my “signature scent.”
  8. Purchase a monogrammed bracelet or necklace.

 End date: September 27, 2016    


Image source

31 Day Blog Challenge: Day 6

For the month of March, I am participating in Fabulous Finds by Tiffany’s 31 Day Blog Challenge. Today’s prompt is: your last random act of kindness.

So far I have been really enjoying this blog challenge. Today’s post, however, I did not enjoy as much. I sat down to write it and just kept staring at my screen. I couldn’t immediately pull to the forefront of my mind my last random act of kindess – or a ROAK, if you will. I mean, I have done small and courteous things, like hold the door open for those behind me, smile at strangers when I walk by in the grocery store, point out the size of pants a person was looking for in the style I heard them say they wanted, etc. And while these are all random and sweet and brighten others’ day, and could potentially be considered small ROAKs of their own accord, I didn’t feel proud to write them as an example of a ROAK. They did not take a great deal of thought or effort on my part. I don’t necessarily think a ROAK requires a person to go extraordinarily out of their way in terms of time or money, or make a huge sacrifice, but I do believe it should be an act that takes some thought, cheer, and clear intention.

The ROAK I can think of is treating a friend when we went out for coffee. I didn’t need to, I just wanted to. With my March goals, I planned do some more ROAKs and today’s blog challenge prompt has motivated me to work on that goal all the more.

What’s the last random act of kindness you completed?

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my life: volunteering at the animal shelter, part II



Yesterday I discussed the inspiration and motivation behind one of my March/April New Year’s All Year goals, volunteering at the animal shelter, and promised that today I would share how that experience is going so far. So here we go!

My local animal shelter always welcomes volunteers. Volunteers under 18 are only allowed to do specific tasks, but volunteers over 18 are allowed to help in countless ways. All volunteers fill out an application. On the application you preference shifts (AM, before noon, or PM, starting at 4) and days, as well as a desire to work with dogs, cats, or either. I preference weekday evenings and either cats or dogs. A volunteer coordinator from the shelter contacted me. She discussed with me what days the shelter needed volunteers for and said she was assigning me to help with cats. I did not know this, but apparently May-October (at least in the Greater Cleveland area) is “kitten season,” and the shelter was going to really need volunteers to help with the cats during that time.

Once a day (every other Friday), time (evenings), and type of animal (cats) was assigned, we set up a time for me to come into the shelter for training. This training was no joke – it took a little over two hours. I was shown around the shelter in its entirety and taken through every step of caring for the cats. Since my training, I have been to the shelter twice to help take care of the cats (like Peppermint, featured in the photo below!).

Here’s what happens during a typical afternoon shift at the shelter where I volunteer, inside the main cat room*:

  • Shift leader assigns each volunteer (including herself) a section of cages
  • Each cat is fed dry food. Most cats eat the same kind, but some are on weight management or senior diet, which is indicated by notes on their cages. Kittens also have special food.
  • Each litter box is cleaned and refreshed.
  • Each cat has a little clipboard with two sheets of paper. The first has their their name, approximate DOB, arrival date, medical information about things like spay/neuter, worms, etc., and any other information like if the cat is shy or anything like that. The second is a sheet changed weekly. For each day of the week is an AM and PM box. Whatever volunteer takes care of the cat for a given shift is responsible for filling out that shift’s box. In that box, volunteers indicate if the cat is eating or not, urinating or not (and if so, to what degree), and passing stools or not (and if so, to what degree). This information is used to catch problems and monitor conditions.
  • If cats need medicine, the shift leader takes care of it or assigns an experienced volunteer.
  • If a litter scoop is used on one cat’s box, it cannot be used on another. Once it is used, it needs to be put with the “dirty” scoops to be sanitized.
  • After every cat has been fed dry food, had their litter box changed, and clipboard filled out, they receive a dish of wet food as a treat. The shift leader scoops it onto plates and the rest of the volunteers pass it out.
  • Once all the cats are done with their wet treats, a couple that get along well will be let out of their cages to roam. These may be cats that have been marked as “needing exercise” for health reasons or just cats that enjoy walking around and playing. The cats will be rotated in groups for coming out to play.
  • The volunteers collect the wet food plates when the cats are done. The dishes have to be washed, dried, and put away.
  • Once all the supplies have been cleaned and put away, the volunteers spend the rest of the time visiting the cats. Some cats don’t want to visit, because they’re shy or because they just want to sleep. Others want to cuddle up in your lap or sit and purr while you pet them. They all appreciate company and love.
  • Around the time the volunteers are able to just socialize with the cats is the time the shelter is open to the public. Friday nights are usually pretty popular for adoptions, and will especially be so when more kittens start arriving.
I am greatly enjoying my experience so far. I obviously knew the shelter took a lot of effort to run, but I never realized exactly how precise the procedures were and how much time it could take to do them all correctly – and doing them correctly is essential for the health and happiness of these cats. I really like being able to help animals in need, and I love cuddling with cute cats like Bethany pictured up above! A lot of the cats at the shelter have been there for longer than you think. The shelter I am at is a no-kill shelter, and there are quite a few cats that have been at the shelter for over a year now.


And here is where my shameless plea comes in: if you are thinking of adopting a cat, please consider adopting a CAT, not a kitten.**  So many people want kittens, but older cats have just as much capacity to love and be loved – maybe even more so in the case of ones that have never had a real home. There are several cats at the shelter who are relatively young (2-6 years old) but have not been adopted. They are friendly, cuddly, sweet cats, and they haven’t been adopted simply because they aren’t kittens and kittens are more appealing. It breaks my heart. As much as I wanted to work with dogs, I am grateful I am working with these cats and giving them the attention they deserve. (And if I could take them home with me, I would! However my house already has two dogs and three 14 year old cats. While the dogs wouldn’t mind, I’m pretty sure the three cats would kill me. As would my mom.) So please, consider young adult cats or adult cats. They’ll already have been spayed or neutered, have their shots, are housebroken, etc., and they need just as much love. And if you already have experience with cats, you should consider seniors. I assure you they would much rather spend their golden years in a loving home than in a shelter, no matter how wonderful the care and visits they receive there. When I imagine a cuddly and beautiful senior cat like my cat Shadow, pictured below, in a shelter instead of sunning on the porch, it breaks my heart.

If you love animals but can’t commit (for whatever reason) to adopting a cat or dog at this time, consider volunteering at your local shelter or welfare/rescue society.*** There’s many reasons why volunteering is awesome, but providing a homeless animal with some much-needed love is definitely a great one.

Have you ever volunteered at an animal shelter before? What was your experience like? Would you ever consider adopting an adult or senior pet?


*There are also quarantine and step-down rooms where animals are cared for, but I do not volunteer in those rooms at this time. **Or consider a DOG instead of a puppy! Puppies may possibly be even more work than kittens! ***If you love animals but are allergic to dogs and cats, there are plenty of ways you can help them without being hands on! ****Last three photos taken with iPhone and filtered through Instagram.

my life: volunteering at the animal shelter, part I



One of my New Year’s All Year goals was to volunteer at the animal shelter in my city. I am excited to say that I have been meeting that goal! I got trained in April and as of now help out one evening every other week (though I hope I can increase the frequency of my visits soon).

When my mom asked me, “Why did you start doing this?” the answer was clear to me. I may not have met all my career or personal goals at this point in my life, but I am so lucky and I should give back. Not only do I personally feel the duty to give back, but I ENJOY giving back. While in college, I joined Alpha Phi Omega, a national co-ed service fraternity. Though I of course cherished the friendships made and the leadership opportunities APO provided, the service is what impacted me the most. It grounded me. When I got incredibly stressed over schoolwork or ridiculous drama or just plain exhausted, helping others and the community always inspired and reenergized me. It reminded me there is much more to the world than my slice of life, that I am lucky and healthy, and positivity is key. During swim season, though I was being paid to coach, I felt my duty and desire to do some type of service fulfilled. Once the season was over, though, I wanted to find another way to give back to the community. Finding volunteer opportunities is a bit harder now that I’m not on a college campus or an active member of a chapter of an organization well-known for its service, but arranging the shelter work was easy.



As you might know from reading this blog, I’m big animal lover and consider my dog Madison my best friend. What you probably don’t know is Madison’s story. Dan and I adopted Madison from P.A.WS. in September of 2010. She was rescued in February 2010 from a hoarder’s property.  The hoarder, who’s land initially started as a humane sancutary, had over 150 neglected dogs. They were underfed and kept in shoddy shelters. Little is known about Madison’s background beyond that and the fact she is missing a tooth, has a broken tooth, and has small scars on her eye and ears. She was in foster care for seven months before she came to live with us, and though she was very well cared for (receiving a great deal of needed medical care and love) and had made excellent progress, she was still underweight, ate anything and everything out of fear of no food, was distrusting of strangers, intimidated by other dogs, terrified of bad weather, hated being outside on her own for any length of time, and had severe separation anxiety. She is totally healthy now and is much better with her food and trust issues, but is still easily startled by both humans and dogs and scared of storms. However, her capacity to love and be loved is amazing. She really does make my life brighter just by being in it.



So to me, the answer was simple. If I was going to volunteer, where? Clearly, it should be somewhere I would enjoy going and would feel a solid and invested connection: somewhere where I could help other animals in need. Where better than the animal shelter within in walking distance from my house – where my family adopted another canine love in my life, Sasha? Perfect! I made it one of my March goals to begin arranging it, and began putting it in action in April.

What drives you to serve others and the community? What inspires your choice of volunteer work? If you interested to know more about my experience or just what working with animals could be like, tomorrow I’ll recap what volunteering at a shelter has been like so far (complete with photos of cute cats!).

 Photos: (1) quote from my Pinterest; (2) Madison hanging out on the porch on a nice day; (3) Madison and Sasha napping together



new year’s all year challenge: april reflections and may goals

In January I introduced the 2012 New Year’s All Year Challenge, in which I made broad “endpoint” goals for the year and explained that each month I will make specific small goals that are stepping stones to my endpoint aims. Each month I will also reflect on the previous month’s goals and efforts.


Source: observando.net via Kelly on Pinterest



April goals:

  • Health: continue with March goals and train for 5K (I’m doing two in June!)
  • Finances: keep saving money
  • Relationships: be less selfish in my thoughts and actions
  • Wedding: schedule engagement photos, work on save-the-dates, and research remaining needed vendors/services
  • Career: look for professional development opportunities and do well advising swimming intramurals
  • Self-enrichment: get trained and start volunteering at the animal shelter

Reflections on April goals:

I did pretty decently with my goals for April. I continued to do well with my health goals from March (staying hydrated and getting enough sleep). I began training for the 5K I have signed up for on June 23rd. Dan ran with me, then I went for a run by myself. The run by myself felt fantastic the day of (until the end of it, during which my calf started cramping horribly). For the next week and half, I had a lot of trouble walking – horrible shin splints and calf pain on stairs. I think I pushed myself too hard too soon (lots of hill sprints). Maybe I didn’t stretch correctly, either. I just need to pace myself. I did well with saving money for upcoming expenses. As for being less selfish in my thoughts and actions, I think I did better than I did in March or earlier in the year, but still can do better. Dan and I scheduled engagement photos (by a great college friend Kim) for the end of May. I can’t wait! Professionally, a lot went on in the month of April and I’m pretty excited. Lastly, I got trained for volunteering at the local animal shelter and have been twice already. I love working with the cats there – so adorable!



Source: tumblr.com via Kelly on Pinterest



May goals:

  • Health: learn more about healthy eating and train for 5K
  • Finances: keep saving money and spend smarter
  • Relationships: be less selfish in my thoughts and actions
  • Wedding: work on save-the-dates, research wedding day photographers, and research DJs
  • Career: do well advising swimming intramurals and begin applying for full-time positions as they get posted
  • Self-enrichment: cook and bake more


Did you have goals for April? How’d they go? What goals do you have for May?



new year’s all year challenge: march reflections and april goals

In January I introduced the 2012 New Year’s All Year Challenge, in which I made broad “endpoint” goals for the year and explained that each month I will make specific small goals that are stepping stones to my endpoint aims. Each month I will also reflect on the previous month’s goals and efforts.




My goals for March were: 

  • Health: get enough sleep; stay hydrated
  • Finances: keep saving money
  • Relationships: complete as many little acts of kindness as possible
  • Wedding: continue researching and meeting with vendors and start booking them
  • Career: read more articles and books related to my content area (social studies)
  • Self-enrichment: volunteer (hopefully at the local animal shelter)

Reflections on March goals:

I did decently with my March goals. I did great with my health goals. Every now and then I didn’t get enough sleep, but I would feel so crappy the next day I would make sure to get back on track. Staying hydrated helped my energy levels a lot as well. I did great with saving money (though I certainly could do better). I did not do as many little acts of kindness as I wanted to or could have, and I don’t have any excuse for it. I just didn’t devote enough thought to it, which is disappointing. I have such great people in my life and I should show my love and appreciation more. The wedding goals, however, were met awesomely! We officially set a date for July 2013 and booked both the church and the hall!! As for my career goals for March, I didn’t read any books related to social studies, but I did get back into reading articles, which was nice. Lastly, while I didn’t volunteer at the local animal shelter in March, I did apply and get my training scheduled for the beginning of this month. I will be working with the cats since it is “kitten season” – I can’t wait!




April goals:

  • Health: continue with March goals and train for 5K (I’m doing two in June!)
  • Finances: keep saving money
  • Relationships: be less selfish in my thoughts and actions
  • Wedding: schedule engagement photos, work on save-the-dates, and research remaining needed vendors/services
  • Career: look for professional development opportunities and do well advising swimming intramurals
  • Self-enrichment: get trained and start volunteering at the animal shelter

Do you have any goals for 2012? How are they going? A friend from college and fraternity brother, Katie, has joined in on the challenge. Be sure to check out her goals and support her! And you join the challenge or make any sort of goal, leave me a comment or shoot me an e-mail! I’d love to hear what others are doing and offer my support : )



new year’s all year 2012: february reflections and march goals

In January I introduced the 2012 New Year’s, All Year Challenge, in which I made broad “endpoints” goals for the year and explained that each month I will make specific small goals that are stepping stones to my endpoint aims. Each month I will also reflect on the previous month’s goals and efforts.

My goals for February were:
  • Health: track food daily; do yoga at least once a week
  • Finances: save specific percentage of each paycheck; open separate wedding fund account
  • Relationships: cook dinner for Grandma; plan presents and cards for birthdays in March
  • Wedding: set a date for engagement photos; research vendors
  • Career: sub 3-4 times a week; reflect on swim season and start prepping for swim team award night
  • Self-enrichment: Cook and bake more

Reflections on February:
I did well with my goals for career (subbing is going well and swimming ended nicely), wedding (we might have our reception venue chosen!), saving money, and planning out gifts. While I continued to eat decently the majority of the time and attend Zumba when I was able to, I did not do much yoga in February. Also, while I did spend time with my grandma, I was not able to cook a nice dinner for her last month. Similarly, I wasn’t able to bake as much as I would have liked. I hope that I will be able to do more (or all!) of these activities in March, as it seems there will be more time since swim season and all post-season work (except for awards night!) is complete now. All that being said…

My goals for March are:
  • Health: get enough sleep; stay hydrated
  • Finances: keep saving money
  • Relationships: complete as many little acts of kindness as possible – like cooking dinner for my grandma, for instance ; )
  • Wedding: continue researching and meeting with vendors and start booking them
  • Career: read more articles and books related to my content area (social studies)
  • Self-enrichment: volunteer – hopefully at the local animal shelter

Do you have any goals for 2012? How are they going? Any for last month? What are your goals for March? It’s not too late to become part of the challenge!! : ) Shoot me an email if you decide to join in.

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