Dream Big: Alt Design Summit

I’ve made a decision.

Next year, I am going to do my darndest to find my way to the Alt Design Summit.

Several of my favorite photographers went this year, and they came back with glowing reviews. Actually, it seems like pretty much everyone who goes comes back with glowing reviews, not to mention fresh ideas, new friends, and a completely rejuvenated sense of inspiration.

From the Alt website:

"If you’re obsessed with lifestyle, food and fashion blogs, fantastic images, smart ideas and great design inside and outside — all wrapped up with a social media bow — Altitude Design Summit is the place to be. Because we feed those obsessions. "

Doesn’t that just sound perfect? And not just as an excuse for a fun “bloggers summer camp,” as one reviewer put it. I truly believe Alt Design Summit would be a serious catalyst for my blog and business, from networking to brainstorming to the nuts and bolts to finding inspiration where you wouldn’t normally expect it to be hiding.

To get there, though, I’m going to have to kick it into a higher gear. Just like having a nice camera doesn’t immediately make you a photographer, attending Alt Design Summit isn’t going to morph me into a heavy hitting blogger overnight. You’ve got to fine-tune your skills with what you’ve got—you can’t wait for the shiniest equipment, the fastest laptop, the most expensive camera, the swankiest conference to make the hard work easy. Between now and next year’s conference, it’s my responsibility to get serious about my goals, my business, my website, my vision.

Figure out why I’m blogging at all.

Get better at it.

And THEN take my serious, writerly, “serious blogger” self to the Alt Design Summit, and know that I earned it.

Clock’s ticking. Let’s get to it.

What inspires you to be better at your job? What goals or benchmarks have you set for your business this year? Leave your answers in the comments and let’s keep each other in the game.

I Can Do Anything Good: January

I’m a very goal-oriented person. Clearly. I set goals all the time in 2011, and it seemed like each month ended with a bulleted list of reasons for not achieving my goals.  Lesson learned: I know that in order to achieve the goals I set for myself, I need to have a certain level of accountability…

So, here are the goals I set for 2012 at the beginning of the year.

And here’s how I’m doing so far:

Reach my goal weight by June 1

So far, so good! I realize that it may come off a little vain or brainwashed by magazine culture to have my weight at the top of my list of resolutions for 2012, so I want to clarify. This isn’t about me weighing what the gossip magazine and television industry says I should weigh – I don’t want to be a scary skinny bobblehead who survives on, like, kale and pickles and lemon juice. This is about my health, my willpower, and my need to stop eating so much pizza and drinking so much beer.

All that said, I lost 5 lbs. in January. Success!

12 in 12

Mom and I ran the Greenville News 5k, and my official time clocked in at 41:53 with a pace of 13:31. In February, we’ll be running the Frostbite 5k here in Asheville, and my goal is to finish in under 40:00. Bring it, February!

No More Debt

Josh and I are on this new budget system that I heard about on the Elevation Church Podcast. It seems to be working well so far, and I think we’re off to a good start.  The hardest part about a budget is realizing that you don’t get to go out to eat or to a bar every time the mood strikes. We’re learning to bargain with ourselves to see where our “fun” priority falls for the week, which is good—but tough to get used to.

Read at least a book a month

Haven’t you heard about my book club? This month I finished The Weird Sisters, which I’ll be blogging about for the BlogHer book club soon. I’m currently reading The Zookeeper’s Wife for the What Are You Reading? book club, and you’re not too late to join us! Click here to join the discussion on Goodreads.

Build a business

Well, I’m freelancing steadily! I have one major client keeping me in steady work. I’m getting used to setting my own schedule and being my own boss. I work on freelance assignments in the evening throughout t\he week, and each Friday I make myself a cup of tea and shut myself in the office with the dogs to finish up the week’s assignments and invoices.

I’ve been doing a lot of brainstorming for the actual business itself – the name, the website, the services offered, the business plan…it’s overwhelming, but I keep reminding myself that this isn’t the kind of thing you cross off your list in a day. I’m happy with where I am and I’m excited about where I’m going.

Did you set goals for 2012? How are you doing so far? 

What Are You Reading? 100 Years of Solitude

100 Years of Solitude

Although it took me WAY longer than it should have, I finally did finish 100 Years of Solitude. (You may remember I started reading it five months ago when I started this little online book club.)

By the end of the book, I felt like poor Ursula—and oh, how I loved Ursula—in her old age. All the characters, their lineages, and their stories blurred completely together. It was all I could do to keep things straight until the end, and I definitely relied on help from the family tree printed in the front of the book.

Muddled though it left me, I do feel like I achieved something by sticking it out with this book. I was tempted to overthrow it for something simpler several times, but I knew it was just too big a story to leave unresolved.

In a lot of ways, this book felt a little Biblical. The family tree grew gnarled, crooked, knotted with begats and with roots so long that the ancestors had become more like legends than family members.

I knew as soon as I finished 100 Years of Solitude that I would need to read it again. This first time was really just to understand what I was getting myself into—and I did sometimes feel like my shoes were made of cement or stuck in mud as I slogged through the densely woven web of stories. I’ll read it again, maybe next year, to actually process, understand, and enjoy. For now, I’m just glad I finished it at all.

I’ve got one more book to tell you about before the book club picks up in real time. Until then, what are you reading? Do you have a book to recommend?

If you’re interested in becoming a reader with me, leave me a comment and let me know! I’ll add you to the list.

Inspired

I’ve told you about my goals for 2012—now I want to tell you about my inspirations. I look to these people when I’m drawing a blank or feeling discouraged about where I’m going or what I’m doing in life. I hope these wonderful, talented people are just as inspiring to you as they are to me!

My mom

You guys, my mother is a powerhouse. It’s hard to believe that at this time last year, she hadn’t even considered running a 5k…and now, she’s running circles around me and logging miles daily. My mom has always been the best example of kindness, patience, and Southern hospitality; this year, she has become the picture of willpower and perseverance, too. I am so proud of and inspired by her every day.

The Schultzes

I know. How many times can I write about our amazing wedding photographers (and friends)?

What you have to know about Cheyenne and Geoff is that they are kind, helpful, caring AND wildly talented. Each time I’ve spent time with them, from our engagement shoot to meeting up for pizza, I leave telling myself (and Josh) that “I want what they have.”

What do they have, you ask? They have the drive, passion, and freedom that I was shooting for when I first launched out as a writer. They have their own business, they work hard, they make it look easy, and they rock at what they do.

When I first met Cheyenne and Geoff, I thought I wanted exactly what they have—down to the occupation. While I know now that I want something a little different for myself, it was an easy leap to make, considering how profoundly inspired I was –and still am—by this dynamic duo.

Mary Marantz

I started keeping up with several wedding photographers after I met The Schultzes and decided I wanted to be one. That ambition has (obviously) since evolved, but several of the photographers I found have stayed on my radar because they are such great resources and examples. Mary is one of those people.

She is so candid about her journey to where she and her husband are now—and I so appreciate that honesty. She is often just the reminder I need that these things take time, that I’m going to have to take baby steps, and that I will get there someday. Read her recent post called “There’s Something About the Chase” to see what I mean.

I could go on about each of these people—and I could list about a hundred more who I find inspirational. Maybe I’ll tell you about another batch in a few weeks—for now, I’ll leave you with these wonderful people and their inspirational mojo.

Tell me in the comments: who are you looking to for inspiration this year?

2012: The Plan

2012: The Plan

I’ve got a good feeling about 2012. As I sat in the living room New Year’s Day, watching Homeland (which is SO GOOD) with my husband and our friends, I made out a list of things I want to accomplish this year – and I really believe I’m going to check off each of my resolutions in 2012. And THAT, my friends, is exciting.

Reach my goal weight by June 1
Did you know that I have been a member of Weight Watchers since before my wedding? Which was in 2009? That I had a goal to lose 30 lbs, total, and I somehow wasn’t able to get that done over the course of three whole years?

Well, now you know. I lost 20, gained 10, and now have about 20 more to go before I am truly happy with my body and my health. That’s not a lot. And the only thing stopping me from reaching my goal is me. So I’ve decided – this is the year.

12 in 12
I’m going to run a 5k every month this year. BOOM. And not only am I going to run – I’m going to run progressively faster until I can finish in under 30:00 (by June), and THEN under 27:00 (by December). I’ll post the races here as I register – so feel free to join me for 3.2 miles whenever you see that I’ll be running in your neck of the woods!

No More Debt
We are lucky – we have very little credit card debt, and yet we can’t seem to shake it all the way. So, you guessed it, this is the year. We’re going to be completely free of credit card debt by December 31, 2012. As long as the world hasn’t ended, that is. ‘

Read at least a book a month
Remember my book club? Probably not – since it was around for about a day. Are you disgusted that it took me until December to finish 100 Years of Solitude? I am. I’m mad that I didn’t bother to make time to read – but I had plenty of time to watch Felicity on Netflix and sleep until noon on the weekends and work into the wee small hours of the morning.

I love to read – but if you say you love something and then you don’t make time for it, how true can that love really be? This year, things change. Keep an eye on the blog for at least one new book club book a month. Read along with me if you’d like – I’d love the company! And I’m always open to suggestions.

Build a business
This is the biggie. It has been my dream for years to truly work for myself. And now that I’m halfway there, I’m realizing that I am missing some key elements of a small business. Like…a name. Or business cards. Or a website, or a logo, or did I mention a name? 2012 is the year that I truly become my own boss. This might be the resolution I’m most excited about – but really, I’m excited about all of them.

How was October for you?

So?

How was your month?

Mine was a blast - chock full of fun and work and adventure. Sadly, it was NOT chock full of achieving my goals or writing (in this blog or anywhere else).

The Rundown: 

Lose 5lbs. I haven’t stepped on the scale to check, but I’m pretty 100% sure this did not happen.

Write 750 words every day. Nope.

Write a short story. Nope.

Paint a picture. On a canvas. And then hang it somewhere in our house. Well, I technically WAS a picture for Halloween. (See below: Bob Ross and a painting by Bob Ross)

And I painted it with help from my hubby and my friends. And we plan to hang it in the bedroom. So I’m allowing myself to count this one as a YES. 

Run another 5k. Yes! Mom and I ran the “Flight of the Vampire” 5k in Brevard, NC this weekend - just under the wire, but we got it done!

I didn’t train for this one at ALL and my time gave me away for the slacker that I am. We’re running our November 5k on Thanksgiving morning, and I’ve got big plans to kick it in the rear end. And by that I mean I want to finish in under 35 minutes. BOOM.

Finish 100 Years of Solitude. Ugh no. Get a hold of yourself, Corley, and finish this freaking book. 

I did squeeze in a few posts for Fashables, which is very exciting. I love writing about clothes without having to pretend to be super-chic or brand aware. Fashables prides itself on being completely non-snobby, and it’s fun to be able to talk style in my OWN style.

Did you set goals for the month? How did yours turn out?

I may not be happy with how I handled October - but lucky for me, tomorrow is the first day of a brand NEW month. So let’s toast with some of the Halloween candy we never even handed out to a fresh start. To achieving our goals. To crossing these goals off the list once and for all.

Eavesdropper

I’m sitting with Josh in our favorite coffee shop, and I can’t help but listen in on every conversation going on around me. I’m a Nosey Nancy and have been forever. It’s a fact…and a trait that comes in handy when you’re a writer who can’t seem to start writing.

When I was in college, I wrote constantly. I took a lot of pride in filling notebook after notebook with stories, conversations, comics, and ramblings. I would sit in the coffee shop for hours, writing on graph paper  until my hand cramped, my pen ran out of ink, or I was asked to buy something or leave.

I’ve always kept a journal, but I don’t think I really started writing until college. I took my first creative writing class freshman year, and one of our early assignments was to eavesdrop. Take someone else’s conversation and make it our story. So as I waited in the airport (one of my favorite places) waiting for a flight home to Indiana, I listened in on nearby conversations until I heard something I could build on.

That first story was pretty terrible - it was an assignment in writing Magical Realism, and my conversation spiraled into one of those terrible “you couldn’t have met Sandy, because she died five years ago ON THIS VERY NIGHT” stories…but it was a start. And I’ve been eavesdropping ever since.

As I approach this October with 750words.com, I’m trying to remember all the ways I used to find inspiration to write.

I have a few more inspirational tricks up my sleeve, but I would love to get your advice, too. Where do you turn for inspiration when you’re having trouble getting started?

I’m moving to Boston.

Ok. I’m not ACTUALLY moving. Like, there’s not a plan or a timeline or anything like that. But given the chance, I’d pack my bags in a heartbeat.

I was lucky enough to go to Boston on a business trip last week, and I fell in love. First of all, the breakfast. The Boston I visited is a city that does breakfast right. We stayed at the Taj, which felt like it was at the center of everything (or at least at the center of ritzy shopping and incredible food).

Each morning of our trip, I grabbed my newspaper from the little burlap bag hanging from my door handle and headed downstairs to be served a seriously delicious breakfast by a waiter who quickly memorized how I like my coffee.

Between meetings and work, I got to see a lot of the city! My favorite was our last afternoon, which we spent sightseeing down by the harbor. Shopping on Newbury Street was cool, but this area felt a little more down to earth and authentic - less shiny, more hodgepodge.

I also got to eat some SERIOUSLY delicious food, including my first ever lobster roll (at Neptune Oyster) and the best cupcakes I’ve ever eaten in my life (from Sweet Cupcakes on Mass Ave).

We also ate at Towne, which was FANTASTIC (that’s where I took the photo of the statue above) - and we saw the Stanley Cup in person! I had fresh raw oysters, incredible lobster popovers, a seriously delicious swordfish steak, and a taste of three desserts: key lime tart, flourless chocolate cake, and brown sugar angel food cake with HOMEMADE MAPLE COTTON CANDY.

It’s safe to say all this jet-setting lately has given me a serious case of the travel bug — not to mention that I’m completely spoiled by all the incredible food I’ve been eating when I travel. My job has definitely provided me with opportunities to go places and eat foods I wouldn’t have been able to experience otherwise, and for that I am incredibly grateful.

Mayday! Mayday!

When we’re kids, there’s a certain pride in seeing our name posted for God and all our friends to see. That’s why people read the newspaper or the yearbook. That’s why “Student of the Month” is such an honor. That’s why, as adults, when we want to make a good impression with someone or get something we want from a customer service representative, we use the person’s name as often as we can in the course of our conversation. (Did you know that trick? Now you know!)

Since my name held a spot on the calendar each year for the entire month of May…well, May has always given me a little thrill. The flowers come out, the sun shines bright, the temperatures climb, the school year ends, graduations happen, and Mother Nature really tends to show us what she’s got.

mayflowers.png
This May, like every May, I’ve got big plans. I’m visiting farmers left and right for work. I’m running a 5k with my mom (and my husband). I’m starting a “bigger picture” personal writing project - something I’ve wanted to do for a long, long time. I’m nervous and excited to get started. And I’m setting goals.
_________________________


Recall with me, if you will, last month’s goals:

-Run my first 5k! AAAAAHHH! I completed my first 5k, but I didn’t run the whole thing. Luckily, I’ve got a chance for redemption coming up this weekend.

-continue to follow the Weight Watchers plan on my path to better health. I couldn’t endorse Weight Watchers any more enthusiastically if they put me on a commercial and made me a star. This program has turned my self confidence, my self perception, my SELF around.

-Cook at least one new recipe a week. Blog about this recipe each TUESDAY. Right. Nope. This one’s just going to have to go on the back burner until I commit to making cooking a priority. I just have too many other priorities going right now.

-Step up my #ukulelewednesday game! I didn’t practice as much as I would have liked, but I do feel that my song choices got a little more challenging, and I did faithfully do a song each week. This month, I’ll just keep getting better!

-Follow up on my ideas for personal branding and continue to develop a solid concept. Welcome to the back burner, personal brand. I’ll come back some day. I promise.

- Draw and doodle more. I was right - it is fun!

-Make time to read the newspaper once a week. With coffee. And quiet. While I didn’t read the newspaper as often as I should have, I have been making quiet time for myself to read - typically on my lunch breaks at work. I actually came up with the idea for my new writing project on one of those reading breaks - I’m definitely going to carry this one over from the goal column to the routine column. We could all use a little quiet time (when we can catch it).

_________________________


I’m not making myself a big to-do list for May. My daily lists are daunting enough as they are; I’m not going to add any stress to my favorite month by mucking it up with goals just for the sake of having posted them. Instead, I’m going into May with a list of intentions:
- I intend to read as often as I can
- I intend to write as often as I can
- I intend to be outside as often as I can
- I intend to PLAY as often as I can
- I intend to keep flowers on my desk all month long
- I intend to love this month even more when it ends than I did when it started


I also intend to win a certain 5k bet with my husband and to tell you more about this photo…




…but you’ll have to come back for those details.

March was more in like a lamb and out like a lion, but it’s out either way which means it’s time to move to APRIL.

In keeping with the theme of my life lately, March zoomed on by before I even realized it was halfway over. It was a great month while it was here, though. I managed to complete two of my March goals (using my new markerboard and training for my 5k).  The others, well, there’s always April! (Clearly I’m great at this personal goals thing. Clearly.)
In April, I would like to:
-Run my first 5k! AAAAAHHH! I can’t believe it’s already here, but it is! I’m hitting the road with my mom, aunt, and grandma on April 9 in Rock Hill, SC. I’m very nervous. Root for me!
-continue to follow the Weight Watchers plan on my path to better health.
-Cook at least one new recipe a week. Blog about this recipe each TUESDAY. I’m giving myself a day in hopes of holding myself accountable!
-Step up my #ukulelewednesday game! Practice for longer in order to play the songs better. That’s just common sense.
-Follow up on my ideas for personal branding and continue to develop a solid concept. I came up with a really exciting idea on the plane back from Tallahassee. I think I’ve finally got a concept worth going with, which is exciting, especially since this project has been a to-do since the beginning of 2011.
- Draw and doodle more. Because it’s fun!
-Make time to read the newspaper once a week. With coffee. And quiet. This is a biggie. I’m falling back into the habit of sleeping until the very last minute, dashing to work, eating breakfast and lunch at my desk…I have to make time to read and learn and absorb as much of the “outside world” as I can.
Was March your month? Will April be, too? If you set goals, leave your link in the comments! I’d love to read what you’re working on.
Calendar image via Christiane Engel
Original Article

March was more in like a lamb and out like a lion, but it’s out either way which means it’s time to move to APRIL.

In keeping with the theme of my life lately, March zoomed on by before I even realized it was halfway over. It was a great month while it was here, though. I managed to complete two of my March goals (using my new markerboard and training for my 5k).  The others, well, there’s always April! (Clearly I’m great at this personal goals thing. Clearly.)

In April, I would like to:

-Run my first 5k! AAAAAHHH! I can’t believe it’s already here, but it is! I’m hitting the road with my mom, aunt, and grandma on April 9 in Rock Hill, SC. I’m very nervous. Root for me!

-continue to follow the Weight Watchers plan on my path to better health.

-Cook at least one new recipe a week. Blog about this recipe each TUESDAY. I’m giving myself a day in hopes of holding myself accountable!

-Step up my #ukulelewednesday game! Practice for longer in order to play the songs better. That’s just common sense.

-Follow up on my ideas for personal branding and continue to develop a solid concept. I came up with a really exciting idea on the plane back from Tallahassee. I think I’ve finally got a concept worth going with, which is exciting, especially since this project has been a to-do since the beginning of 2011.

- Draw and doodle more. Because it’s fun!

-Make time to read the newspaper once a week. With coffee. And quiet. This is a biggie. I’m falling back into the habit of sleeping until the very last minute, dashing to work, eating breakfast and lunch at my desk…I have to make time to read and learn and absorb as much of the “outside world” as I can.

Was March your month? Will April be, too? If you set goals, leave your link in the comments! I’d love to read what you’re working on.

Calendar image via Christiane Engel