on time management + the best-laid schemes

“Am I being led by love or pushed by fear?” – Emily P. Freeman

With the help of my Lara Casey / Cultivate What Matters Powersheets, I have been identifying big goals and little goals every month to help make sure I’m answering that question right.

While it’s good to see a framework of how I want my month to look and what I want to accomplish, if we’re honest, my to-dos have been pushed to the next month more often than not. One of the reasons is because we’re just getting into a good school rhythm around here. (Yes, I realize that it’s November!)

So one of my November goals was to design and implement a massive overhaul of my daily routine, which I did the first day of the month…

…and promptly went down with high fever and strep throat that picked off one family member at a time. Good perspective building from the get-go, I tell you ūüôā

Please bear in mind that I will never abide by a hard-and-fast schedule. If one of my friends is having a day and suggests setting our minions loose at Chick Fil A for an hour or two, who am I to argue? If my toddler didn’t sleep well and needs to take an earlier nap? Picking up dish soap and chicken cutlets can wait.

It’s more of an evaluation of:

  • What will help me and the people I’m in charge of grow and move forward this month?
  • What’s been slipping through the cracks too much lately?
  • What excess and unnecessary can I remove?
  • Where is there white space in my days that can make the important things happen?

Would you believe me if I told you I’m NOT a natural planner?¬†It’s true. My mind is actually quite the hot mess of need cilantro and¬†schedule dentist appointment and¬†maybe this could happen in chapter¬†2?¬†at any given time. I didn’t start setting goals or keeping a planner until college when I had three jobs, 18 credit hours, intramural sports, a really fun friend group, and a very real, very intense fear of missing out. It was kind of necessary.

The truth is: If I don’t make a list or give myself a big-picture, I spend a lot of time procrastinating or overthinking what needs to be done next. That’s my human nature and the tendency I’ve learned to adapt.¬†

But as much as I believe in managing the work, the chores, the appointments, and tasks, I think it’s equally important to create margin for rest and play. That doesn’t come naturally to me, either. I tend to feel guilty and stressed about taking time to rest and play when there are things I need to be getting done. What I’ve learned at the ripe age of 32, though? Guilt and stress only¬†breed¬†burnout and indecision. And I am actually less likely to move and make progress when I’m frozen in burnout and indecision. It’s kind of like starting off too fast in a race and finishing more slowly than you would have at a manageable pace. Or getting a speeding ticket and arriving late to your destination anyway.

So this month, I’m focusing on revamping my routine, finishing projects that have been vacillating for months, being intentional about family time instead of multitasking, keeping a daily gratitude log on my Facebook for perspective, working ON my business instead of just working in it, and recharging well (with things that actually fill me up instead of just shutting down in front of Netflix).

Are you a natural planner? Have you revamped your routine lately?

{friday mixing bowl} slow mornings, renewing of the mind, and unicorn cake!

Hi, friends! Is anybody else really glad it’s Friday? This is where I am this morning:

I know oatmeal is probably the most unphotogenic breakfast, but after a lifetime of hectic mornings, I’m grateful for a slow, lazy one. I’m going to post a monthly update and my goals for March next week, but one of my favorite things about February was my morning makeover. I’ve been waking up before my kids to get stuff done and have a slow breakfast with a giant glass of lemon water. It’s made all the difference in my day. ¬†ūüôā

My schedule has been somewhat unpredictable, so I have been using block scheduling to get things done and setting aside chunks of time to do them. (Like naptime!) As always, the 15-minute drill has also been my lifesaver. It’s amazing how much you can get done in one episode of Mickey Mouse if you focus on one thing at a time. I’m currently working on an editing job, writing a proposal of new book ideas for my editor, preparing for my book launches, and training for a 5K. Life is full and happy ūüôā

This week I got to meet singer-songwriter-podcaster Christy Nockels, whose music and gentle spirit have been instrumental¬†since I was a tween, pretty sure. But her Glorious in the Mundane podcast has been especially encouraging to listen to as I clean my house ūüôā

<link love>

    Source: ThePaperSpoon4U on Etsy

<in case you missed it>

  • The novella collection I’m part of releases next week, so things around here have been a giant pre-release party!¬†Here’s the book page with the playlist, the story behind the story, and all the behind-the-scenes info about¬†That’s When I Knew!
  • On The Writer’s Alley this week, I shared what I learned from writing my novella, celebrated the writing community, and shared a sneak peek!
  • The lovelies of Coffee Cups & Camisoles posted our interview today!
What have you been up to this week? Are you as excited about the weekend as I am??

The Jesus Party

On my run yesterday, I was listening to Annie F. Downs’ podcast,¬†That Sounds Fun, with her guest Bianca Juarez Olthoff. These two brilliant and exuberant authors and speakers brought up a point in their attempt to retire certain Christianese phrases–phrases like quiet time, which I’ve always taken to mean this still, reverent place to read the Bible, pray, and meet with Jesus.

While quiet and stillness are wonderful things, that episode was an excellent reminder for people who aren’t naturally quiet or prone to longer bouts of undivided attention.¬†Annie and Bianca (I can call them by first name because they’re my pretend-BFFs now) renamed the practice¬†Jesus Party, and this loud singer couldn’t agree more!

It’s necessary for every soul to find time for quietness and stillness, but I believe the Holy Spirit is with us in every moment and can speak to us just as powerfully while belting a Bethel Worship album in our cars or processing in a journal or watching a beautiful sunset over the river or via constant dialogue and acknowledgement throughout the day for those of us who tend to sleep through our alarms.

I’m under the weather and sent my family to church without me this morning. This is what my not-so-quiet Jesus Party looks like right now:

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My Star Wars jammies, get-better tea, and I couldn’t be more full. Selah.

pink lipstick: why I love my 30s (vol. 2)

It’s my 31st birthday and the perfect time to¬†pick this series back up. (Part one: true #squadgoals.)

So many people fear their 30s, like it’s some space-time continuum that magically causes all metabolism and fun to close up shop. But I’ve had a year in this new decade and would pick who I am now over who I was at 20 any. day.

These are the reasons why.

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If you didn’t know, tomboys are just called low-maintenance when they’re 30 and (mostly) past the days of skinned knees and jumping out of trees. While I’ve been through many, many, many phases in my life, that’s who I am at the baseline: The girl who lives in a ponytail or topknot, can tell you more about RBIs than eyeliner, and, for the most part, would rather spend her morning minutes writing another chapter than curling her hair.

(To my friends and the moms at my kid’s preschool who are perfectly coiffed and wearing real clothing every time I see you before 8 a.m., I admire you.)

The difference between 20s Laurie and 30s Laurie? I now know the true value of running a curling iron through my hair, the extra pep in my step when I replace my usual T-shirt and yoga pants for a dress.

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It started with pink lipstick.

I admired the bravery of other women to add a bold red or pink shade to their daily routine, even when going to the grocery store or shuffling kids to volleyball practice. In them, I saw fierceness and femininity. I didn’t own a single tube of lipstick.

That all changed when my best friend and lifelong authority on all things girlie visited a few months ago. I watched as she snapped open the visor mirror next to me and reapplied a pop of pink.

“That’s a little out of my wheelhouse, right?” 20-year-old Laurie would have assumed before scolding herself for using the word wheelhouse. “That will make my teeth look yellow. Most reds don’t even work with my skin tone anyway. Low-maintenance people like me don’t draw attention to themselves like that.”

When you’re 30, you grab life by the tube and wear it —¬†for you —¬†because it brings out the fierce and flirty and feminine that’s already in you. If you fancy that little something-something, you drive to the closest drugstore and buy the reds and corals and pinks your best friend picks out for you. Not for anyone¬†else.

Okay,¬†the fact that it wows my husband and adds approximately 50% more fancy to date night doesn’t hurt. But to all of the people who actually knew me in my 20s, this is a different thing than my chunky glitter eyeliner phase. I promise! It’s more¬†of a mentality than an attempt to prove something to others or add perceived value to my life.

The ability to be comfortable in my own skin wearing yoga pants and no makeup isn’t mutually exclusive with the wish for a little glam sometimes in the form of pink lipstick and glitter nail polish.¬†I wish I could tell 20s Laurie that’s not even close to what beauty and value are all about. Those are the things you already possess that no crow’s feet or cowlicks, no magazines or mean girls can ever take away.

That’s another blog post entirely, however. And don’t even get me started on the improved, more flattering muumuu, the T-shirt dress.

Whether you’re 20 or 200, here’s to finding your shade and owning it if that’s your thing. Here’s to knowing that, with or without it, you are lovely in every way.

Thanks for reading! To stay updated on new posts here and around the web, check out my Facebook author page!

thoughts on privilege and the sacred miracle of each human life

In light of everything that’s happened this week, my post looks a little different today.

I spent yesterday absolutely devastated at the news. Fresh rounds of tears every time I remembered that my black friends are afraid because of the reality that, no matter where or how they live, things could go very wrong for them if caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Then I grieved for my police officer friends, GOOD, fierce, fair men I know would never use force against another human being unless their lives or others were legitimately in danger. Men who put their lives on the line and see terrible things to keep us safe, often with no recognition or overtime pay. And, yet, there’s a common thread. People just like them with families and futures have been murdered by strangers just for wearing a badge.

The police are trained to use their instincts, gut reactions from their hearts. The problem is, a select few who make the news — not all — have sick hearts or plain old bad judgment. And then the cycle of hatred continues with retaliation, maybe not on that street corner, but same story, different place.

This has to change. There has to be more reverence and accountability for the sacred miracle of each human life. 

I don’t identify as a liberal or progressive at all. But I don’t think the language of justice should be associated with any demographic or sociopolitical belief.

At its very root, it’s an issue of seeing others as God sees them and loving as He loves, with no “but” or “except” or “despite” in our language. With no room for overcompensation or withholding.

No matter what we believe, who we vote for, or what we look like, we can never let those who are different from us forget how loved and valuable and important they are.

Here in my South Tulsa home, I acknowledge my privilege. I’m white, college-educated, married to a man, and we never have to wonder where our children’s next meal is going to come from or how we’re going to keep the lights on this month.

I have often remained silent in situations like this, wondering what I can possibly say or do that won’t come across as empty and reactionary and purely driven by the emotions of the moment. I know many of you may feel the same way, sometimes hopeless in our inability to empathize. But after hearing the hearts of the kind, intelligent, brave, hard-working individuals who have directly felt the pain of recent events, here’s what we can do:

We can pray. When we have no words, we can bring it to the Lord and do battle that way. We can remember that our hope is in the Lord and how much all of this is a reflection of people who are hurt and sick and longing for eternity — even if they don’t know that’s what they’re missing.

We can NOT waste our energy on unproductive guilt. Guilt will do nothing but perpetuate the gaps between people. Same with being numb or desensitized. We can lean in, instead.

We can acknowledge that racism and prejudice are ugly, broken, very REAL things, even if we think we’re far removed from them or haven’t experienced them firsthand. We can acknowledge that all the senseless deaths we have mourned in America are a drop in the bucket compared to what’s going on around the globe.

No matter what we believe, who we vote for, or what we look like, we can never let those who are different from us forget how loved and valuable and important they are. 

No matter how big our sphere of influence may be, or how insignificant we believe our voices are, we can stand up for what we believe in our communities. Even a stay-at-home mom can make a huge difference by raising her children to be fiercely kind and discerning and brave.

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We can acknowledge that darkness exists in this world and not turn our heads away from it, but focus on the beauty and perpetuate the love instead of the hate. 

welcome to my table: a manifesto

 

{Not my table. Too clean to be my table.}

If I could compare my dreams for this space to one thing, it would be a huge farm table surrounded by people I love with all kinds of backgrounds and stories. That’s the most beautiful place to be.

There would be food involved, of course. Probably a huge bowl of pasta since that’s what I feed my unsuspecting friends to create that magical, carb-induced conglomeration of happiness and comfort that makes the stories spill out.

The table image has been done a lot lately, I know. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned in the past few months, it’s that the most important part of that is listening. I don’t want to sit at a table set solely by my own hands, nor do I want this website to be the info-heavy drivel of a¬†content machine.

I want my friends to feast on the salad she brought, drink what they picked up on the way, and break the bread he¬†graciously provided from his perfected¬†sourdough starter. The feast is so much richer — and, I think, such a more accurate picture of Jesus that way.

I want that for this space, too.

To be honest, I’ve been wrestling lately with how to do this right. I’ve been consuming all the podcasts and articles on brand, unsuccessfully¬†pinpointing¬†my ideal audience, and trying to reconcile all the strategies for building a fiction readership¬†with the¬†stories my fingers are itching to write. I’m trying to develop some sense of cohesion for this space¬†when I’m balancing my small business, motherhood, my journey to novel publication, and what all of those things teach me against the backdrop of my faith.

I’m learning that I can’t write about everything — or at least not publicly.

That I need to listen and learn as much as I speak and teach. 

So much of the expert advice out there conflicts with itself and only leads to overthinking.

And taking¬†care of the loves that I have¬†is way more important than¬†building a platform. That’s the only thing that’s worth anything.

So for the sake of some cohesiveness and takeaway, my writing/craft-related posts will now mostly be found on The Writer’s Alley, and for this season of life, here you’ll find:

  • Table Talk: Inviting my favorite friends to share how far they’ve¬†come, what going¬†after their dreams looks like, and anything else that’s inspired me so hopefully it can inspire you! Sometimes this will just be important things I’ve learned from other people.
  • Intentional Living: This encompasses all things time management (planners and lists!), accomplishing goals, making dreams happen no matter what, and living the rich and loving¬†life God intended for us.
  • Book Reviews: Only the books I absolutely love!¬†I mostly read clean contemporary romance, YA,¬†and some¬†sci-fi/fantasy here and there.
  • The Friday Mixing Bowl:¬†Weekly updates, treasures¬†from around the web, and other lately discoveries.

If you look at my website, the tagline is¬†Stories of Grace in the Beautiful Mess. That’s the image I want my writing to evoke. If we go by the table metaphor, it means¬†empty¬†plates on the table of full and nourished people, stray noodles under the¬†high chair because everyone is welcome, and proverbial crumbs of hope, that if God¬†can work in this unlikely situation and orchestrate dreams in the most unexpected ways, He can do the same for you.

Pull up a chair, where the drinks are always fizzy and the cupcakes always have extra sprinkles ūüôā

{friday mixing bowl} a mixing bowl of loveliness

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In the middle of wiping stuffy allergy noses, there was a lot of lovely this week with a pinch of fancy.

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It was our anniversary! So hard to believe this was eight whole years ago. Isn’t that church gorgeous??

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We got all fancied up and went out to a nice dinner. Our photobombers weren’t too sure what was going on, but they got to have a fun pizza party with their Aunt Bethany! (Thanks, Bethany!)

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I went bold and brave with a pink lipstick, which is so not like me. But I kind of like the extra touch of fancy! And I love that my husband makes me feel just as beautiful when I change back into my topknot and yoga pants at the end of the night ūüôā

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We went to my favorite place, where I was on the hunt for an early copy of my critique partner’s awesome new romantic comedy,¬†Close to You.¬†(Pre-order it now because it comes out on Tuesday!) We didn’t find an early copy of it, but I did find cover inspiration for the manuscript I’m currently editing — LOOK at that typesetting! <3 Please tell me I’m not the only one who does this… #sorrynotsorry

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The rest of the week was business as usual. The most gratifying kind of hustle.

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…while others didn’t exactly pull their own weight.

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Real life: this is what my sink looked like after a few home-cooked meals (opposed to the 23938293 nights of takeout) and enjoying gorgeous spring evening walks with my family instead of doing dishes. Totally. Worth. It. Plus, it gave me a good excuse to listen to my podcasts while I washed!

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This week reminded me how important it is to treasure quality time — not multitasking, but being totally present. Like dating my husband, picking out fresh strawberries from the farmers market with my girl, and having a raspberry blowing competition with my little cub.

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But what week can go wrong when it starts off like THIS?

<< link love >>

  • One of my favorite new podcasts is The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey. This week, she hosted Shelley Giglio in what was the last straw in a common theme for this week: confirmation that I’m supposed to act on a dream God put on my heart 10+ years ago in college! (More on that later.) My favorite part was when Shelley talked about how her focus is on encouraging people to believe they can do the work God has called them to do. Their talk was fun and real and inspiring!
  • Jenny Bravo of Blots & Plots totally did it again with this comprehensive guide to social media! If you’ve ever wondered what role each social media platform should play and which content should go where,¬†then get there now!
  • God has chosen YOU — not someone else.” Ohhhhh, Bob Goff. The man is smart. “God can use anyone, for sure. If you can shred on a Fender or won Best Personality, you‚Äôre not disqualified‚ÄĒit just doesn‚Äôt make you¬†more qualified. You see, God usually chooses ordinary people like us to get things done.

<< in case you missed it >>

Happy weekend, y’all! Tomorrow I head to OKC for a mini-conference headlined by Allen Arnold.¬†What are your plans?

{friday mixing bowl} a very mindy reprieve + a little fancy in the mess

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How are the weeks flying by so quickly? I have no idea! As you will see, I’ve been very boring this week with client projects to work on +¬†spending lots of time with my little family! To me, boring is never a bad thing. So here goes.

<< I’m currently >>

enjoying perfect spring evening walks with my little family

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The tree in this picture, when we were walking up to it, looked rose gold because of the way the sun was filtering through the white blooms next to it. Wish I could have captured that in a way that did it justice with my measly little phone!

loving the work I get to do every day…

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…even if it can get a little crazy sometimes. is that a theme around here?

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trying to add a little fancy here and there to make even a Wednesday lunch with my kids more special

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fitting in some reading…

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…in the middle of taxes and other adulty things!

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plus somehow¬†watching…

via Bustle

The Mindy Project on Hulu when my brain is crammed to capacity and needs a little reprieve. Enough people told¬†harassed me it would be the perfect show for me, so I tried it and can’t quit it as a little refresh button for my brain. Confession: I can confidently say that 94% of why I stayed is because Mindy’s nurse Morgan makes me wheeze-laugh.

<< link love >>

source: Bakerella

  • I don’t care who you are or what you’re currently eating or eliminating, you need a good chocolate chip cookie recipe that unites all people and soothes all that ails. This one from Bakerella has been my go-to for years. My daughter and I made them this week when her friend came over to play, and they are magical.
  • Loved this article from Canva on font pairing in their newsletter. For one, if you don’t have Photoshop and are not using Canva to make images for your social media and online marketing, you need to check them out now! And use this article as a guide for professional looking images. It ¬†has exactly what I’ve been looking for to take my online marketing game to the next level!
  • My feedly might self-combust for being way behind on my blog reading this week, but my inner Hermione Granger geeked out at these 12 dozen places to educate yourself FO FREE, compiled by Marc &¬†Angel Hack Life!
  • I also was floored by this post on getting dumped from Bob Goff on the Storyline blog. Love him! >> “God‚Äôs grace comes in all shapes, sizes, and circumstances as God continues to unfold something magnificent in me.” YES!

<< in case you missed it >>

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  • I wrote THE END on my third manuscript this week and threw a party! Still lots of work before it’s ready, but just having the bones of a story in place (for now) feels so good!
  • On Tuesday, I’ll be sharing my self-editing checklist on The Writer’s Alley — ¬†unless a more timely topic hijacks my plans.
  • I’m also compiling an April Reads post that will go up at some point next week, along with my manifesto for this blog, if I ever figure out what that looks like ūüôā

Do you ever have packed, boring, adulty weeks like this with a little fancy and loveliness squeezed through the cracks? Just me?

Hope you have a wonderful weekend!

{#workspacewednesday} what multitasking looks like today

It’s 11:32 on Wednesday morning, and I thought I’d share a glimpse of my workspace,¬†complete with bags of tricolor potatoes in the background. Because this is as crazy as it gets, and I love it.

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You may think this seems like a weird place to work, but it’s actually very normal and efficient ūüôā I’m currently working at my kitchen counter because this is what I have going on during my baby’s nap:

  • Finalizing a vocab quiz from¬†Storm Siren for the teen I tutor later today +¬†making a literary devices handout
  • Supervising my daughter’s coloring/handwriting practice (i.e. various trips into the next room to see what she’s up to)
  • Breaking down workload in my bullet journal for a few new editing projects I’m excited about
  • Listening to the new Elise Gets Crafty podcast
  • Brewing a mug of tea
  • Humming “If I Were a Rich Man” because a random instrumental motif in my daughter’s show got it in my head
  • Unloading the dishwasher while I wait for my tea
  • Planning my dinner menu because my sweet friend Paige is coming over tonight!

So that’s what my workspace looks like this morning!¬†I’m going to clean while my podcast goes, writing down any ideas/reminders/groceries I need as I remember, and then pack up the kids and embark on our next adventures of the day. (That’s code for making errands as fun as possible for all parties involved.) This is real life, and even though it isn’t easy all the time, I like it!

What are you up to today? What does your workspace look like?

the holy intersection of art & busy

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I walk past this office every day, an inviting and not-always-tidy place that reminds me something magical will happen there later that night.

It’s littered with evidence–like my son’s toy drum in the corner and my daughter’s handwriting practice on the hearth–that, yes, important things happen here. But I get the privilege of being surrounded by story all day: creating them, helping others tell their own, and living grand adventures with my family at the same time. The lines of balance are always shifting, sometimes pulling¬†painfully. Yet I’ve realized the importance of making it work, of curating this beautiful intersection of worlds that¬†almost feels HOLY in its broken, life-giving wholeness.

An article I read this week on Medium.com, “Real Artists Have Day Jobs: Your Job is Just Your Side Gig,” discussed what defines a person as an artist. Major, major fist pumps and hallelujahs ensued on my end–and a little mourning for the people who don’t see themselves as true artists for whatever reason. Artists with asterisks of some kind.

The truth it took me ages to see is this: Your¬†art is legitimate and important whether¬†it’s your sole income or free therapy tucked into the best corners of your day. I wish more people would see that, even if you’re only doing it 15 minutes a day, your art is a vital part of who you are and deserves as much space and energy as you can give it.¬†The people in that boat have been on my mind so much lately.

Whether you have time to work whenever inspiration comes or–like this blog post–it’s broken into the moments between crunching someone else’s numbers and wiping butts and driving all the places you need to go, I hope you’ll make space for what you know beyond a shadow of a doubt you were created to do and celebrate the holy, messy, beautiful intersection¬†of all the parts of your life.

Your art is legitimate and important whether it's your sole income or free therapy tucked into the best corners of your day.

 

the story of a found manilla folder

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I was cleaning out a drawer this weekend when I found a manilla folder. It had this handout from brainstorming guru Michelle Lim and several copies of my resume.

It’s a perfect snapshot of 2013 and a tangible reminder of what God’s done since then. I had been working full-time from home for two years after my daughter was born but had just been laid off. So I was job interviewing, facing the logistics of working outside the home again. The ink was still wet on my first novel, written on Friday nights in a corner of a coffee shop, where I guarded my screen with an almost paranoid fear that people would see what I was doing and call me out: Fraudulent silly dreamer.

Then I was introduced at church to multi-published author Kathleen Y’Barbo, who I now call my writing fairy godmother. She invited me to her ACFW chapter meeting, where Michelle was giving a workshop. I took notes furiously — my first real foray into learning craft — with this roomful of strangers. People who were pursuing publication and talked about their work with no inhibitions. My kind of people.

After the workshop, I gathered up the nerve to talk to Michelle, ridiculously nervous, and her kindness immediately put me at ease. Immediately made me feel like a real writer. (She is seriously one of the most encouraging people I’ve ever met!)

The journey unfolded from there. I entered a contest, met my critique partners, queried my agent, and watched as one simple meeting and the encouragement of a few beautiful women formed the complex maze of my writing career. It was after this meeting that I started my own business with the support of my husband, not knowing how it was going to make ends meet at first but believing it would give me the freedom to do work I’m passionate about, the flexibility to be home with my children, and the space to grow my pursuit of publication.

If I zoomed out in this metaphor, I know I would see that I’m still chipping away at the beginning of the maze. But I’m grateful for every opportunity and redirecting wall that has come since that manilla folder — and every person who has been in the trenches with me!

Thanks for reading! I’d love to hear your story in the comments! You can also connect with me on my Facebook author page, where I share book recommendations, information about intentional living and the writing craft, and glimpses into life as a writer.

{valentine’s day 2015} my heart is full

a great way to end a great day {pictured: my yellow puppy Valentine}

This morning, I posted something super cheesy on Facebook. Not my normal M.O. at all. It went with an engagement picture taken 7.5 years ago.

I thought about how that girl had a vision of what love and romance looked like in her mind. Happy and hopeful and pretty low-maintenance, but a very limited scope on the subject.

She might have envisioned her eighth Valentine’s Day with her husband to be spent dropping the kid(s) off with a sitter for a romantic, adventurous night on the town. Taking advantage of the chance to dress a little nicer than usual and cementing affirmations of love over a nice meal at a new restaurant.

But you know what? Our eighth Valentine’s Day looked nothing like that. It was less bubbly and chocolatey and red, but better than the girl in that picture could have ever imagined.

Sometimes February 14 equals Braxton Hicks and work emails and rambunctious puppy-sitting and doing homework and flour-bombed kitchens and staying in sweats all day.

But my heart is full because of a man who took our girl to the gym so I could write this morning, made me Mac and Cheese for dinner, and held hands with me during a rental movie.

My heart is full because of a little girl whose excited little feet shuffle as fast as they can to get her stepladder the moment I start assembling ingredients to bake.

My heart is full because there is just as much festivity in soft pink accent nails and homemade sprinkle sugar cookies as in roses and chocolates and dimly-lit restaurants. Just as much love poured into a pan of elbow noodles from a box as there is in a $20 plate of salmon.

My heart is full¬†not because of a calendar day designated for grand, sweeping gestures, but because of this day’s image stamped into my memory.

The practical reminder that love endures the other 364 days of the year, too.