Oh My Goals: September

I really should start writing these posts in advance, but darn it, my week has been busy. Plus, it’s Labor Day weekend. I deserve a break, right? At least that’s how I’ve rationalized yet another late post. Okay, here goes….


This is the second month of my Oh My Goals series. If you remember, I’m terrible at sticking to goals, so I’ve committed to posting them online for everyone to read in hopes that I’ll feel a sense of accountability.

So let’s review August’s goals:

  • Stay on budget—It was a little hard to stick with this one realistically, because, due to a system switch-over, I was delayed in starting work. I did start my budget binder, though, and started to log some things in it, so that’s progress.
  • I designed a beautiful dorm room. Seriously. Go look at it. It’ll almost make you wish you were me.
  • Call my parents frequently—I did keep up with this one, and I’ve actually seen them a few times since I started back in school. A bonus was getting to see my dogs, even if it was for less than 24 hours.
  • Update my planner weekly—This one has sort of morphed into an “update it when I find out about new things” type of deal. I filled in everything that my syllabi had to offer, but when it comes to work hours, appointments, and other personal things, I write them in when I learn of them.
  • Maintain a steady flow of blog posts—Welp. Look how far that one got. But seriously, I do have my blog posts for the next several weeks planned out. I’d show you a picture, but I only do spoiler alerts for TV shows, movies, and the ends of books.
  • Prioritize self-care—I did buy the $4 cup of Starbucks coffee (or several. It’s become my morning motivation on weekends). And I did binge-watch Grey’s Anatomy (I’m now a few episodes into season 10–and I started August at the beginning of season 9). I didn’t get a manicure, but I’m not entirely sure I want to spend the money on that. See: my budgeting issue.
  • Get a gym membership—This one is actually out of my hands, because there’s been a delay in the gym membership process at school. I’ll be able to sign up soon hopefully!
  • Just be present—I’ve gotten slightly better at this, but definitely not as good as I want to be. This is a repeat goal for the month of September.

That brings us to September.

  • Build a budget—Now that I can guesstimate what my paychecks will look like, I can actually build a budget. Any extra money will be saved, and portions of my paycheck will be, as well. However, I’m relying on my paycheck money and gift money as my personal expenses/extracurricular funds. That’s what will be budgeted for. Here’s to hoping I don’t spend $300 on a purse like I did last year (even though it was totally worth it).
  • Put myself first—I put myself first financially all the time, but emotionally? Eh, I’ve got a lot to work on in that area. I’m looking for ways to do that, ways to explore who I am and what I am all about. Any tips?
  • Eat feel-good foods—My roommate is a super chef of healthy foods, so we’ve been cooking for the past week or two. You should be jealous that I get to live with her, but if you’re lucky, I might post some recipes inspired by her cooking talents….
  • Put a dent in the book I’m going to review—Hint: look here! Enough said on that one.
  • Write at least one good story, even if it’s really, really short—My creativity has been slacking for the past year. I’m majoring in Creative Writing, for heaven’s sake; shouldn’t I be able to turn something out? (If I’m being honest, my inability to write is because of a whole other issue, but that’s a topic for another post.)

What are your goals for September?


Mosey on back next Monday to see how I set up my Erin Condren Life Planner!

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This post is not sponsored by or affiliated with Erin Condren.

 

Putting in My Two Weeks (of Classes)

Here’s a recipe for an overachieving college student:

  • 7 classes
  • 1 job
  • 1 volunteer job
  • 1 internship (that feels more like a break than a job because I love it)
  • 1 social life (at a school that hosts a million and one campus activities)
  • 1 unreleased manuscript to review

You can arrange those ingredients in whichever order you choose; they’ll all add up to being a really big cake that probably has some uncooked-batter spots in it.

My first two weeks of classes consisted of reading at least 200 pages total (and that’s being generous), writing a short story with only monosyllabic words (which is the hardest thing to write ever), performing my first-ever science lab, painting my nails a few times because I can’t stand chipping, singing and cooking with one of my roommates, having a deep conversation with one of my favorite people (and making kale chips with said person), and discovering I really like a cookie made by my dining hall (shout out to the cranberry-oat cookie!).

I also stressed a lot and had fluctuating levels of consuming every food that was in sight or forcing myself to eat because I didn’t want to. I had points where I ate things that weren’t great for my body. (I mean, I ate chicken nuggets for brunch yesterday. It’s totally the best idea to start your day with fried foods.) And I hate points where I ate really healthy (thanks to my roommate, who might actually be my culinary savior).

Oh, and there was Grey’s Anatomy. Boy, was there Grey’s Anatomy.

Considering I don’t remember the first two weeks of my freshman year very well, likely due to my brain just blocking it out, I can’t really compare this year to last. I can say, though, that I’ve taken on a lot more than I had in the Fall of 2014. I’m definitely going to be busier, and there may be a few late posts here and there because I’ve stayed up until two in the morning to finish a paper or because I’ve stayed out all night to set up, attend, and break down an event. But if there are late posts, it probably means I’m having a good time, and that’s good.

And when I say “probably,” I mean there could be little mental breaks of, “Oh god, so many things are happening at once. Send out the SOS.” But no matter. I’ll deal with those as they come.

See you back here next Monday!

Easy as Pie Syllabi

planner-zoomed-out

Did anyone else feel like the first week of classes felt like an entire semester crammed into five days? I’m so glad I was able to spend the weekend with friends, because if I hadn’t been able to, I just might have gone stir crazy. But with the first week of classes came my favorite time of any semester: syllabi planning.

key

Typically, the first meeting of any class will be mostly a discussion of the syllabus, possibly with some work thrown in there if time permits. This year, I’m using my Erin Condren Life Planner to organize everything, along with a combination of Sharpie pens and Staedtler pens. I broke everything out into colors and assigned each class its own pen. I keep the key on my page marker (as seen above) so that it’s always on the current week in case I need to refer to it. (Shout out to my internship at Deep South Magazine! Click here to read what I’ve written.)

syllabus-first-page

I always try to print syllabi before classes meet so that I can read through them, highlight important dates or details, and make any necessary notes. While in class, if the professor stresses something that’s in the syllabus, I highlight or underline it, and if the professor says something that’s not included in the syllabus but sounds like it could affect my success in the class, I’ll jot a quick note down.

I learned quickly that memorizing a professor’s email address, office hours, and office number is one of the best things I could do as a student. I love office hours because I can sit with the professor and talk one-on-one about issues I’m having in class, with an assignment, or with a deadline. Plus, for the sample syllabus I have pictured, the professor’s office is so fun. She has three bookshelves, stocked up with books on the craft of writing. It’s basically my dream office.

syllabus-schedule

The best part of any syllabus is the semester schedule, and if your professor doesn’t provide one, you might want to ask him or her to see if there’s one available. The above schedule lists what will be discussed in class on any given day and what will be assigned as homework for the next class. (By the way, if no one has told you yet, homework is still important in college. It may not be mandatory, but it’s a good idea to do it anyway so you have a better understanding of the material.) These are the dates and the correlating information that I use when assembling my weekly layouts.

planner-full

At the end of each day or during long breaks between classes, I sat at my desk, fanned out the syllabi received that day, and got to work filling in my planner. This picture is from this week (because the first week’s spread ended up looking so unphotogenic), so you can see a breakdown of my assignments, discussion points, etc. It’s organized somewhat differently for each class. For example, my Creative Writing class (pink) has homework due Wednesday listed under Monday. My Anthropology class (burgundy), on the other hand, has that day’s discussion points and readings listed (see Tuesday and Thursday). The way you structure your week will depend on each syllabus and how you think your brain will process the information best. I also have two other sections per day dedicated to personal errands and work. Those won’t look so desolate once school events pick up and I get my work schedule sorted out.

One of, if not my biggest, coping mechanism is to organize everything. I have my planner, I have sticky notes adhered to the base of my iMac, and I have running checklists for each day. Taking these steps keeps everything in order in my mind so that I actually follow through on things I’ve committed to, and a huge part of this process is marking information found in syllabi in my planner. Otherwise, I’d probably find myself neck-deep in deadlines and missed readings, and I already have a fear of drowning; let’s not add drowning in schoolwork to that.

Your takeaways:

  1. Color-coding is your best friend
  2. Print syllabi in advance if possible; if not, transcribe the information ASAP after you receive your syllabi
  3. Memorize your professor’s email, office hours, and office number (but don’t stalk him or her—that’s a given)
  4. Highlight and take notes on syllabi before and while the professors speak about them in your classes
  5. Organize your planner (or however you choose to keep all of this information together) in the way that’s best for you—do you need to list all the things due on a particular day, or do you need to write in what’s due for the next class?

Good luck, my friends. Now that the first week’s over, the fun is just beginning.

In the meantime, I’m curious to know: how do you structure your coursework?


I’ll see you right back here next Monday morning!

 

#dormgoals

desk

Dorm life is hardcore, and I don’t even live under normal dorm conditions. Most people have to share cramped, cell block-type room with a roommate that either wanders around naked or parties at odd hours of the night. I have suite-style living (praise) with three amazing roommates (double praise). This means I have an entire (tiny) room for myself to let the design-crazy part of my brain explode. So without further adieu, let’s take a tour of my redesigned room.

First stop: the desk. Let’s take a moment to appreciate the organization that is my desk right now, because with seven classes, an internship, a job, a volunteered job, and a book to review, it’s probably going to be a mess 2.5 seconds into the semester. But for now, it’s impeccable.

From left to right:

  • A printer
  • My budget binder
  • A stack of eighteen books, all neatly arranged, bottom to top, according to decreasing height
  • A framed print that I recycled from last year’s room
  • My iMac (and sunglasses, because I didn’t know where to put them for this shot)
  • My Erin Condren Life Planner and Swarovski pen
  • A tiny pink elephant
  • My Wacom tablet’s pen
  • A makeup mirror
  • My To-Do list notebook and a collection of two sticky note pads (and I have at least ten other sticky note pads in my desk drawer—it’s a casual addiction)

bookspillow

I went into my freshman year with a clear room layout in my head, and it was super functional for the room I had. At the end of the year, though, I saw a friend’s layout and loved how it looked, so naturally, I stole the idea. I’ve created an “infinity desk,” which is basically the small dresser and desk provided, pushed so that they’re flush against each other to create the illusion of a long desk. It makes the whole room open up and allows for more room for desktop storage of things like my printer, books, computer, and makeup (which has to be near natural light for application).

makeupThis leads to my makeup, which is housed in a series of acrylic organizers. My makeup brushes, pens, and face lotions are stored in miniature white, yellow, and pink buckets respectively, with a gold rock filler.

 

bed

 

 

The bed: The bedspread is from a Martha Stewart collection sold at Macy’s. And guess what? I got it on sale for 50% off. My original color scheme was going to be lavender and yellow, but when I saw this set (that came with two free pillows, by the way!), I fell in love. And when the saleslady told me she’d give it to me at the sale price, I was about ready to marry the thing.

 

nightstandThe nightstand: I bought this cute side table to match my room off of Craigslist. The lady was the sweetest and thankfully not some creepy person looking to make a quick buck. The base of my yellow lamp broke in transit, so the white lamp is temporary until a new base arrives. The decorative dish it’s perched on is a beautiful piece that my mom lent to me because it matched my room perfectly. To the right of that you’ll see my pink keys dish that reads, “Love your life.” And, of course, I have my little yellow taxicab on display.

 

closet  closet-shoes

The closet: To make that tower of storage bins on the left of the closet, I stacked two storage bins with two drawers each. I have other articles of clothing in a smaller bin atop the tower. My hangers had to match, of course, so I have a variety: standard wooden with white polka dots, white felt,  pink felt, and black (for black pieces). My high heels and boots are stored on a small bookcase from Big Lots, and my dirty laundry is tossed into a flexible pink tub.

door-shoes

The rest of my shoes are stored in an over-the-door hanger.

jewelryMy accessories hang from two teal hook racks that I picked up from my local Bed Bath & Beyond ($20 for the pair of them!).

 

 

 

 

 

 

rug

I ordered this 4×6 rug from Target and am so pleasantly surprised by how soft and comfortable it is. And let’s be real: it totally makes the room look more like a put-together bedroom than a sketchy motel room. And a special shout out to my slippers for taking field trips around campus because I was too lazy to put on real shoes.

 

 

 

 

KeurigAnd then there’s my beloved coffee and tea station. This pink Keurig was a birthday gift from my grandmother last year and has seen me through late-night Spanish study sessions and early morning drives home. The mug is one of my favorites from DFTBA.

 

 

 

 

 

window In one of my windowsills, I have two decorative vases with silk flowers that match my color scheme, a pink distressed vase, and a cup-turned-vase glass piece from Marshalls!

 

 

 

PD-wall2My original plan for this was to do an entire wall of dots, but I ended up liking just the three rows. I was worried that the dots would visually conflict with the pattern on the bedspread, so I kept it the way you see it here. I’m also probably more disappointed than you are that my iPhone couldn’t get a good picture of the wall. Once I get my camera back on its feet, I’ll update this post with a better photo!

whiteboard

At any given time, my brain could be jumping from thoughts about a paper, to concerns about a friend, to what I need from the grocery store, to what questions my professor will ask in class the next day, so I decided to suck it up and get a whiteboard. Right now, I’ve listed the packages I’m expecting, two things I need to pick up, and my class schedule.

semester-calendarThe two gridded sheets you see on the left make up a semester-at-a-glance calendar that’s color-coded according to class (more on that in an upcoming post). I’m hoping that’ll help me keep track of study scheduling and assignments so I never have to face the “Help, I have three papers and a take-home quiz due tomorrow” dilemma.

Last year was really my trial run in trying to figure out what I wanted out of my dorm room. Putting all of this together this year, despite minor moving issues, was the perfect start to my sophomore year. I brain-dumped my design idea into this room and it turned out almost exactly as I pictured it. I’m playing on brighter colors, decor, and lots of organizational tools to pull off this cohesive look and homey feel. I wanted to create a space that made me feel comfortable and relaxed without compromising style or aesthetic appeal. At an honors college, you know I need a place to come home to after I’ve drained the life out of my brain from an exam. And as much as I can’t wait to see new dorm photos from people all over the world, I think mine might be the best. But admittedly, I’m biased.

Only the best of luck to everyone starting a new school year. May you not procrastinate, may you get lots of sleep, and may you get straight A’s (or pretty close).

In the meantime, tell me: what’s your design style? If you live in a dorm, how do you make it your own?


Don’t forget to join me next Monday morning for a new post!

This post is not sponsored by or affiliated with any of the following companies or businesses:

  • Erin Condren
  • Swarovski
  • Wacom
  • Martha Stewart
  • Macy’s
  • Craigslist
  • Bed Bath & Beyond
  • Target
  • Keurig
  • DFTBA
  • Marshalls

Things not pictured:

  • Under the bed storage—get some basic crates from somewhere like Target and voila! You’ve got functional storage for under your bed. You can also invest in a three-drawer plastic storage bin (that comes with wheels) to stick under there.
  • My refrigerator and microwave
  • My Sunday bin—more on that in an upcoming post
  • My six-drawer necessities storage—for things like makeup, nail care supplies, hair supplies, medicines, etc. Each bin has its own life purpose.

Oh My Goals: August

What’s better for someone who has to force herself to achieve basic goals like eating breakfast and putting real people clothes on than committing to the world with Internet permanence that she will actually set and follow through with monthly goals?

Here goes nothing: August 2015.

  • Stay on budget—One of these days I’ll be able to go to Bloomingdale’s and buy a rackful of clothes without guilt. Today is not that day. Nor is tomorrow. And, if we’re being real, not a single one of the next 1,095 days is that day. I bought a binder (that matches my dorm room because if it’s going to be out on my desk, it’s going to be color coordinated) and I’m going to fill it with budget planning materials to track expenses, savings, and income. The subgoal here is to save as much money as possible while not compromising my lifestyle (which, at the moment, does not rest heavily upon a pedestal of Ramen noodles and sky-high textbook receipts).
  • Can you guess where I’ll be doing this? One hint: you’ll find out next Monday….

patterned dot wall by taylor made #polkadots #gold #home

  • Call my parents frequently—I joked that, during my freshman year, I’d only call my parents on Sundays. If you read my love letter, though, you know I talked to them more often than planned. This year is going to be significantly more hectic, but since my parents helped to keep me sane last year, I figure it’s probably a good idea to keep them around this year.
  • Update my planner weekly—As much as I’m in love with organization and scheduling my life down to the minute, it’s so difficult for me to actually keep up with a planner. But with so much going on in the Fall semester (more on that in an upcoming post!), it’s basically stay organized or die (of exhaustion). Sundays will be my planning days, and in a near-future post, you’ll see what I’m doing on the other six days of the week.
  • Maintain a steady flow of blog posts—The past few weeks have been nuts, and it’s no coincidence that the level of craziness positively correlates with the fact that I’m moving back to school this week. I’m hoping that by planning my blog posts in advance, it’ll be easier to maintain consistency. That means that exams or no exams, work or no work, you’ll be seeing a new post every Monday morning (and maybe even more, depending on how all the cookies crumble).
  • Prioritize self-care—I’m going to be running on a super tight schedule that barely allows for visits home (and if I do visit, it’ll be for doctor appointments), much less have copious amounts of free time. I’m really excited about all of the things coming up, which helps to soften the blow, but I also know that if I don’t factor in time for myself to just be, I’m probably going to combust. My goal is to get a monthly manicure, buy myself the occasional $4 cup of Starbucks coffee, and binge-watch Grey’s Anatomy. All in moderation.
  • Get a gym membership—Part of my self-care routine is going to involve trips to the gym. I’ve already informed two of my friends that they have to get memberships, too, and go with me. Everyone needs a little accountability, right? Because I am not about to gain the freshman fifteen in my sophomore year.
  • And finally, just be present—This is probably going to be the hardest for me, because I’m constantly doing something. Whether I’m checking social media, communicating with authors, talking with friends and/or family, or doing one of the other million things on my ever-growing To-Do list, I’m always doing something. And sometimes that “something” isn’t always what’s going on around me in the moment. And I have to get better about that, because I know that I miss things, no matter how small, even if I’m only sending out an email that took thirty seconds to write.

Tell me in the comments below: what are your goals for this month? Let’s take on August together, one grueling  step at a time.


Head right back over here next Monday for the big, grand, super spectacular…mystery post! I know what it’s about, but do you? It has something to do with a certain little yellow taxicab….

Photo credit to: Taylor Made Creates

 

Pretty As a Picture: J Rosa Photography

You would not believe the weekend I had. Let’s just say there was a ridiculous mix-up with my dorm storage unit delivery that caused me to have an impromptu sleepover up by my school. I finally got home late Monday night, so this post was actually written on Tuesday. Back to a normal schedule next week, I promise!


IMG_1657

As a general rule, I’m like a well-to-do museum: I don’t allow photographs. When I go on vacations, I don’t let people take pictures of me. I carefully craft my selfies so that the light and the camera hit me at the perfect angle. And I don’t do candids. Like ever.  Ironic, considering that I studied photography for two years in high school.

So it was a big leap for me when I said yes to my friend, Jennifer, who asked me to do a rebranding photo shoot.

I hadn’t seen Jenn since high school graduation, so it was so great to catch up with her. We talked about college, my internship, her new real estate license, and how she’s rebranding her photography business. As her “About Me” page says, she’s developing her photographic style. Her portfolio ranges from portraiture, maternity and baby photos, events, and still life shots—and it’s still growing. You can view it here.

What’s great about her process is that she has a portable studio, which means that, for an added fee, you can have your photo shoot come to you! And, if you’re not quite comfortable with that, she offers sessions in her home or, without the studio equipment, sessions at a location of your choice, like a park, the beach, or a wedding. I packed up my clothes, shoes, and makeup and made my way over to her (beautiful) house.

My session was a few hours long and saw me changing into three dresses. I applied a full face of makeup (because I can barely leave the house without it, much less allow photos to be taken of me with a bare face), got all dolled up, and awkwardly (on my part) posed in front of two lights, a black background, a camera, and a very patient Jenn. She helped position me to get the best pictures, and even managed to get a few shots of me fully smiling.

IMG_1658

I never smile with teeth, but she caught me laughing, probably about how I couldn’t hold a pose without almost toppling into one of the lights—a very me thing to do.

I love that these photos look like how I see myself when I look in the mirror, and they’re just too cute to not have somewhere on this blog, so I’ll probably add them to my “About” page, too.

She also got some more glamorous shots, like this one:

IMG_3094 (1)Fun fact: I’m wearing a dress that’s probably ten or eleven years old that I used to pretend to win those Oscars in. It’s still too long.

And even though I’m painfully uncomfortable with having pictures taken of me, it was still really fun to be on the other end of the lens. It also helped that I had someone I trusted to Photoshop any imperfections. (Let’s have a moment of silence for the wonder and blessing that is Adobe Photoshop.)

For price and packaging information, or if you’re interested in working with Jennifer, go ahead and send her an email or contact her through Facebook!


I so appreciate the patience with this week’s post. I debated whether or not to post about what happened, but I doubt anyone wants to read my rant about storage unit mix-ups and having what’s basically an overnight essentials kit in my everyday purse. (Seriously, I had a brand new toothbrush, toothpaste, and floss. Who has that in their purse?)

Tell me in the comments below: what’s the weirdest thing in your purse that would keep you sane during an impromptu sleepover?

See you right back here next Monday morning!


This post is not affiliated with or sponsored by J Rosa Photography, Jennifer Rosa Photography, or Jennifer Rosa. It is not a paid advertisement or endorsement.

Review of: the 2015-2016 Erin Condren Life Planner

After a three-year-strong dedication to my beloved Lilly Pulitzer, my planning needs have changed. During the Fall of my freshman year, I was taking five classes; during the Spring semester, only four. Because of the fairly small amount of classes, I didn’t need as much room to keep track of my life, so the horizontal, lined layout of the weekly view in my Lilly was perfect.

Fall of 2015 is going to be a little different, though. I’ll have seven classes, a job, and a blog schedule to balance, not to mention any activities on campus I’ll want to participate in. I need a planner with a weekly layout that had separate sections to which I could dedicate the three main spheres of my life: school, personal (and activities), and blog.

Enter the 2015-2016 Erin Condren Life Planner.

Cover

EC offers several cover options. You can choose a ready-to-ship planner; you can personalize one of Erin’s designs (like I did); or you can design your own cover! After you’ve chosen your cover, you’ll decide between two weekly layouts: horizontal or vertical.

Blank-July

The planner pages themselves are not customizable aside from your choice of horizontal or vertical weekly layouts. Not to worry, though: the color schemes, although muted, agree with each other, and each month has an inspirational quote at its opening, just before the month-at-a-glance calendar.

When you open your Life Planner, you’ll see the cover page with space for you to write your contact information should you misplace the planner. I promise there are two lines there; I just didn’t include them in the photo because I’m not sure I’m too cool with blasting my cell number and email address all over the Internet. Sorry, y’all.

Cover-Page

The next two pages are a spread with a quote set against a grid paper background. I’m a fan of typography, so I like the fonts and the design here. And on the next spread you’ll see the year-at-a-glance calendar that spans from July of 2015 to December of 2016, which is especially useful for planning vacations months in advance.

Opening-Quote YAAG

Goals-pageThe two pages that follow offer a blank slate for you. No, the pages themselves are not blank. However, between them they feature twelve blank rectangles, each with a colorful banner of free space. This spread can be used for monthly goal-setting, social media tracking, blog statistics, or even an at-a-glance vacation spread. It’s really up to you to decide what you’ll do with this space. Because I haven’t started my school year yet, it’s hard for me to commit to what I’ll use this space for, but I’m sure I’ll find a purpose for it.

 

Each month is sectioned off with its own tab, but we’ll look at July in this post. The month starts with a nice quote (and even though I typically feel squeamish and uncomfortable about inspirational quotes, I can get on board with this idea).

Tabs  July-Quote

July-MAAGYour month-at-a-glance spread follows the quote. It’s a pretty basic calendar, but one of my favorite things about these spreads is the goals sidebar. This will come in handy when I pick back up with school and will have to really schedule in exercise and personal time.

 

 

 

First-Week-of-JulyThe game changer for me, though, was the vertical layout. With three unlabeled boxes per day, there’s plenty of space to pencil in my schedule. Because each column isn’t pre-assigned like the previous Life Planners were (where there was a Morning, Afternoon, and Night box for each day), you can choose what you’d like each box to be used for. In July, I have my Internship, Personal, and Blog boxes set up. When I go back to school in August, I’ll most likely have a School box, a Personal (to including cleaning and errands) box, and a Blog box. You’ll also notice that there is a series of four lines below each day for you to use for notes or as an extension of the last box (for the inevitable run-over). For now, I keep track of my water intake in these spaces.

I’ll be making another post in the future that will further detail planner necessities and organization, but right now you can see that I’m color-coding, where purple is for my internship, red is for personal things, and orange is for blog-related tasks.

There’s a sweet little Thankful Thought box in the top left corner of each weekly spread. It’s a small notion, but as I say, gratitude is so important for a happy life.

Thankful-Thought

Toward the end of the planner you’ll see a hefty notes section. There are two spreads of lined paper, two spreads of graph paper, and two spreads of adorable printed paper. After this, you’ll see the year of 2017, followed by another cute quote to close out 2016.

StickersIn the very last few pages, you’ll see several sheets of stickers. Erin includes an entire sheet dedicated to birthday stickers, and then another sheet with more stickers: game, day off, hair appointment, dentist appointment, sale, doctor appointment, concert, mani/pedi, party, and vacation (plus two blank sticker sheets). I must say that I wish these stickers could have been customizable; the only reason being that I will not be using the concert, game, sale, party, and mani/pedi stickers often, if at all. I wish there were more doctor appointment stickers, but considering the amount of work put into constructing just one planner, never mind several thousand, I can understand why the stickers that come with the planner aren’t customizable. However, Erin offers other stickers, both ready-made and customizable. You also have the option of checking Etsy stores for Life Planner stickers, or searching online for free printables.  If I don’t purchase supplementary stickers, I’ll just use the two blank sticker sheets that follow the labeled ones.

To wrap the book up, you have a Keep It Together double-sided pocket and a pouch in the very back (that holds several free goodies like samples and cards). The last thing that comes with the planner can be found in the Keep It Together pocket: the perpetual calendar and contacts book. You can use this book to keep up with birthdays, holidays, and other recurring events, and it can be easily stowed in a handbag in the case that you forget your planner at home, don’t have the dates stored in your phone’s calendar, and need to know when your second cousin’s husband’s birthday is. Another idea is to use the perpetual calendar to keep track of daily gratitude thoughts.


For a quick and dirty distillation of the above in-depth review, let’s take a look at the Pros and Cons:

Pros

  • Pretty packaging that includes tons of freebies
  • Personalized and customizable covers
  • Simple, yet pretty design
  • Lots of personalization by way of you choosing what to do with the blank boxes throughout the book
  • Two types of layouts
  • Cute quotes to start off your months right
  • Gratitude and note-taking opportunities
  • Double-sided pocket and storage pouch
  • Stickers!

Cons

  • Many people have reported chipping coils, especially in the special foil colors (and mine, though it’s the standard silver, does show some chipping though the book hasn’t even been worn in yet)
  • I’ve found that I have to be careful with my front and back covers because they can snap off very easily – not sure if this is due to a cutting error or if this is just how the covers are
  • The pens I bought through the Erin Condren site that are specially designed for use in these planners are already drying out after having been used just a few times, even without being left uncapped or exposed to air
  • The lamination on my cover does show some air bubbles, and while I’m not extremely bothered by this, you may want to look into this issue if you’re interested in purchasing a Life Planner but would be bothered by the air bubbles
  • In the weekly view of November 2015 in my planner (I’m noting that this happened with my planner, because, to my knowledge, Erin Condren has not made it a standard thing for pages to appear upside down) the dates between 11/5 and 11/11 are upside down

November

Overall, I think this is a nice planner. It’s aesthetically pleasing and well-organized. However, I will be contacting customer service to resolve my issues and will post an update in this post when I receive a response. My past interaction with their customer service was nothing but pleasant and positive, something for which I’m really grateful.

Update #1: Customer Service has gotten back to me regarding the issue with my pens. They’ve kindly offered to send me a replacement set or to give me a $15 store credit. I am sending a response email and will update when I hear back from that.

Update #2: In response to my email regarding the other issues with my planner, EC Customer Service has offered to replace my “full LifePlanner.” They offered an alternative: “a further $15 store credit” (making my store credit to total $30). I chose the obvious option: the replacement planner. Now I’m wondering what a replacement of my “full LifePlanner” is. Will it include new covers or just the inner pages of the planner? (The covers are detachable, so either option is a possibility.)

Update #3: I received my “full LifePlanner” replacement (which is a completely reprinted Life Planner, covers and all) about a week ago. I flipped through each page to be sure that none were upside down or marred by serious ink spots, and all of them checked out. There’s still slight bubbling in the lamination of the cover (and tabs), and the coil is still rough, but this replacement is in much better condition than my original planner. I’m definitely satisfied with their Customer Service, or at least with the two representatives I worked with, because they worked to resolve my issue quickly and fairly. I will be using this planner for this year, but I’ve already begun to look at other options for my next planner (like this one).

If you’re interested in purchasing a planner that will give you tons of space to write and pencil in your tasks and errands, definitely look into the Erin Condren Life Planner. Be sure to click here to create an account and receive $10 off your first purchase!

Join me next Monday for a surprise post! (And by surprise, I mean, “I’m not entirely sure what I’m writing about because this week has been crazy busy, so let me consult my future-post list and guru gods and get back to you.”)

In the meantime, tell me: Do you use a planner? If so, which one do you like and why?


This post is not affiliated with or sponsored by Erin Condren or Lilly Pulitzer.

A Love Letter to My Freshman Year

freshman year_FI

Going into the Fall semester of my first year of college, I did not expect to lose ten pounds rather than gain fifteen. I did not expect to find several favorite spots in the library (mostly because, prior to college, I avoided libraries like the Plague). And I certainly did not expect to question everything that I believed defined who I was.

When my parents left after hours of unpacking the life that I had uprooted, I cried. I cried more than either of my parents did combined. I cried again when we spoke on the phone that night, separated by 75 minutes and a mountain of tissues, and continued to do so for the next few nights.

agendaOrientation Week ended shortly thereafter, classes began, and I received my first set of real syllabi (because let’s be honest, syllabi distribution in middle and high school is more of a formality than anything else). I remember arranging the packets around me in a semicircle on the floor of my suite’s common room and sitting in front of them. Each class had its own pen color in my Lilly Pulitzer agenda as I scheduled assignments and exams because if you know me, you know I can’t live a day without my color-coding. But after those first few “ease into college” days, my classes picked up the pace and I settled into a routine.

It wasn’t until a month or two into the semester when I noticed another type of routine. Each night, I found myself drained to the point of sheer exhaustion. Where I had in the past been able to stay awake well beyond midnight, I now had begun to tuck myself in at ten o’clock almost every night. I sectioned myself off from most people, preferring to stay in or go to the library to spend hours in a study room rather than go out to school functions. Granted, I’ve never been one for overwhelmingly attended events, but this was drastic: I wasn’t doing anything. My days followed the same pattern: wake up, maybe eat some semblance of a breakfast before heading to class, grab lunch, head back to my room, study/take notes/read/write papers on said readings, go to sleep. Repeat.

I’d heard from family friends and Orientation speakers alike that depression hit many college students hard. In 2011, 30 percent of college students reported feeling “so depressed that it was difficult to function.” I hadn’t expected to become part of that statistic, but as it turns out, my physical responses were the least of my worries.

I was blessed enough to have a wonderful, tough, supportive English professor my first semester. After leaving high school with only one research paper under my belt, I, a self-labeled and proud writer, was intimidated. My first few papers felt like grinding stone against stone, and despite my professor’s time and advice, I spiraled into a tizzy of overwhelm and self-doubt. (Remember our friend, Doubt? Yep, he was my unofficial third roommate.)

Suddenly I was questioning the one thing that mattered to me: my writing. If I can’t even write a paper, how can I expect to write a novel? Was everyone lying to me? Am I really an awful writer others felt they had to pity-compliment? I’ve already changed my major twice (from English Literature to Creative Writing). What if I have to change it again?

Nothing eased my anxiety. No amount of talks with my parents or best friends helped. I’d already unintentionally cut back on eating (bye-bye, ten pounds!), so food wasn’t a comfort. I hit a block in my writing that, if I’m being honest, I haven’t recovered from yet.

I’ve always been a Fixer, so when something is wrong, even if I’m frazzled or sad (or both), I’ll do whatever I need to do to resolve the issue. (This is a result of my strongest coping mechanism: buckling down, doing what I need to do to succeed in whatever way possible and nothing more.) I sought help from the counseling services at my school, a resource I continue to recommend to everyone, and began to work through the jumbled mess that was my head.

By the time Winter Break rolled around, I was ready to be done. I was ready to jump in the car with my parents and dogs and head to our family cabin. I was ready to again explore the town in which the cabin was nestled. I was ready to just breathe for the first time in months. I’d spent so long struggling to maintain some degree of sanity amidst my stress and sadness that I was just done.

donutI returned in January for the Spring semester renewed, ready and excited for my classes. This time around, I knew I had to make myself stretch beyond my comfort zone. My school is incredible and has given me so much in terms of new experiences and other blessings. It offers so many opportunities for its students (I mean, c’mon, they serve us donuts during Finals), but I hadn’t taken advantage of most of them because of my internal struggles. I realized that I was the only one holding myself back from everyone and everything else. With this realization, I made an effort to talk to more people, to go to more events, to even help out with the set-up of the events. It’s actually at the set-up for our Spring Formal where I really connected with most of the people who made me feel whole again after the Fall debacle. I ended what is probably the most challenging period of my life to date on a good note, happy and inspired, feeling connected to something larger than myself, to other people.

I learned that it’s important to do things that scare you or make you uncomfortable (within reason, of course – safety is the number one priority). But I also learned that sometimes you just have to back away, say “no thanks,” and pass on something if it’s too much.

I learned that it’s beautiful to talk about your struggles, but most importantly, that in doing so, it is not your responsibility to make others feel comfortable about your uncomfortable experiences. Don’t sugarcoat yourself or your truth.

I learned that it’s crucial to seek help when you need it because there are plenty of Todays, but not necessarily so many Tomorrows.

I learned that building relationships with people is more difficult in college, but not impossible, and that these people with whom you’ve connected will lift you when you’re down, even if they don’t realize it.

I learned that sometimes it’s okay to let go of what no longer lifts your spirits and feeds your soul. In fact, it’s probably the best thing to do at that point.

Looking back at those nine months, I realize that I lived them exactly the way I needed to in order to grow. I now see the beauty in how I spent my first year in college, over a month removed from it. I had the support of my family and friends, which I know is something that some are not so lucky to have, as I embarked on this new part of my journey. My path wasn’t, and still isn’t, free of rocks that trip me up or rattlesnakes that scare the ever-living heck out of me, and I’m grateful that it is that way. If I hadn’t had the experience that I did, I wouldn’t have learned to appreciate sunsets and the particular shade of brown of my dog’s eyes and the nonsensical sound of silence. So thank you, freshman year, for teaching me a little bit more about life than I’d known before, and for proving to me the miraculousness of the present and the so-far-unbroken promise of tomorrow.


Join me next week for an unboxing and review of the 2015-2016 Erin Condren Life Planner!

This post is not sponsored by or affiliated with Lilly Pulitzer or Erin Condren.

Welcome! Take a Ride With Me, No Fare Required

taxi_real

Like any sensible, money-conscious individual, I decided that I wanted to do a complete 180 and redesign my dorm room for my sophomore year. Naturally, after making up my mind, I, with my mom in tow, headed to Marshall’s. Because I’m basically a child turned loose in any store’s home decor department, Mom was sticking nearby with the cart, albeit a few steps ahead of me. As I was walking up the center aisle in an attempt to catch up with her, I caught a flash of yellow in my periphery. When I turned back to check, I saw a rustic metal taxicab sitting by itself on the shelf. I thought about it, turned away, and made it a measly two steps before I caved and snatched the item up. When I made it to my mom, all I said was, “I think I have to have this,” and it found its way into the cart. And now I’m designing my entire room around it.

A blog makeover is similar to a room redesign. You sit in front of your computer, staring blankly at the bright screen of your computer or tablet (or both, if you’re like me and you’re really bad at sitting in one place for too long). Colors and words and fonts are bouncing around in your head, trying to pair together in perfect harmony for the final product. It took me days of thesaurus searching and list making to come up with a short list of very blah titles. They weren’t awful, but none of them sat right with me (and, if you remember, the whole point of the redesign was to make my blog more authentic and true to me). That is, until I remembered my little taxi. I called my parents, who are my gurus for everything from creative brainstorming to how to switch out printer ink cartridges, to my room and ran the title by them. When the name was finalized, I got to work on the logo, consulting two of my good friends, Carli and Denise, for design advice. After lots of back and forth in terms of creative direction, I settled on what is now featured (which I will say is open to change, though small modifications will likely be made if at all).

What does Little Yellow Taxicab mean? I’m so glad you asked. There’s a full explanation on my About page (so you can access it at all times instead of having to search through archives), but I’ll give you a run-down. I, like so many millennials, don’t know for sure where I’m going in life or where I’ll end up. A taxicab is similar in that when you hail a cab and hop in, you’re never 100 percent sure what you’ll get. Will you get a backseat that smells like beef burritos (gag)? Will you get a super friendly driver who jumps right into telling you about the ins and outs of the city? Life is a lot like this taxicab, and I, for one, don’t always know what to make of it. In an effort to work through the confusion and discomfort that uncertainty inevitably brings, I’ll be writing here. I’ll talk about anything and everything that piques my interest (and will hopefully pique yours), including, but definitely not limited to: self-help, organization tips, and college experiences and helpful hints. I hope that what I write about resonates with you just as much as it does with me.

So with that said, I’m beyond excited to share with you the new and improved Little Yellow Taxicab!

What’s new?

  • A more intuitive and aesthetically pleasing layout – desktop, tablet, and mobile modes are all equally beautiful with this theme
  • A more simplistic and fun logo
  • A completely revamped About page – you’ll be able to read about me and my purpose for Little Yellow Taxicab
  • Social media icons – connect with me on Facebook (through my brand new page!), Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest by clicking on the icons!

social-media-stripI’d like to thank Carli and Denise for taking the time out of their days to help me with the design elements. I’d also like to thank you for bearing with me while I took on this task to reconstruct the blog so that it’s better for you and for me. I plan to continue on this path of open reinvention so that should changes need to be made, I’ll be able to make them in good conscience (and with notice to you, of course).

Don’t forget to follow me so you’ll receive notifications of new posts. You’ll want to join me next Monday (June 29th) for a brutally honest love letter to my freshman year of college.

So hop in my little yellow taxicab and take a ride with me. We may be unsure of our destination, but with a map, an open heart, and an open mind, we can navigate our way together.