Defining roles and goals for 2014

Defining roles and goals (1)

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I read Amy Lynn Andrews’ time management e-book, Tell Your Time, back in December (my review). I’m a sucker for anything related to organizing (even organizing your life), so I enjoyed reading about how she makes the most of her time; but, the thing I liked most about her book was the process by which she narrows down her daily activities. Amy starts broad by defining roles and slowly refines each role until she has simple action steps.

In thinking through the coming year, I decided Amy’s approach would be a great way to process how I plan to use my time in 2014. Especially with a new addition to the family, I want to be focused and intentional about what I choose to do each day.

annie dillardThis is what I came up with for the coming year:

1. Roles: who am I?

Self: I loved the main principle of Brian Berry’s book As For Me and My Crazy House which boils down to – the best gift you can give your community and ministry is a healthy family; the best thing you can give your family is a healthy marriage; and the best thing you can give your marriage is a healthy self. For that reason, I need to be diligent about self-care, for the sake of my other relationships and roles.

Wife: I want my marriage to thrive. I want to continue to embrace and engage my relationship with Tim on every level.

Mother: The newest and most scary role for me.

Family Member (daughter, sister, grand-daughter, etc): Mine happens to be spread out across the country, so maintaining these relationships (which are really important to me) take time and effort.

Home Manager: Tim is a fantastic co-manager, but because I don’t work outside the home I have more time to devote to this role. I could probably get a bit OCD about managing our home, but my main focus needs to be creating a happy, healthy atmosphere for my family.

Writer/Blogger: Writing is a passion and a way to process – an absolute must in my life. My blog is the main expression of this role.

2. Goals: what kind of {insert role} do I want to be?

Self: Authentic, discerning, grace-filled, intentional, representative of Christ.

Wife: An attentive and encouraging friend who is respectful and supportive of Tim’s whole self.

Mother: Present. Intentional. Encouraging. I want my child(ren) to know and love God. If they became readers, that would be great, too :)

Family Member: Loving, available, and communicative.

Home Manager: I want our home to be a haven for family and friends. I’d like to give up perfection in favor of being present with those I love. Good steward of our resources.

Writer/Blogger: Consistent. Authentic. Stretched. Growing.

3. The plan: what can I do as a {insert role here} that will move me toward being more {insert adjectives from above}?  These are my goals fleshed out – the action steps I will take to achieve my goals in the short and long-term.

UPDATE 1/13/14: I thought of two other goals! Self: explore the Enneagram. Mother: Figure out a good system to document Baby James’ life (Project Life? Blurb books?).


  • Daily time with Jesus – Bible reading and journaling.
  • Regular exercise – not quite sure what this will look like with a newborn, but I’d like to start running again and taking classes at the gym.
  • Sleep – my whole family will suffer unless this is a priority, which means napping when James naps even if there’s dirty dishes or laundry to do.
  • Reading – not quantifying this one because I know having a baby will affect my time to do this, but I’m hoping an eventual feeding rhythm will allow for solid reading time.
  • Service – at church and in our community.


  • Daily one-on-one time – when James is sleeping/occupied so I’m not distracted.
  • Monthly date-night – get out of the house!


  • Prayer is the major specific action step I can think of because Tim and I are new to this parenting business. We’re going to need tons of grace and patience.
  • Breastfeeding – very much wanting this to be successful but knowing it’s a process.
  • Reading out loud – even if he just likes the pictures at this point.

Family Member:

  • Consistent email updates – to keep family posted on what’s new with the Gardner three.

Home Manager:

  • Finish unpacking – um, we’ve lived in our house for 8 months and there are still unpacked boxes (mostly decor and books).
  • Cull excess – unpacking is a great opportunity to sift through unnecessary stuff.
  • Purge and revamp wardrobe – I can’t tell you how excited I am to do this! I’ll save the details for another post.
  • Meal plan – to promote healthy eating and a stress-free dinner time.
  • Pay bills immediately – so they don’t clutter the kitchen counter.
  • Daily house de-clutter – so it doesn’t become a big project once a week.


Of course, the next step would be to put these things into actual time slots. The type-A in me is all over that, but the grace-filled, realistic Emily knows I have no idea what life with a baby is going to look like, so I should just keep these goals in mind as Tim and I dive into this new adventure.

What are some roles and goals you have for 2014?

My Christmasy Recommendations

The Best of Christmas

I’m in a festive mood today. I pulled out the holiday decor boxes and the tree we chopped down this weekend will finally get some trimmings tonight. The laundry I plan/hope to do later will most certainly be accomplished with Christmas music playing in the background.

Since I’m feeling so festive (and North Idaho is finally looking festive – aka, white), I thought I’d share a little Christmas recommendations round-up of my favorite holiday books, music, movies, and decor!

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Books for Advent

The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping The Full Love Story Of Christmas by Ann Voskamp

A beautifully designed Advent devotional with daily readings, meditations, and reflection questions to turn your heart and mind towards our Savior during this crowded season. I was not familiar with the Jesse Tree concept before beginning this book, but I love how it focuses on the family tree of Jesus. My favorite part of each day’s devotional is the “Unwrapping More Of His Love In The World” section where Ann gives a simple and practical action step to be an extension of God’s love that day.

The Women of Christmas: Experience the Season Afresh with Elizabeth, Mary, and Anna by Liz Curtis Higgs 

I love Liz Curtis Higgs’ Christian fiction but had yet to read any of her non-fiction before this Advent themed one. I’m enjoying her easy to digest thoughts about the different female perspectives of the Christmas narrative (though I haven’t quite finished it yet). There’s tons of Scripture throughout so it reads like a conversational commentary.

Books for Children (and Adults)

Christmas Cookies: Bite-Size Holiday Lessons by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

I absolutely adore Amy’s first book, Cookies: Bite-Size Life Lessons, and the Christmas edition is more of the same, with a holiday twist: beautiful illustrations accompanying an ABC dictionary of sweet life lessons. I love keeping this on the coffee table during the Christmas season and will enjoy reading it to James next year (though he’ll probably just enjoy the pictures at that point…).

I’ll Be Home for Christmas by Holly Hobbie

I’m pretty much enamored by Toot and Puddle, two adventurous pigs who happen to be best friends. They are cute and thoughtful and utterly endearing. Toot is a traveler, Puddle is more the anxious sort. This story will have you rooting for both as they try to spend the holidays together. Let It Snow is also a charming Toot and Puddle Christmas story.

The Greatest Shepherd of All: A Really Woolly Christmas Story by Holly Gerth

I must have a thing for children’s books with cute creatures because I’m a huge fan of the Really Woolly sheep. The combination of the Biblical Christmas story and the facial expressions on these chubby sheep make me cry every time I read this book.

Christmas With Anne by L.M. Montgomery

If you find a copy of this, snatch it up. A friend sent one to me a couple years ago and I love to reread the compilation of holiday stories every Christmas. Though not technically for children, this would be a great read aloud for older kids. There are new and old stories, all told with the same innocence and heart that Montgomery infused into all her Anne books.


  • How Many Kings is my favorite modern, Christ-centered Christmas song. The rest of downhere’s album is stellar too.
  • I’m semi-ashamed to recommend Justin Bieber (I blame youth ministry), but I do really enjoy his holiday album, Under The Mistletoe. It’s fun and danceable – perfect for your December workouts.
  • I got Wrapped In Red, the new Christmas album from Kelly Clarkson, this year and was not disappointed. Her original songs are catchy and her covers are well-done.


  • For some people, it’s A Charlie Brown Christmas. For me, it’s A Garfield Christmas. My Gramma taped it one year when I was in elementary school and my brother and I have watched it every year since. I think we have the whole thing memorized. I now have it on DVD and make my husband watch it with me.
  • Who doesn’t get weepy when the General walks in on his Christmas surprise? White Christmas is a classic in every sense of the word.
  • I realize Frozen isn’t a Christmas movie, however, the icy landscape makes it feel festive and holiday appropriate. Disney scored with this one – great values, loveable characters, wonderful story and animation. My favorite line comes from Olaf, the snowman: “It’s so cute. It’s like a little baby unicorn!”. If you haven’t seen it yet, make sure to 1. go see it and 2. stay for the ALL the credits.

Fun Christmasy Extras

I love simple gift wrap, especially when the base is kraft paper or something else natural looking – like this and this. It’s even better when the natural substance is cheap – like a paper bag.

Card Collage

Paper bags aren’t just good wrapping paper. They make awesome Christmas cards. When you make them like this, they have a built-in little pocket. Perfect for a gift card or cash.

Since frames are a dime a dozen at thrift stores, I love this idea for an inexpensive and unique wreath that could be customized so many different ways (think spay painted white with snowflakes, or gold with book page ornaments).


One of my favorite decorations to put up is the simple garland my mom and I made last year out of fabric scraps.

For other festive ideas, check out my Christmas and Celebrate boards on Pinterest.


What are your favorite Christmas books, movies, music, and decor ideas?

What I’m Into – November

Things have been all quiet on the Primitive Roads front lately. Thanks for sticking around through my absence! Here’s a little photographic tour of why the blog has been hibernating…

November Collage

Entire house got a flooring update, starting with vinyl in the kitchen, dining room, pantry, and bathroom {before and after} | Family visiting for Thanksgiving! Out to breakfast with mom, mom-in-law, and sis-in-law | Painting the upstairs of our house {only the bathroom left to paint…} | New carpet and fresh paint upstairs Wasn’t our green carpet {throughout the whole house} awesome… | My siblings-in-law helping rip up carpet and prep floors {they are home reno studs! | Me and the parentals bundled up for Coeur d’Alene’s annual Christmas parade and fireworks show | Tim hard at work painting baseboards

Now to link up with Leigh for what I’ve been into this month:

(This post contains affiliate links. You can read my full disclosure here.)

Food Finds

Talenti Gelato

My parents have shared a dangerous food find with us – Talenti Gelato. In the past two weeks, the four of us have consumed 12 pints of their creamy concoctions. The gelato comes in a host of delicious flavors (we have tried 7 flavors), but our top two are Sea Salt Caramel and Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup. We’ve found the gelato at Walmart (yay! because it’s a bit pricey), Safeway/Vons, and Fred Meyer. I think I’ll bring my OB a couple pints tomorrow as an explanation for the extra, non-James pounds I’ve gained since my last appointment.

Another, more healthy, food find that my parents shared with us is from Costco – Sweet Kale Vegetable Salad mix. Before you poo-poo it because kale sounds unappetizing, give it a try. You get a generous bag full of kale, broccoli (like the kind in broccoli slaw), shaved brussels sprouts, cabbage, and chicory plus a packet of poppy seed dressing and a pumpkin seed/dried cranberry mix to add to the greens. It’s a super tasty combination of good for you foods. I like my salads chopped so I run a knife through the greens before tossing with the mix-ins and dressing. I also like it best with a tad more dressing (Brianna’s Poppy Seed dressing is good), extra dried cranberries, and a small handful of sunflower seeds.

After several friends raved about these (gluten free) energy bites, I made them for myself. Just yum. In my head, I’ve renamed them “wonder balls”. How could you go wrong with oats, peanut butter, maple syrup, and chocolate chips?

Cranberry Cream Cheese Dip

Made Cranberry Cream Cheese dip (which my family calls Christmas Crack) for Thanksgiving. I forgot the lemon again and used fresh squeezed orange juice instead. Addicting in the best way possible.

Books and Reading

Once again, I have too many books in progress. I’m usually a one book at a time type girl. That’s the problem when I forget to bring a book somewhere and have to start an e-book on my phone to pass the time. Right now, I’m in the middle of:

You can check out all the books I’ve read this year here.

An awesome bookish app I have yet to fully explore – OverDrive Media Console. What snookered me into downloading it on my iPhone was the ability to listen to audiobooks that were available at my local library.

Pinterest Finds

How to make gloves touchscreen sensitive. Perfect for me and my perpetually cold hands!

Gretchen’s entire WordPress series is so very helpful, but I particularly like these tips for refreshing old posts

A broken dryer doomed our towels to a life of smelly existence the first week we moved to Coeur d’Alene. It took me over a year, but I finally did the Pinterest thing and washed them in hot water and 1/2 cup of white vinegar. Problem solved. I didn’t even have to do a second round with baking soda. I will always wash my towels in vinegar now.

Other :)

With third-trimester fatigue setting in, I made a pact with myself that if I kept the house clean, I wouldn’t feel guilty about napping or reading on the couch. For some reason, wearing rubber gloves has made the dish washing element of keeping the house clean much more fun/palatable. I can get the water really hot without drying out my hands. I’m partial to the classic yellow variety.

Rhett and Link

A friend of ours introduced us to Rhett and Link, who have a YouTube show called Good Mythical Morning (Monday-Friday). Tim and I are now hooked on their quirky humor. They are multi-talented guys. Here are a couple of our favorite non-GMM clips:


The gals over at Pure & Simple wrote lovely posts about the table and hospitality all last month. They are so worth reading. {photo credit}

Preserving and Printing PhotosI gave up on scrapbooking in favor of making Blurb books (see this post for how I like to preserve and print my photos), but the Project Life system could potentially get me back into the scrapping swing of things.

An Introvert’s Guide To Surviving Social Functions

An Introvert's Guide To Surviving Social FunctionsFor this introvert, there isn’t much that will send my anxiety levels through the roof like a dinner party or other social gathering. I enjoy opening our home to others, but sometimes the pressure to keep the conversation going makes me wish I was hanging out with a book instead of the people I invited. And when I’m  going to a social function? Yikes. I never know whether it would be better to arrive a tiny bit early and only have to engage in conversation with the host or to arrive late and have to choose which conversation to weasel my way into.

Over the years, I’ve developed some strategies to make social functions less stressful. Without further ado, I give you:

An Introvert’s Guide To Surviving Social Functions

If You’re The Host

  • Recruit Backup: A Bread and Wine book club meets at my house every week. Our first gathering was an informal dinner a few weeks ago. My extroverted co-leader couldn’t make it last minute, which sent me into introvert anxiety mode. What if I couldn’t keep the conversation flowing? What if no one talked? How should I segue into our get-to-know you questions smoothly? I S.O.S.ed  a friend to help if I started to flounder with the conversation. Just knowing she knew my predicament and was willing to throw out a life preserver or two calmed my nerves. There’s no shame in having a wingman.
  • Have a Soundtrack: Introverts don’t mind silence but it can make others uncomfortable. Music helps fill dead air if you can’t think of anything to say and provides a nice ambience. It can also be a good conversation starter, even if you don’t quite know what you’re talking about. Example – “Do you like the new Civil Wars album? Seems to be getting mixed reviews…” or “How about those Norwegian brothers, eh?” (Vegard and Bård, the two who brought us What Does The Fox Say). Spotify is my favorite resource for music and creating playlists. Ten dollars a month (or sign up for the free 30 day trial just before your shindig) gives you access to virtually any song with no commercials. iTunes Radio and Pandora are also good options.
  • Invite Extroverts: You’ve taken the bold step to host a social function, don’t add the stress of carrying the conversation to your plate. Having people in your house may be stretching your social limits enough. Make sure your guest list includes a few people who could make conversation with a tree stump. You could even ask them to arrive a bit early so they can share the task of greeting and making guests feel at home.
  • Divide Your Assets: So you’ve invited the extroverts. Good. Don’t seat them all together at the table! Place cards are fun and allow you to be strategic for the sake of conversation. Spread those extroverts out so the natural talkers aren’t just talking to one another, leaving half the table either staring awkwardly at each other or listing to one side as they eavesdrop.
  • Utilize Conversation Starters: If starting a conversation doesn’t come easy to you, use obvious conversation starters (ice breaker questions) to get people’s lips moving. I love (affiliate link) Table Topics for purposeful conversation starters or you can come up with your own. Place one at each seat and give your guests the freedom to ask their question at will. This approach makes the conversation starters feel more like a game instead of a social crutch. The burden of conversation will be on guests and they’ll have fun quizzing their fellow attendees.

If You’re The Guest

  • Go With A Friend: Showing up with someone you know guarantees you aren’t left standing in a corner by yourself or awkwardly trying to make small talk. Bonus points if they’re an extrovert and can help you engage with the other guests. Sometimes we introverts just need an introduction and little help getting started.
  • Do Your Homework: If possible, find out who is attending before hand and let the Facebook stalking commence. You will feel more comfortable being able to recognize folks even if you’ve never officially met. Plus, the more you know about people, the easier it is to come up with questions to ask. (Asking questions is an introvert’s secret weapon). Just try not to be creepy about it. If you saw they went apple picking last weekend, go for, “What’s your favorite thing to do around here in the Fall?” not “Did you make pie with those Golden Delicious apples?”.
  • Don’t Waste Your Wit: While we’re talking about social media… Many introverts find it easier to express themselves via social media than in person. They make witty comments and have articulate commentary about current events from the safety of their living room. If this is you, consider going on a social media fast for a few days before the event. Save up those astute observations and smart opinions for when you need to make conversation in person. Write them down when they come to mind. I wouldn’t even judge if you took a small stack of cue cards with you to examine in the bathroom if your mind suddenly turns to Jello.
  • Preparation is key: Everyone made fun of poor Mr. Collins who amused himself by “arranging little elegant compliments based on previous study”, but I think his tactic is genius. Think through some potential conversation topics. Watch/read the news so you know what’s going on in the World. Do your homework (See point 2). Just remember, manners shouldn’t seem rehearsed. To give your conversation “as unstudied an air as possible,” role play with an obliging friend or your mirror.

The bottom line: The more comfortable you are with yourself, the more comfortable you will be in social settings. Do the things you need to do to make yourself confident and comfortable.

Are You and introvert? What are your best tips for surviving social functions?

photo credit: x-ray delta one via photopin cc

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3 Life Lessons I Learned From Annie Sloan Chalk Paint

3 Life Lessons I Learned from Annie SloanEarlier this summer I told you about a new obsession of mine… Annie Sloan Chalk Paint. My mom gave me a hands-on tutorial and sent me home with all the necessary materials and a huge amount of inspiration. I’ve used Annie Sloan paint on two big projects since then: our dining room table and our kitchen cupboards.

The dining room table was fairly straight forward. I only painted the top surface, leaving the legs original wood. The kitchen cupboards were more time intensive. Between the two projects, I had many hours of nothing but paint, blue tape, brushes, and drop cloths. I learned a lot about chalk painting technique completing those projects, but I also learned some valuable life lessons.

3 Life Lessons I Learned From Annie Sloan Chalk Paint

  1. Brush Marks are okay. Unless you use a roller (and I find them a bit finicky), chalk paint shows your brush strokes. Initially, I was a bit frustrated by the imperfection (see #2) of those little grooves. I wanted to the surface to be smooth and professional looking. Then I realized the brush strokes were evidence of my handiwork. They showed I had painted those pieces by hand, putting in care and time to the finished product. The brush strokes in our lives point towards a Creator who crafted us with intention and love. Our unique histories and traits make us special, not factory direct.
  2. It’s not meant to be perfect. The chalk paint look is inherently imperfect. Pieces are meant to be distressed, waxed, and aged. I absolutely love that look in furniture so why do I have a hard time with the rough edges in my own life? We can’t be perfect and because of God’s grace we don’t have to be perfect.
  3. Wait for the paint to dry before adding a second coat. I painted our table outside so the second coat went on almost immediately after having finished the first. Our cupboards were a different story. I got impatient and the results were semi disastrous. Think glumpy and uneven. The same result happens in my life when I don’t slow down and wait for God. When I move forward with my plans without waiting to consult God or his timing, I end up with a disaster. It’s much better to be patient before proceeding with gusto. The results will be much more pleasing.

photo credit: bernhofen via photopin cc