a fresh start for you, too…

its a fresh start for you too

All over the country parents are sending their kids back to school. A new grade, new classroom(s), new teachers, new lockers, maybe even a new school. We’re all gathering the items on the ENDLESS school supply list, and trying to replace an entire wardrobe of clothes that fit perfectly when school got out, but now stretch too tight and rise too high. However you look at it, it’s a kind of


fresh start.


While this time of year seems like it’s all about the kids, I think it’s the perfect time for us adults to get a fresh start, too. Back-to-school time is like a second New Year for parents. Along with the new school year come new commitments, extracurricular activities, and of course the beautiful change in seasons that’s just around the corner.

It’s good stuff, but busy stuff.

All these things culminate in a feeling of newness, a feeling of opportunities just around the bend. With the forced changes a new school year brings, it feels like the right time for a fresh start with new routines and habits for us, too. It puts me in the mood to reevaluate how things are going, personally, as a family, and in my business – then make the necessary course corrections before the holiday season turns my world upside-down. Because as you know, it will be Halloween, then Thanksgiving, then Christmas, and before I know it, Hello New Year! So before life completely gets away from me, here are a few of the things I like to reevaluate/prepare for at this time of year.

  • clean camera and lenses & prepare for holiday season
  • review my menu plan
  • make a holiday budget and gift list – start gathering gifts (I always try to make sure I’m done with Christmas shopping before Thanksgiving, because personally, going out into those holiday crowds destroys my holiday spirit)
  • look at my volunteer commitments
  • adjust my fitness plan
  • plan down-time

Getting my act together after the relative freedom of summer can feel restrictive, but it also helps me feel like I’m regaining control.


I’d like to take a moment to point out the awesome prices available right now at all the back-to-school sales, why? Because all that stuff we need to get for our kids is the same stuff we adults need to get our lives organized too!  And the sales now are generally better than the New Year sales 😉 . If one of your goals for 2016 was to get organized, this is the perfect time to get started (or re-started). Go out and get the file folders, pens, calendars, planners…whatever you need to get yourself on the organization train.

What is it you are looking forward to most this fall? Are you doing something right now that has you enjoying this season? Do you have a new thing you’re gearing up for?

until next time,
play hard, and have fun,

To stay up to date (and for exclusive offers) sign up for the Elizabeth Wendland Photography NEWSLETTER.  And “like” my FACEBOOK page to keep up with me on a daily (okay, who are we kidding, more like a weekly) basis 😉 .

is it a to-do list, or a wish list…?

is it a to-do list or wish list

to-do list or wish list…?

I haven’t been sleeping well lately. Lately being weeks. It got so bad I resorted to taking a Benadryl before bed just so I could rest for a while.

Most of the problem is all the stuff that my brain insists is SUPER IMPORTANT — at 2:34 a.m.! Last night it was the truck. Apparently my brain became extremely concerned that I hadn’t cleaned the battery terminals in quite some time.


The battery terminals, people. Seriously.


My to-do list is always long, and right now with dad’s estate stuff, work stuff, house stuff, and Mr. Awesome’s schedule, I just can’t keep up. I decided it was time to sit down and have a brain dump. Get everything, no matter how ridiculous down on paper, and hopefully, out of my head. Next, I broke down that list into loose categories of the things that were going on in my life right now.

  • a sick child
  • dealing with dad’s stuff
  • my business
  • the mess left from a contractor who bailed on the job
  • Spring, which means a husband working 12-14 hour days, 6 days a week
  • finding a car
  • getting seeds started for this summer’s garden
  • food stuff: bread baking, snacks, etc.
  • house work

This is the short list, but it’s wide-ranging. Each of these has a long page of items that need to be taken care of. Usually getting things out of my head and on paper makes me feel better.

Not this time.

Things felt overwhelming in my head, and when I got it on paper, it seemed overwhelming there, too. Regardless, I organized the mess of thoughts into a work list, and got started.

This sort-of worked – for a while. Then the sink backed up.

The evil lemon-of-a-dishwasher that has been breaking down every few weeks since we got it, finally stopped working in December. It wasn’t the end of the world, with just two people (one of which works insane hours), doing the dishes in the sink was manageable. Then the sink clogged up.

The kitchen sink was the domino that destroyed my carefully laid plans.

Once I couldn’t wash the dishes, they stacked up.
Then I had to clear out under the sink, and take apart the plumbing to clear the clog.
Next put it all back together and check for leaks.
Finally, put everything back under the sink, oh, and do the pile of dishes!

This process (due to other commitments) ended up dragging out over two days. Two days that I had things planned for. Two days that put me behind. I felt defeated and overwhelmed. Again.

The list I had so carefully curated to Get. Everything. Done. had fallen apart. It forced me to look at the list again, and what I discovered gave me a bit of freedom.

Is it a to-do list or a wish list ?


This season of my life is busier than I could ever have anticipated. Much of my list consisted of things I felt like I should be doing. You have some of those too, I’m sure 😉 Some of these are fairly important, like getting the seeds planted so that I will have plants to put in the garden in a couple of months. Others are things I feel are important, but can be put off – like getting all the photos my sister rescued from magnetic albums at my dad’s place, out of boxes and into albums.

By trying to plan every second, when the (inevitable) clogged kitchen sink pops up, I just get farther behind. As I move forward I’m trying to be more realistic about the want-to-do vs. the need-to-do, and learn to shift responsibilities around so that the essential things get taken care of.

And everything else? It’s optional.


Will this mean I can finally start sleeping again? That remains to be seen; but with my to-do list and my wish list now separate, at least I have a chance.

until next time, play hard, and have fun,



I’d love to hear YOUR thoughts about your own to-do list vs. wish list. Do you confuse the two? What is your “clogged kitchen sink”?

a new planner, the Get To Work Book review…

get to work book review

I have a new planner, the Get To Work Book. It’s kinda awesome.

Irony: Buying a new planner and a few days later getting an email from your previous planner company asking “Why did you leave us?“. True story.

I’ve been using my new planner for a little over two months now, so we’ve had time to get comfortable with each other (i.e. I’m not unfairly comparing my new planner to my old planner). 😉  Before we go too far, here’s a little disclaimer: I am RIDICULOUSLY picky about my planners. I’ve gone through more planners over the years than I can count, and rarely repeated any. Looking for my perfect fit is a process.

My goodness, how the planner game has changed!

This year’s planner search started several months ago. My preference is for the academic planner (July-June) rather than the standard January-December. I like the way it sort of forces me to have a mid-year review of the progress toward my goals. Plus, I’m already familiar with my planner for when the New Year planning time rolls around.

get to work book reviewPretty early on in my planner quest, I came across the Get to Work Book, created by Elise Blaha Cripe,  but immediately dismissed it due to two factors. First its size (7×9). I’ve learned over the years that anything smaller than an 8.5×11 leads to frustration for me. It would be great if a smaller planner worked for me, but experience has proven otherwise. Second, at $55, the Get to Work Book was the most expensive (non-leather) planner I looked at. But after two months of looking, I found myself comparing every planner to the lovely, clean layout of the GTWB. With only two weeks remaining in my current planner, I caved and placed my order.

get to work book review

In true Beth style, after stalking my planner shipment online, once it arrived I didn’t open it. Just looked at the package…put it in the closet for a few days… Don’t question it. I’m an enigma to myself.

The shipping was super fast, even with my order being placed on a weekend. Kudos on that one. The planner was beautifully and thoughtfully packaged, and arrived in perfect condition even though the post office was hard on the box.

get to work book review

Once I finally got around to opening it (thanks for the kick Sara), the very first thing I noticed was a bit of a disappointment; the back cover was flimsy. In the video introducing the Get To Work Book, the creator specifically talks about the front cover being nice and thick (and it was), but the back cover, which has a little half pocket for storage, was half the weight of the front. It won’t last long the way I use a planner. Overall, if you are someone who takes their planner with them, I feel the covers are a bit “soft”. So for a measure of added protection, I took the clear plastic covers off my old planner (a 8.5×11), and cut them down to use with this planner.

The next frustration I experienced was with the 0-ring binder. Normally I love ring bound planners (and am changing my photography workshop planners to ring binding for 2016!), but this one just gives me headaches. It was so loose, I was able to just slip the clear covers in. That also means the pages slip out. I’ve “tightened” them by squeezing them a bit closer, but those rings bend almost every time I put it in my bag, no matter how careful I am.

Another binder related note, the planner is so thick, and the columns placed so close to the rings, I have to prop one side of the planner up on a book to “level” the sides out enough to use them. That’s kind of a pain, especially when I don’t have a book handy.

get to work book review

  • Note: Apparently I was not the only person to be frustrated with the issue of the back cover.  A couple of weeks ago I received an email from Elise (creator of the GTWB) offering a replacement back cover.  FOR FREE!  Yes, the woman stepped up and did the right thing. I am so impressed with this bit of customer service, I went to her site looking to see if there was anything else I could buy from her.

get to work book review

After (finally) cracking open my beautiful new planner, you know the first thing I did …? Take out all the inspirational quotes on the heavy card-stock.

Sentimental, aren’t I?

get to work book review

I felt a bit guilty doing it. I’m sure a lot of thought went into them, but twelve of them (one for each month) make the planner about 1/4″ thicker, and when you carry your planner with you, the size matters.

The layout is clean without distracting colors or graphics. It also maximizes use of the available space. Love me some efficient design!

I know there are those who want a “pretty” planner, with lots of colors so that they feel motivated to use the planner. My motivation to use a planner is needing to get $#!^ done. Maybe I’m a bit of a planner purist since I value function over flair. If you like to personalize your planner, the clean layout leaves plenty of blank canvas for you to washi tape, color and doodle.

get to work book review

get to work book review

There is plenty of space to make the planner your own, without unnecessary distraction. There is also plenty of room to stash my collection of sticky notes that are a mainstay in my planners. I use them for all those things that aren’t “set in stone”, and might need to be moved to another day.

The paper is a nice weight, and there was no bleed-through using my favorite Sharpie pens. The paper color is also a perfect off-white, which is easy on the eyes.

The next hiccup I experienced with this planner are the monthly tabs. They stick out well past the edge of the cover. My planner gets carried with me e.v.e.r.y.w.h.e.r.e. and that means these will get banged up. I’d love to see the next generation of this planner have the cover extend far enough to provide protection for the month tabs.


get to work book review

There is an “extra page” of graph paper at the month tab before the month calendar layout – for me, this is super frustrating.  When I grab the month tab, my expectation is for it to open to the monthly calendar. I ended up taping the pages together so that the monthly tab opened to the month. I miss having the extra pages for notes, but this was the workaround.

get to work book review - monthly view

It would also be nice if the major holidays were noted on the monthly calendar. I realize this planner ships all over the world, but it would be a great addition.

get to work book review - week view

The weekly layout is wonderful.  Near perfect. And I’m in love with the Monday-Sunday week! I hate having my weekend divided, so this is my preferred way of viewing the week. One of the major reasons I chose this planner was because of this weekly layout.  The MAIN reason – VERTICAL COLUMNS for the weekdays! Oh my goodness! L.O.V.E. I’m a list maker, and my brain works better seeing things listed in columns rather than rows. This is so awesome I would hug Elise just for this one feature, and y’all know, I’m not a hugger!

get to work book review - daily action items

The weekly layout has other inspired touches as well.  There are three spots at the top of each weekday, and they are a dream for noting those things which are the important/do not forget/must do items of each day. They are also perfect for keeping my workouts front and center, and meal planning.  Kinda crushing on them. <3

If I could change one thing with the weekly layout, it would be to change the weekend columns (Saturday and Sunday) to share one column (so two half-columns stacked). The weekday columns feel just a bit cramped, and that would free up a little more room in the weekday columns for writing.

get to work book review - weekly action items

I also love the three big Action Items for each week.  this is perfect for ongoing projects (ie. a to-do from the Project Page, see below), or things that will take more than a day to work on.

While this planner is smaller than I usually like, the layout is so efficient (no wasted space) it works like a larger planner. That said, I would still love to see this in an 8.5×11 size. Again, just a little bit more room to write would be divine.

get to work book review - goal worksheet

The planner also includes Project Pages at the end of each month, and they are pretty neat. For those goals or projects that you need a convenient way to break down, these pages have a lovely layout. And there is another sheet of graph paper opposite for more specifics for your goals, notes, or what ever you need.

get to work book review - monthly review

After the goal page there is a page for review. Just a little personal “check-in” about how the month went. This is a nice touch.

get to work book review - month tabs


Another tiny annoyance. No page bookmark/divider. Nearly all planners come with a bookmark. To me, that’s a necessary part of the planner. Again I created a workaround by first using a paperclip to keep my page marked.  Later I cut down an album bookmark from one of my Project Life kits to use as a bookmark.

  • Note: a bookmark has been created since I purchased my planner, but does not come with the planner. It is an additional cost/purchase.

On a closing note, I love that this planner is designed and made entirely in the USA.  I’ll pay a little more for that. The customer service is impeccable, and Elise has been very responsive to her customers, and more than willing to help make sure you are happy with your purchase.

That’s my rundown of the Get To Work Book!  Hope it helps you in your search for the perfect planner for you 😉

The 2016 planner is shipping now.

play hard, and have fun,


This post is about my planner addiction search, and my thoughts about the Get to Work Book planner.  This planner was my purchase, and I’m not affiliated in any way with the Get To Work Book.  These are just my first impressions of my new planner.

Is this the year you decide it’s time to improve your photography skills?  Follow this link to learn more about my Photography Workshops!!
To stay up to date (and for exclusive offers) sign up for the Elizabeth Wendland Photography NEWSLETTER. And “like” my FACEBOOK page to keep up with me on a daily (okay, who are we kidding, more like a weekly) basis 😉 and for lots of sportsmom related links from around the web.

having a goal: a plan for success, or a recipe for failure?…

This post has been percolating in my brain for over a month now.  In January, while I was in the throes of planning and organizing bliss, a post came across my Facebook feed, that stopped me in my tracks.  I felt so defeated for this person, that I didn’t even know how to respond.  I won’t quote my friend, because this is their battle, no one else’s.  For you to understand, I will need to paraphrase though; why would I ever set a New Year’s resolution?  Just so I can get to the end of the year and look back at all the things that I failed to do, yet again?!  So here is my question to you; is having a goal: a plan for success, or a recipe for failure?

If you’ve been following me on this blog for very long, you know my love of a plan.  A goal.  A destination!  There is something very exciting about choosing to do something, creating a plan to make it happen, and then doing it!  That sense of accomplishment empowers me, and makes me feel like I can take on the next “too big” thing that lurks unseen, in my future.  If something good happens that I didn’t work for, it feels like luck, not achievement.  So, instead of trying to go into all the details of why goals are good or bad, I decided to share an example with you of why I NEED goals.

Usually when I create a goal/plan, it’s to help me stay on task.  I get the high priority things done first, then add in the other items as time allows.  I thrive on having plans for most of the things I want/need to accomplish, but for some reason when it comes to my workouts, I tend to operate on the “go with the flow” plan.  Needless to say, that doesn’t always work so well.  Even more interesting (at least to me) is that the reason I don’t create a plan.   It isn’t for the “normal” reason, which is to get it done, my workouts are a priority and the time is already set aside, but sometimes I would still put them off.  Why? Because I didn’t have a plan…Duh!  It’s amazing that it’s taken me this long to figure that out.  

having a goal: a plan for success, or a recipe for failure - run graph by Nike+

run graph by Nike+

During my goal setting this year, I spent some time reviewing my Nike + account.   I use the Nike + Sport Band to keep track of my runs.  It gives me concrete feedback that doesn’t rely on how a particular run “felt”.  It tracks my time, pace, and distance, with a reasonable degree of accuracy, and keeps those numbers for me to review.  So as I went through the numbers from last year, something really jumped out at me.  The times of the year when my running was the most consistent (and injury free) were the times when I was following a plan, and not just winging it.  Shocking, I know. 😛

So if I have the time set aside to do something, AND it’s a priority for me, why would I put it off?  What I’ve decided is this; I get tired.  Not just physically, but mentally.  If I have to think about what needs to be done every time I go to do something, that’s enough to derail me.  It’s the same problem I have if I wait until someone asks, ‘what’s for dinner mom?’  Man, I hate that question…  Exercise, or anything else you want to accomplish happens the same way.  If every time you want to work on something, you have to think about what your next steps are going to be, it gets put off, you waste time thinking about what to do, or you only give it a half effort just so you can get something done.  I need a plan.; a plan I can follow to get me to my destination.

couch 2 5K plan - having a goal: a plan for success, or a recipe for failure

couch 2 5K plan

When I first decided to start running, I decided to use the Couch 2 5K running plan.  I wrote down each weeks’ workout on a brightly colored index card, and put them beside the treadmill.  Every time I went to run, the plan was sitting there, waiting for me.  All I had to do was follow it.  And since I didn’t have to spend time thinking about what I should do every time I went for a run, it got DONE.   I think all goals fall into this pattern.  If we do a little work ahead of time, then we accomplish the things we set out to do.

Here’s where an important part that often gets overlooked.  Life.  As it turned out, when I started the Couch 2 5K plan, I was too out-of-shape to follow the plan.  I would get to the end of a certain week, and know I couldn’t do what was on the plan for the next week.  I just wasn’t strong enough yet.  So, instead of setting myself up to fail by trying to push through something I knew my body wasn’t ready for yet, I adapted.  There were weeks of that training plan that were repeated 3 times!  Sure I felt a little down that things weren’t going according to “plan”, but it sure felt better than quitting!

So tell me, how does it work in your life?  Is having a goal: a plan for success, or a recipe for failure?

play hard, and have fun,


Click this link to learn more about our amazing Photography Workshop Cruise!! There are only a few spots left… Click HERE to register for the workshop!

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mapping out a new year… part 3

I’ve already told you of my love of setting goals.  Creating a plan for the things that I want to accomplish in the fresh new year that I see stretching out before me.  My process for mapping out a new year starts with the “Brain Dump”, and moves out from there.

mapping out a new year - planning over coffee

a quiet coffeehouse is a great place to go over goals, and plan the steps you need to reach them…

After completing the first two parts, the “Brain Dump” and the easy stuff sort, the thoughts and ideas that remain on the Brain Dump List are the “big items”, the ones that require thought, consideration, and planning.  Sorting out these items, and making a plan for them, is what takes the most time.  At this point I need somewhere quiet, and free of distractions, in order to move forward.  My husband and I like to sit at a local coffee house to go over our lists.  This frequently takes more than one trip 😉  Once my list reaches this point, I organize all the ideas, dreams, and to-do’s into categories.  Generally I need four categories (which means four new papers) 🙂 to sort all my items.  My basic categories are:

Family – 
This is pretty self-explanatory.  All family related items go on this list.  Ideas for family trips or activities, things that would make great gifts, husband-date ideas, etc.  There may be sub-categories by individual depending on what’s going on.  For example, my youngest daughter will be starting college next year, this necessitates a “college prep” category.

Home – with sub-categories of inside and outside
This covers all things that involve home.  Re-staining the deck (yuck!), fixing broken sprinkler heads, putting a little touch-up paint on the wall where it got dinged, or repairing the freeze-damaged garden beds.  All those items find a home on this list.  This list gets further broken down by season.  I can’t repair sprinkler heads in the winter, but it’s the perfect time for indoor projects.

Personal – with sub-categories of physical and spiritual
As the name suggests, this is my list of items for self-improvement.  The list of races I want to participate in each year goes on this list, as does a loose training plan.  This also includes personal projects, like working on my family photo albums.

Business – photography and teaching
This one has the potential to be broken down into a crazy amount of categories.  It includes things like blog ideas, equipment purchases, and marketing.  There’s a list for my photography business, and a separate one for teaching workshops.  Sometimes there is overlap, but generally they each need their own attention.

Once I have created my lists, I prioritize.  Things get numbered by importance, the things that absolutely must be accomplished come first, then the things that I really desire, followed by the things that would be nice to get done, but aren’t going to cause problems if I can’t get to them.  Any one of these lists can overwhelm me.  That’s one of the reasons I break it down into smaller, and smaller categories.  Seeing a chaotic list of goals and to-do’s several pages long, makes me want to give up before I even get started!  If I see a list of three or four items though, that’s completely doable!  Another reason I keep all my items on paper…I get huge satisfaction crossing things off 😀  I like to have a visual way of seeing I accomplished something.  This is especially important for computer work since there is noting tangible at the end of the day.

So tell me, how do you set your goals?  Do you have a process?  I’d love to hear what you’re working toward in the new year!

play hard, and have fun,


If you missed part one of mapping out a new year, you can catch up here…
mapping out a new year… part 1
mapping out a new year… part 2

Click this link to learn more about our amazing Photography Workshop Cruise!! There are only a few spots left… Click HERE to register for the workshop!

Be sure to sign up for my Life As A Sports Mom NEWSLETTER for exclusive offers.

Like my FACEBOOK page to keep up with me on a daily basis 😉

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