A peaceful, thankful heart.

I’m continually astounded by this thing we call life. It’s a beautiful thing, this life that God has given us. It’s a journey full of ups and downs, twists and turns, highs and lows. It’s a chance to make a difference, to touch a heart, to make a choice between saying something meaningful and something hurtful, to act in love instead of in hate. It’s an amazing, daunting, sometimes ridiculous thing. And it’s a thing I’m grateful for.

In my morning devotion recently (yes, this night owl does a devotion in the morning … yes, it’s really short and yes, I have fallen asleep more than once while reading it), it talked about thankfulness:

“The truly thankful person is a truly peaceful person. They have made a habit no matter what, to notice, pause, and choose. Noticing something for which to be thankful no matter their circumstance. Pausing to acknowledge this something as a reminder of God’s presence. Choosing to focus on God’s presence until His powerful peace is unleashed.”

This struck my sleepy heart. Will I make the choice, no matter what happens in my day, no matter what surprises lie in store, no matter what hurtful words may come my way, to have a heart of thankfulness? Will I pause to acknowledge the treasures of life and allow that truth to fill my heart with peace?

That’s my challenge this holiday season. To pause and be truly thankful for the gifts I’ve been given. (Here’s a sneak peek of just a few things I’m blessed with.) And to let this incredible reminder fill me with peace, love and joy.

81 Things I Love

In honor of the holiday season, one of my favorite blogs did a challenge: Can you name 99 things you’re thankful for in 10 minutes? I decided it would be a good thing to put me in the holiday, thankful spirit. So I rolled up my sleeves and tried the challenge and I encourage you to try it too.

So here’s my 81 … come on guys, I did my best.  

1.      The hubs

2.      My favorite 6 year old

3.      My awesome family

4.      My fabulous 35 under 35 ladies

5.      Game Nights

6.      Happy hours with girlfriends

7.      Wine

8.      Coffee

9.     Pumpkin pie blizzards

10.  The first snowfall

11.  Drinks on patios

12.  Christmas!

13.  Writing

14.  Broadway musicals

15.  Laughing with Adam

16.  Lunch dates

17.  My heated seats in the Murano

18.  Fargo

19.  Red pens

20.  Heels

21.  Sweaters

22.  Scarves

23.  Boots

24.  Journals

25.  Clicky pens

26.  Sunsets

27.  Worshipping an awe inspiring God

28.  Star filled nights

29.  Canadian Bacon and Sauerkrat Pizza

30.  Orange Roses

31.  Loving my job

32.  Marketing & Social Media Strategy

33.  Long walks

34.  Kayaking

35.  Dreaming of our future lake home

36.  The Skimm

37.  Spin Sucks

38.  NDSU Bison Football

39.  My nephew saying “Auntie Katie” & blowing kisses

40.  Thank yous

41.  Compliments & kind words

42.  Thursday night TV: SCANDAL & Grey’s Anatomy

43.  My “bonus” family (my inlaws rock!)

44.  Listening to the boys have sword fights

45.  Family dinners

46.  Decorating the Christmas tree

47.  My niece and nephew

48.  Sleeping in

49.  Reading a good book

50.  Thoughtful conversations

51.  People who are real

52.  Blogging

53.  My stepmoms group

54.  A home cooked meal

55.  Shopping

56.  A new outfit

57.  Jeans day Fridays

58.  Relaxing Saturdays in PJs

59.  Massages

60.  Saying I love you

61.  Hearing I love you

62.  New haircuts

63.  My Cobber crew

64.  Education

65.  Women’s leadership

66.  Great girlfriends

67.  My house

68.  Grocery shopping

69.  Browsing through art museums

70.  Peppermint Ice Cream from Schwann’s

71.  Jamming to the radio in my car

72.  Snuggling with the hubs

73.  Joking with friends

74.  Snowball fights with my boys

75.  Spending a summer day at the lake

76.  Bangly necklaces and earrings

77.  Lucy’s Chinese takeout

78.  Getting all the laundry done on a Sunday afternoon

79.  Touching base with far away friends

80.  A kind note

81.  Kid President

Learning.

I started a new job last week and so far, it is awesome. Part of the reasoning behind my new adventure was a desire to learn something new, to embrace a new challenge and see where a different path would take me.

I got exactly what I asked for. I am learning new things every day … okay, every hour … okay, every minute. To say that accounting and financial services is not one of my strengths would be an understatement. So I keep Google handy (and a load of post it note question lists) and I continue to learn.

Each and every day I learn a little more. And I love it. After all, I’m a self-proclaimed nerd (I spent six years as a student in higher education and I still miss it every day). After all, knowledge is powerful. It makes us better, makes us stronger.

My goal is to never stop learning …

How to be a better wife.

How to be a better stepmom.

How to be a better co-worker, employee, daughter, sister, friend.

How to eat as many pumpkin pie blizzards as possible during the month of October yet not gain weight.

How to be an example to others.

How to run this race called life (you didn’t think I was actually running did you?) with perseverance.

How to love more deeply and show compassion.

How to trust a little more and worry a little less.

How to choose joy, no matter what the circumstances.

How to be a better person … to others … to myself.

How to live a life I’m proud of.

How to be a woman after God’s own heart.

I’m learning a little more every day. And I’m not about to stop.

The Last Monday

Today’s my last Monday. This morning, I sat in my last staff meeting. Over lunch, I had a goodbye date with my fabulous coworkers. This afternoon, I carried boxes to my car, filled with remnants of the past five and a half years of my professional life. It’s hard to believe that tomorrow is the last time I’ll walk through The Chamber’s door as an employee.

It’s been a crazy, joyous ride to get to this place. When I started at The Chamber, I was 20 and a college junior. I didn’t know what to expect when I applied for the communications internship. It was supposed to last five months … two years later, I said goodbye to The Chamber for the first time as a college graduate with dreams of graduate school.

When my master’s was complete, The Chamber was there again and I joined the staff full time as communications coordinator. I worked with some of the most fabulous people I have ever met (seriously guys, there aren’t words to express how awesome my co-workers are) and learned the ins and outs of the Chamber communications business. Two years later, The Chamber saw potential and promoted me to communications manager. And at the ripe old age of 26, I lived my dream of running my own communications department.

So now it’s time to try a new dream. On October 7, I’ll be starting a new marketing adventure. And I’m so excited … and a little nervous. But most of all, I’m ready to spread my grammatically correct, creative, red ink speckled wings and take a chance at something new.

I am so thankful for the time I spent with The Chamber and how much I learned:

  • This community is doing great things. Our members are tremendous and inspirational, creating jobs and boosting the economy right here in the Fargo Moorhead West Fargo metro.
  • There is so much power in networking. I have been so lucky to have met so many people over the years and heard their incredible stories. I also have developed a network of really smart people because, lets face it, I don’t know everything (shh! don’t tell my husband). 
  • Nothing beats getting involved. Seriously, if you’re not involved in your Chamber and in your community, do it … right now. It’s amazing what you’ll learn, who you’ll meet and the difference you can make. You won’t regret it.
So today, on my last Monday, this Fargo girl says thank you to The Chamber, for all you do for our community and all the opportunities you’ve given me. I am forever grateful.

 

 

Lessons on Leaning In

Hello blogosphere … where have I been you might be asking? Well, the very quick version is it’s been one heck of a crazy summer filled with weddings and laughter and busy busy weekends.

But here we are, embarking on the most joyous of all seaons … FALL. Or, as I like to call it, the season of PUMPKIN FLAVORED AWESOMENESS:
I have already sucked down two very large pumpkin spice lattes since September started and have plans for many more. One of them was during a delightful afternoon over Labor Day weekend spent huddled at a coffee shop with my newest read, the notorious Lean In by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. 

I picked it up after reading a review by my favorite PR blog, which stated, quite frankly, that “Every, single woman who earns a paycheck in any form needs to read this book.”

I was intrigued. So I nabbed a copy (on sale I might add) and set to reading. And here’s the thing … I loved it. I loved it because of how much it made me think, how much it challenged me and how many lessons I learned in just 172 pages.

Take initiative and seek out opportunity.
“It is hard to visualize someone as a leader if she is always waiting to be told what to do.” (Lean In, page 35)

Sandberg encourages women to sit at the table, to act like you should be there (even if you don’t feel that way … “feeling confident — or pretending that you feel confident — is necessary to reach for opportunities”) and to speak up and take initiative.

We need to seek out new challenges, even ones that you may not know everything about. “Women need to shift from thinking, ‘I’m not ready to do that’ to thinking ‘I want to do that — and I’ll learn by doing that” (Lean In, page 62).

No next step is perfect, Sandberg says. Rather you have to take the opportunity and make it fit for you.

Take control.
“It’s up to us to decide what we are willing to do … The best way to make room for both life and career is to make choices deliberately — to set limits and stick to them.” (Lean In, pg. 126)

We need to set our own standards and exert more control over our careers, Sandberg says. This begins by changing our mindset about our career path. Rather than thinking about the corporate ladder, lets start to think about our careers more like a jungle gyms, which offer more creative exploration.

“The ability to forge a unique path with occasional dips, detours and even dead ends presents a better chance for fulfillment. Plus, a jungle gym provides great views for many people, not just those at the top. On a ladder, most climbers are stuck staring at the butt of the person above” (Lean In, pg. 53).

Be real.
“True leadership stems from individuality that is honestly and sometimes imperfectly expressed. Leaders should strive for authenticity over perfection.” (Lean In, page 91)

Sandberg says that often women want everything to be perfect. They want to be perfect at their job. They want to be the perfect friend. They want to be the perfect mother. But these kind of lofty ideals aren’t attainable. Rather than attempting to achieve unattainable standards, she talks about embracing one of Facebook’s mottos: “Done is better than perfect.” “Done, while still a challenge,” she says, “is far more achievable and often a relief.”

Choose your traveling companions wisely.
“I truly believe that the single most important career decision that a woman makes is whether she will have a life partner and who that partner is.” (Lean In, pg. 110)

According to Sandberg, it’s hard for women to “have it all” when they don’t have someone who is willing to stand by their side and help them. “When it comes time to settle down, find someone who wants an equal partner. Someone who thinks women should be smart, opinionated and ambitious. Someone who values fairness and expects, or even better, wants to do his share in the home” (Lean In, pg. 115).

I am lucky to have someone like this. Adam believes that I am beautiful, smart, ambitious and opinionated (right hun?). Plus, he’s very handy to have around the house (see previous blog on cleaning) and we have a stellar cooking arrangement … I cook, he cleans. He cooks, he cleans.

But all humor aside, he is a wonderful, ambitious and caring Christian man who values his family and wants to see his wife succeed as much as he wants to himself. I am lucky that I have chosen such a partner to spend my life with … even before Sheryl Sandberg told me to.

Also, Sandberg is quick to remind women that we need to help one another. “It’s heartbreaking to think about one woman holding another back … The more women help one another, the more we help ourselves” (Lean In, pg. 164). I am lucky to have a set of stellar girlfriends and wonderful mentors who are all about lifting each other up and helping one another succeed, especially over a glass of wine. As my dear friend Dani says, a win for one is a win for all of us.

Having it all is up to you. 
“While I believe that increasing the number of women in positions of power is a necessary element of true equality, I do not believe that there is one definition of success or happiness. Not all women want careers. Not all women want children. Not all women want both.” (Lean In, pg. 10)

At the end of the day, the book is about defining success on (get this) your own terms. It’s about living the life you want and standing up for your dreams, whatever they may be.

As the fabulous Gini Dietrich says, “This book isn’t about privilege or what some of us have that others don’t. It’s about being able to achieve anything we want. It’s about knowing when to lean in, but also when to lean out. It’s about deciding what your definition of having it all means…not what the rest of us want it to mean.”

 

 

Huttons Love to Clean … Maybe

I’m not very brand loyal. There are very few products I absolutely adore. I get bored with shampoos just as easily as I get bored with my hair and decide to change my hairstyle or hair color. I purchase groceries based on what’s on sale that week. I’m just not that into particular brands, which is funny, since a large part of what I do for a living is branding.

So when my fabulous friend Tracy (of Fixens Love to Clean fame) suggested I try out Shaklee products, I said sure why not. After all, I got my membership free (and I love a good bargain) with any purchase. Plus, our last bottle of cleaning stuff came from a friend as a parting gift when she moved … you know, the “I’m the idiot who was the last one to see you in your current home so I got all the random stuff you don’t want to pack” gift … and neither Adam or I were fans of its lemony freshness.

I ordered a bottle of Basic H, the three bottle pack, some dish soap and some dishwasher soap. The box arrived and I lured Adam into cleaning the whole house under the guise of “lets try out the new stuff” (a.k.a. we have new toys to play with).

Here’s the deal folks, it was awesome. No, it’s not because I jammed out as I mixed the Basic H concentrate levels into the bottles … okay, that was pretty awesome. It was because the stuff really worked. And you use almost none of it in the process.

It took stains easily off my carpet (seriously, who carpets the dining room?) with just one spray of the degreaser. It worked on Adam’s nasty stained khaki shorts by simply soaking them in the bathtub with a few drops of the Basic H. The all purpose cleaner took off the nastiness of my bathroom counter with just three squirts. We even used the Basic H to clean our whole car (inside and out) and we used next to none of the bottle.

Plus, when all the cleaning fun was done, we didn’t have a headache from all the lemony freshness. Why? Because the Shaklee products are naturally safe. And that means a lot for Adam and I, especially since we have a curious five year old.

Now the whole Hutton house sparkles and we have enough cleaning supplies to last us for months. While we may not LOVE to clean, we do love our new products. Call this not so brand loyal girl a Shaklee convert.

Dear five year old …

Dear T,
Last week was fun. Your daddy and I loved every minute of you being here: playing basketball in the driveway, mini golfing and riding the bumper cars, watching Scooby Doo, reading bed time stories, family dinner time, talking about nothing and everything, laughing at made up knock knock jokes.

Bumping Daddy at Thunder Road.

Thank you for letting me take you to Despicable Me 2, even if I enjoyed it far more than you did (I mean, those minions freaking kill me). Thanks, also, for suggesting Happy Joe’s to Grandpa after the movie. I know I said we should go there because you wanted to play games, but it was really because I wanted the canadian bacon and sauerkrat pizza. You and Daddy did very well at not making stinky faces at it. Your Aunt Mollie on the other hand …

While last week was fun, T, there are a few things we need to talk about …

First, the whole talking in the morning thing. I’m not into it. For future reference, lets cut the chit chat until at least 9:30, or until two cups of coffee has been consumed, whichever comes first.

Second, the whole eating my lunch thing. Now I understand you’re a growing boy. But I still can’t figure out how you snarfed down four hot dogs (especially when Daddy and I each had two), baked beans, strawberries and cucumbers. Plus, you then had an ice cream for dessert. I, on the other hand, was left lunch-less the next day.

Watching Daddy play softball

Third, the whole playing in the dirt, sword fight, wipe your nose on your shirt, being a boy thing. I don’t get it … yep, that’s basically it.

We miss you T and can’t wait until Friday to see you again. You are wonderful and dearly loved by so many people, especially by your daddy and me … even if you do talk before coffee.

Love,
Katie

3 Lessons in 3 Years

Five years ago, a girl stood in her apartment bathroom. She contemplated leaving her hair curly instead of straight and changed her top at least five times. I hate first dates, she thought. They’re so awkward, even when you’re already friends.

Scooping up her phone, purse and keys, she headed downstairs. There he was, in the silver Durango, waiting for her. Her heart skipped a beat. They went to dinner, rode the ferris wheel at Scheels and went to a horrible Angelina Jolie action movie (but then again, aren’t they all?). They laughed and talked with ease. Well maybe first dates really aren’t so bad, she thought.

Little did she know, that would be her last first date. Two years later, on July 10, 2010, the same girl stood in front of a mirror, smoothing out her beautiful white dress as her mother adjusted her veil. “Do I look okay?” she asked. “You’re beautiful,” her mother replied.

She took a deep breath and entered the church. And there he was, waiting for her.

Tomorrow, it will be three years since I walked down the aisle to Adam. Three years since we became our own little family of three. Since then, there have been many joys, a few tears, tons of laughter, moments that have brought us to our knees in prayer and memories that I’ll cherish forever. Along the road to building a life together, I’ve learned three important lessons:

1. Remember to choose your battles. As much as I detest tripping over his shoes as I come in the front door or how he leaves the dish rag scrunched up on the sink when it’s still wet, these are small things in the grand scheme of life. After all, none of us is perfect (though I come pretty close in my completely humble opinion) and we each have our own eccentricities.

2. Remember those heart skip moments. When we were first dating, my heart would skip a beat when Adam called or texted. Today, our conversations typically go something like, “Did you clean the bathroom yet?” or “What’s for dinner?”. So we make it a priority to have time to recreate those heart skip moments and remember why we’re in this thing for the long haul. We surprise each other with little things, like flowers (obviously for Adam) or our favorite dessert (no, we still don’t share well). We also have date night once a week. Sometimes it’s planned and sometimes it’s spontaneous, like when we showed up for Adam’s volleyball game on Sunday to realize that it was cancelled … after we’d already ordered beer.

3. Remember that love, compassion and laughter are powerful things. Our marriage hasn’t always been easy. We’ve suffered through all the newlywed growing pains (living with a boy is a true test in patience) and have dealt with some pretty big trials in just three years. Yet through it all, we have learned the power of compassion and kindness, even when you don’t feel like rising above and being the bigger person.We have learned that laughter lights up even the darkest corners and allows us to be ourselves, in all our crazy silliness (80s rock dance party anyone?). And we have learned that love always wins. It’s what keeps us together, walking side by side, through this thing called life.

 

Fill Your Life with Fireworks!

I love fireworks. No, it’s not because my in-laws own a fireworks stand (which you should definitely check out). There’s just something about them … the sparkle, the surprise, the excitement, the celebration.

Run or Dye conquered!

My goal, besides choosing joy, is to live a life full firework moments … moments that sparkle, that surprise and excite, that celebrate victories despite the darkness of the sky. I want moments that are filled with awe in conquering something new. Like the time I rode the four wheeler on the farm. Or the day I got my master’s degree.

Last weekend, I had a fireworks moment. I took part in the Run or Dye 5k with some fabulous friends. We walked most of the way, but toward the end, a friend suggested we run. I grimaced, but agreed. And I can hardly begin to describe how it felt to run across the finish line. It was a small firework moment, but one I was proud of.

Plus, even the small fireworks can have colorful finishes:

Image from Run or Dye Fargo

So my hope for you this 4th of July (and all year long) is to take time for firework moments: moments that excite you, moments full of beautiful color, moments that scare you, moments that fill you with wonder and awe in yourself. Because lets face it, you’re pretty awesome.

Happy 4th of July!

A Few Good Men

Preface: I mean to do this post before Father’s Day, but the summer of wedding craziness got the better of me … Okay, the real reason is I was at the lake. 

Brother sister awesomeness

My little brother got married last weekend … yes I cried once or twice (okay, maybe more). Their wedding was beautiful, laid back and filled with love and laughter, a perfect reflection of them as a couple.

As I watched my brother say I do, I couldn’t help but think back to that little curly haired boy who ran around our house in my sister’s and my old dance outfits (sorry Sam) and saddled up next to truck drivers at my parent’s convenience store with his juice box. I thought about this little boy who had turned into a compassionate, talented young adult who was now about to be someone’s husband (keep him in line Em!). I thought about how my brother was such a good man.

That Sunday, we celebrated Father’s Day at the cabin we rented (yes, I pretended it was my own fabulous lake home), laying on the beach, attempting to swim in the freezing cold lake (T was the only one brave enough to stay in for longer than 5 minutes) and later eating pizza. I watched my husband play with T, cheering for him as he slid down the slide into the lake we were all too chicken to get into, chatting with him over pizza and hugging him goodbye at the end of the weekend. My husband is a good man.

I also watched my dad, as he held hands with my mom as they walked back to the cabin for lunch, as he begged T to share his candy with him before dinner, as he made my sister, grandma and I endless pots of coffee to keep us from being crabby at the cabin (I know what you’re thinking, me crabby? But without caffeine, I’m a bit of a monster). My dad is a good man.

These are just a few examples of the many good men I am blessed to know in my life. They are men who adore their wives and love their children. They are men who care deeply about their friends, who would do anything to support the ones they love. They are men who are passionate and creative, who branch out into new business ventures and take risks in order to do something they love. They are heroes in big moments, yes, but also in the quiet, unseen times.

They are fathers, husbands, grandpas, brothers, uncles*, cousins, stepdads, friends and mentors. They are strong and steadfast, courageous and kind. And they’re not afraid to give hugs.

My hope is that you are also blessed by not just a few, but many good men.

* This list of good men includes my Uncle Mark who has never ceased to give me endless grief for not mentioning him (by name) in my Thanksgiving blog. :)