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January 2012
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March 2012

Just write. Be you. (And when in doubt,ask the 8-ball.)

I found an unexpected use for my new favorite writing-related book: “The Writer’s Workout” by Christina Katz. It’s my Magic Eight Ball. Or, more honestly, it’s one way my intuition talks back to me.

My most recent example of how this works happened Monday. I was starting back to work on a novel I’ve been writing for years in starts and spurts. My husband and I finally think we’ve found a way to arrange our schedules to accommodate a few regular windows of time for me to get it done.

Our plan was nearly perfect except one small roadblock. Me.

I wasn’t caught up on all the other stuff I do around here. I didn’t have all my notes for this novel gathered in one place like I’d been meaning to. I didn’t know where my outline was, which is more important since I lost so much in the first computer crash last year. I realized, though, that to finish it what I had to do first was to simply just begin. So I did.


And just before I started writing I flipped “The Writer’s Workout” open to page 145 and found this:

If organizing is cutting into your writing time stick with finding your writing rhythm instead.

… Don’t schedule writing time. Just write. Don’t decide too far ahead what you will do, just do what you need to do now. … Keep writing until you meet each goal.

Another example that happened literally as I was working on this post: I was thinking about another post I’m working on about Bill Johnson’s presentation at the last Northwest Author Series. I wrote a note to myself to encourage readers to be themselves in their writing, to use the voice and style that comes most naturally to them. And then I opened my Magic Eight Ball randomly to page 146 and found:

I was born to be Christina. Marc was born to be Marc. And you were born to be you. what kind of unique trail are you going to blaze?

See?!? It works. Every. Time.

(If you try it, I’d love to hear what comes up!)

If you want to buy a copy of your own, call your local book store and ask them to order it for you. Let me know if you do because I’d love to check in with each other as we make our way through the year. While it’s obviously helpful any time, any day,  “The Writer’s Workout” is designed to start in the spring, which will be here soon!

Let’s flex our brains, stretch our fingers and get writing! 

I'll be back tomorrow evening with a guest post from the coach herself. 

Until then, here’s my Amazon review:

In the spirit of full disclosure, I know Christina. I like Christina. So of course I'm going to read her newest book. And I'm a fan so naturally I'll buy it. And I'm a polite person so I'll say some polite things about it. What I won't do, though, is encourage you to buy it unless it's a bookshelf-must.
It is.
If you're smart, you're more conscious than ever about how you spend your money regardless of how much you have. And if you're like most writers the last thing you need is another un-read book on your nightstand.
But The Writer's Workout isn't meant to be read in one sitting. Instead, it's intended to serve as a constant guide and companion; a virtual coach clarifying your writing goals and guiding you ahead in your career with practical advice, thoughtful quotes and engaging exercises.
I've read enough reviews on Amazon to know there are some who think knowing the author precludes a person from writing an objective review. Perhaps that's true. But, since I do happen to know Christina Katz, I can tell you something about her the book jacket can't. She's a writer who walks her talk. Her advice is relevant, current, solid and based on personal experience.
Just like her first book Writer Mama wasn't helpful exclusively for mothers, The Writer's Workout isn't inspiring exclusively for writers; it's also motivating for anyone with a long-term personal or professional goal.

{Project Life: week seven}

The Mom Creative


{Remember you can click on the photos to get a closer peek!}

Apologies to those who don’t dig them, but here’s my newest Project Life layout. Week seven already?!

Also, promises for some non-scrappy stuff to come. Lots in my draft folders including stuff for dudes who think chivalry ends at the wedding ceremony, my birth story and adoption FAQ’s – last call for any questions you’d like to see addressed in that post. And, oh yeah writerly stuff!

In week 5 I went off the path with my title card and decided to go crazy this week by creating my own out of these old office ledgers I picked up at a a garage sale last summer. (I {heart} office supplies!) Again, such a small thing with a big return = makes me smile every time I see it. It’s missing something in that blank spot so someday I’ll come back and add to it. Or not. Ideas?


Week 7: left side


Week 7: right side


Week 7: insert (front and back)

Last year I sewed all of Sam’s valentine’s together in my first scrapbook sewing adventure detailed here but he wanted to be able to pull them out and look at them so this year I took a page out of Ali’s book and used baseball card-style protectors. 



Week 7: Details and Data

Love this idea from Cathy Zielske to do a week in review card using one of her templates. The first time I used one of her templates this I didn’t love how it looked as a printed, glossy picture. I love it printed on textured cardstock. I don’t know if I could buy a digital version of Bazzill white cardstock? And then print it matte? Anyway .. this card is a cool way to record the little things that don’t make it into a picture or journaling card for the week. (Click on the one below to see what I mean).


Just some journaling close ups:


And these tiny details, the labels from veggies, where fun to pull out of my memorabilia file for the month and simply staple to the pictures … that post on memorabilia is still in the works as promised here.


If you’re interested, you should totally jump on the Project Life bandwagon! It is NOT too late and it is designed for everyone – no matter what kind of life you do – or don’t –have! Flash forward way into your future … wouldn’t it be fun to have something like this to read in the nursing home?! Even if you don’t remember it as YOUR story, you’d have a lovely record of life unfolding in your lap … just think about it. And if your heart says “yes” jump in!

Facts, figures and feelings


Valentine’s Day … an emotionally loaded, artificial holiday if there ever was one. I am, however, a huge fan of Love. The full-fat, non-saccharin kind.

With all the commercial reminders, today’s as good a day as any to focus on how we love each other, and also ourselves – because the two are very much connected. In fact, the way we love our own selves has everything to do with how we are able to love others.

As most of you know, Whitney Houston died this week. Her song, “The greatest love of all” was the first song I learned all the words to and still sing in the shower (happily and horribly off key).


I decided long ago, never to walk in anyone's shadows
If I fail, if I succeed
At least I'll live as I believe
No matter what they take from me
They can't take away my dignity
Because the greatest love of all
Is happening to me
I found the greatest love of all
Inside of me
The greatest love of all
It’s easy to achieve
Learning to love yourself
It is the greatest love of all

Whitney and I part ways at the part where she says self love is easy to achieve. It isn’t. It takes effort when many of us have to convince ourselves we’re worth making an effort for in the first place!

I part ways with the lovely and supremely talented Whitney in other ways as well, including area of talent and choice of mode of self destruction.

While I’ve never inhaled cocaine, allegedly or otherwise, I have ingested food that I know is bad for me, over and over again. And then there’s this extra 35 pounds I’ve been packing around for far too long. Except, now it’s 30. It feels like I’m walking in the shadow of how I could feel and look. I’d like to change that.

Since last year when I set a goal to lose 35 pounds by my 35th birthday, I’ve managed to lose get rid of 5 of them. I decided that one way to boost my esteem and take care of myself is to make this goal a priority (again) because I think doing that will increase my energy, productivity, health, sleep … good stuff.

So I bought a scale. It’s been over a year since I got rid of my old one. (You can read about that in this post called “Worthless.”) And I know it’s not in fashion to talk about losing weight because it’s supposed to be about how I feel. And overall wellness.

I get that. Totally. I am all about feelings. And wellness. However, I also get that for me, I need a number, a specific goal and then smaller goals to reach that target. I need accountability and a measurable outcome.


I got this idea from my friend Linsey. I’m always happy to find a new use for sticky notes. Here are 30 of them stuck to my mirror. For each pound lost, one comes down. (Note: if you try this at home make sure you use the correct side of your mirrored door, I ended up re-doing this).

And … because the number on the scale is just a number, a fact, a gauge … and because I was encouraged by Jenny Meyerson … here’s my number, for now:



I truly believe that my efforts toward this goal, and consequently achieving it, is an act of self love but also a way of loving my whole family because the better I feel, the better I can take care of them.

Here’s my column on rebuilding your sense of worth if you’d like to read it. It addresses the erosion of esteem I’ve found to be an issue for lots of moms like me:—hardy


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Back with a bug


I’m back from vacation so I can tell you now that I was out of town. I try not to mention stuff like that until we’re safely back home for all the obvious reasons but now I have a huge backlog of stuff to share. Not a bad problem to have.

What was bad though, is that a few hours after landing back in Portland, I got hit by a stomach bug that didn’t quit. I tried to be thankful it didn’t happen on the plane but mostly I just felt sorry for myself as I tried to manage the kids on my own and wonder who was going to unpack and get groceries and meet my deadlines.

I am starting to feel better and am thankful to have pictures from our trip because the warm sun, mom’s help, and dad’s bartending already seems a long time ago!

Today I have a lot of catch up work to do, as well as a date with my Lysol. But more soon, promise.

Meanwhile – here’ a link to my column about the toll mothering can take on a woman’s self-worth. It ran while I was gone:—hardy

My Process for {Project Life}, as promised

While most posts are for any and all regardless of theme, this one is pretty specifically geared for people participating in, or curious about, Project Life. Okay, perhaps there’s a tidbit or two on creativity in general … but you’ve been warned.

1 – Focus on the core


I took my journaling cards out of their (adorable boxes), matched them by type and organized them like this to make it easy to see them as I’m flipping through. Stickers in the back, title cards in the front, journaling filler cards in the left side. (I think it came this way?) The blank cards with the grids is in The Drawer which I forgot to snap a picture of before leaving. I’ll try to remember that next week!


My core kit stays together, and accessible. I keep it on a shelf to the right of my desk. Covered so as not to tempt little hands but again, easy to grab during those rare but lovely moments when the kids are content, dinner’s figured out and the house is picked up. Or, way more likely, after the kids are down for the night and before I get on the dishes. Why? Because if I do all my “chores” first, I’ll never get to play. I happen to have a personal rule that I will not go to bed until the sink is cleaned out and the kitchen is clean so I know I’ll stay up to make that happen and I don’t have to feel inspired to do dishes. However, if I wait until later to start my journaling cards or uploading pictures, etc., later won’t happen. Plus, once I’ve taken some time to do something I enjoy like working on my album, picking rice off of every flat surface isn’t such drudgery.

2 – Organized picture files.


Here’s a screen shot of my file for Project Life 2012. (Double click to make it bigger). I upload pictures from my camera card into a general “Pictures- 2012” file where I can sort them by date. First, though, I quickly go through them, delete the bad shots and pick the ones I’m using for this week. Easy to do because I upload every couple days or so to make it a 5-10 minute project (If I’m going to mess with Photo Shop at all). Last year one of my biggest obstacles was waiting too long to upload pictures and then it became overwhelming. I move the ordered pictures into the right folder and the ones just for my blog into the other folder. That way any pictures visible when I click on this folder are ready to upload and order next time I’m going to Fred Meyer. I love buying them a few at a time! (Thank you Amy for the idea!)

3 – Small, steady steps

To avoid project burnout, and to make this something that energizes rather than drains me, I’ve broken my process into bite-sized chunks I can do in moments instead of hours. I don’t have hours to spend on this. I do, however, have lots of minutes here and there. My little monthly Moleskine as memory triggers for when I have some time to fill out my journaling cards which I’m keeping simple by primarily handwriting them. My pictures are uploaded a couple days at a time, uploaded a few at a time and printed in super small batches I pick up at the grocery store. Easy.

The whole “putting it all together” process takes me about 20 minutes to half an hour if I haven’t stuck the day of the week stickers on in advance. I pick the week’s title card that seems to “go” with the week – totally arbitrary yet it makes sense to me. Then, I select coordinating cards if there are any left to add, fill in any missing details and add stickers as needed.

4 – Memorabilia

So this seems to be worthy of it’s own post. I’m working on it. Meanwhile, I’ll just say it’s part of my process to check my Memorabilia box, sorted by date – will post pictures and directions soon – to get all the bits and pieces I want included in my book.

5 – One week at a time

That sums it up nicely. Monday to Sunday captured in pictures and words, random memories, things overheard and the scraps of our life.

Next week: rinse and repeat.

{Project Life: week four}

The Mom Creative

I had fun putting this week together despite the snot, puke and packing. (See my “This week in Google” journaling card below). I knew I would be doing an individual spread of our trip to Florida to visit my parents so it was important to me to wrap up week four before leaving. An example of addressing my former paralysis by perfection: I went ahead and left the weekend out so I could finish. Gasp. Again, I knew the weekend would be plenty covered in our plane photos and memorabilia. Some of the best photos of meltdowns and the stares as my two-year-old yelled “OH DAMMIT” in a crowded plane I didn’t catch on camera, but I trust the memories will stick with me. Plus, I couldn’t take a picture of the very kid I was pretending not to know!

{Remember, you can click on the images to get a closer peek at the journaling, etc. Oh, and to learn more about Project Life and Becky Higgins’ awesomeness click here.}



Yeah, totally messed up that little “to” word. Whatever. Love that I finally have a way I like to note the week number.


Loved capturing the boys doing their thing this week.


Loved using the arrow stickers to highlight key details  like the “proof” that Sam was really sick. In addition to the pale face and puke bucket, he didn’t eat his Cliff bar.



My “this week in Google” feature is totally a favorite. This week highlights the underbelly of motherhood.


Loved using this “mental picture” in place of one not taken. There are some things you simply can’t capture on camera.


And this … well, it’s priceless. The arrows point to all places Jake scribbled on in a relatively short amount of time. I added the letters in the Photoshop program I’m still hacking my way through.


I promise I’ll post that organizing stuff soon. Happy to take questions to add to the post-in-progress either in the comments or by email, nathalie AT nathaliesnotes DOT com.

Self esteem: lost and found


During this season of commercially artificial love, I want to address a kind of love that eludes many of us but is the only solid foundation for genuine love: self-love. Saccharin as it may sound, loving ourselves is the key to loving our partners, our children, our family and friends in the fullest sense of the word.

I've often heard it said that the best thing a father can do for his children is love their mother. I think it's also true that the best thing a mother can do for her family is love herself.

Motherhood, even with all of its blessings, can erode self-esteem - especially if it was fragile to begin with. 

It seems from the e-mails I've received that there is an epidemic of low self-esteem among women, many of them mothers. We have to change this attitude, both for ourselves and for the children we are raising to become confident, competent adults. 

Life is precious. It's short. And it can be hard and cruel, even if we don't add to our own suffering.

It's also amazing and delightful, of course. But that's easy for us to miss if we're busy counting our faults instead of celebrating ourselves exactly the way we are.

Contrary to the media messages we receive, we deserve to like ourselves without achieving, fixing, surgically removing, surgically adding, cosmetically repairing or radically changing anything. 

We think we need all this self-improvement to be more at ease with ourselves, but I believe a deep sense of self-worth is the only workable foundation, so that's where to put the focus.

Once you are OK with you the way you are, you can go about tweaking whatever you want more of or less of in your life. Otherwise, you're just making cosmetic improvements.

Of course, you can't pick up a pack of self-esteem at Target. Maybe you had it once and you lost touch with it. Maybe you think it might be too late. Or perhaps you say, "I've always been like this. I can't change."

At a young age, I learned to compare myself to others and catalog where I didn't measure up. I learned to use that as evidence of my unworthiness.

That type of chronic thinking landed me on a therapist's couch. Luckily, I realized there had to be a better way to live this one, short, precious life than by going around counting the ways I sucked.

I share this not because it's comfortable, but because I know I'm not alone. During my self-help odyssey to recalibrate my "normal," I realized that more than anything, so many of us are seeking validation that we are normal. Even the darkest parts of our souls need the light of recognition.

It turns out you get confidence by earning it from, get a load of this, yourself! Once you have your own approval, no one else's will be enough.

I promise this is true. Deep down, I think we all know it is.

That's where keeping a journal comes in handy. It is a rare person who has an unobstructed view of himself or herself.

Your worth is not measured by your mother, your mother-in-law, your job, your lack of a job, your husband, your lack of a husband, your skinny jeans or your fat pants. Your worth is measured by you.

A written record of your accomplishments, fears and struggles helps you be more accurate than relying solely on memories of your failures and the worst things people have said and done to you. 

One step toward increasing your own self-worth is to do the things you love. Pick something you can do in pockets of time. Try something new, even if, or especially if, you don't think you'll do it as well as anyone else.

Let yourself be a beginner. Think of it as your opportunity to impress your own self. And as practice for giving the finger to the part of you that says you can't.

For example, even though I'd be much better at Zumba with a few cocktails in me, I've been trying it at the gym and am actually enjoying exercising.

Finally, find your "reset" button. When I start feeling all kinds of angsty, one of two things always helps: journaling or physically moving through it with a workout, a quick walk or dancing with my kids to something other than Muppet music. 

As George Eliot famously said, it is never too late to be what you might have been. This year for Valentine's Day give yourself the sweetest gift of investing in yourself. You're worth it.

Nathalie Hardy invites your feedback at or at her website,