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Remembering the Good: My Top 9 in 2020

Honestly, I can hardly remember what happened before the world shut down, so when I was looking back for today's review, I was not surprised to find my highlights all happened between spring break and today.

Do you remember when "My Top 9" started being a thing? A website or app appeared that would scan your Instagram for your most liked nine posts at the end of the year and you'd come away with a cute little grid of memories. Last year, I replaced my curated top nine with one of my own, choosing favorite moments or memories instead. I decided to do the same this time around, too.

It's still a little crazy to me that we're just days away from the new year. Time sure has been strange in 2020... March lasted twelve years, April was a slog, May and June ebbed by, and the fall swept us up in a whirlwind, and November barely existed. December arrived then poof!  Here we are. And with that, here we go.

  • Spending the “last normal days” in March with Rach and Dana before the pandemic hit. 
    I set off on a trip to Cincinnati on March 6th with a return date of March 10th (hello, spring break!), and by the time it was time go go we were beginning to hear of this "coronavirus thing" and wondering if needed hand sanitizer for the airport. But before everything closed and we all stayed home, I'm so grateful I had one last adventure with two of my best friends, brunching and movie-watching, wine sipping and art museum perusing. They are some of the gems of my life! I'm also so grateful that since our friendships have always been from a distance that depending on Facetime and texts was no new thing to navigate. We are pros! 

  • My rainbow bookshelves! 
    They are literally an answered prayer and a daily delight in my apartment. In the fall of 2019 (I know, a decade ago practically...) I started praying about where I would be moving next. One of the requests I put into my prayer journal that felt a little silly at the time was "little delights in design". I wanted there to be something unexpected in my next place that reminded me that I was seen and known by God, and I kid you not that I teared up when I saw the built in bookshelves at this apartment. Plus they're great inspiration to read from my own shelves instead of buying more books! I mean... I still buy more... I'm just running out of room... oops!

  • Turning 29 this July. 
    Celebrating this summer in the midst of uncertainty was still so sweet. I wanted a small, safe gathering with a few friends, and when our local flower farm started offering virtual floral arranging classes I reached out to see if she would host one on my birthday week. Instead, she offered to let us come out to the pavilion at the farm and do a class in person. Addison helped me build the balloon arch of my dreams for inside my apartment, I had quite the ordeal getting "29" balloons home from the grocery store, and we snacked on charcuterie with our bouquets all over my apartment. Sparklers, balloons, flowers… what more could a girl want?

  • Taking steps (literally) toward my physical health.
    I didn’t make wild progress on the goals I set at the start of the year, but I got started towards prioritizing my physical health, and that definitely counts in my book. Over the summer (and in the early days of the pandemic) I followed the couch-to-5k app (didn't quite finish...), and then made use of the gym at my new apartment once I moved. I've been trying to cook more, following some youtube videos, and trying other apps here and there. One of my big bummers was that I had signed up for a local dance studio over spring break but.. you know.. COVID closed all the things. Maybe I'll dance a bit more next year. A few steps forward is still forward movement!

  • “I still remember the days I prayed for the things I have now.”
     This Mulberry Market Designs sign might be my favorite piece of decor that I've purchased for my new place, and it is such an encouraging reminder. I am literally living in the middle of several answered prayers: my home, my health, my job, and more. Yes, there are things I desire and things I am praying for, but I don't want to overlook the ways God has answered already.

  • Quite simply, leaving and going back to my classroom.
    Leaving school so unexpectedly in the spring was heart wrenching. I skipped off for spring break, taking off on vacation after a busy musical and competition season, and we never went back. I was grateful for some serious time to rest, but it was the longest time I've spent not working on a show since high school. And while being back this fall has been challenging, I’m so grateful to be with my students and creating theatre again.

  • The Shakespeare stairs at Cincinnati Shakes…
    Be still my heart, I miss seeing live theatre. BUT this year has convinced me more than ever that I’m in the middle of my calling and that my passion for this art is a gift from the Lord for my life. We didn't get to see a show over spring break, but Dana made sure we got to take a peek at the lobby and got a snap of me on these steps featuring the works of my man Mr. Shakes! I got to direct Macbeth in the fall and it delights my heart to no end that my students enjoy him now, too! I also just watched Prom the Musical (on Netflix) and teared up multiple times during some of the numbers, especially "We Look to You." Gosh, I love what I do.

  • Beautifully designed snack boards + charcuterie (bonus if they're inexpensive)!
    You know I had to include a snack board. Hosting and gathering has had to look different this year, cut down to a minimum honestly, but a few pretty treats go a long way, even between one or two friends. Plus it’s a fun creative outlet my soul needed. Pretty boards for movie nights (sadly the Christmas movies were a thing of my dreams....) to Sunday charcuterie for one, they sure are tasty!

  • Lastly, decorating for Christmas in my own place.
    It’s been three years since I’ve had a space all my own, and creating a warm, twinkly, welcoming home was just what I wanted and needed this winter. I've been looking forward to decorating for Christmas again for SO long, and I finally bought a pretty flocked tree! I don't want to take it down! I decorated early, which was nice since my December was full of working Christmas concerts instead of spending much time at home, so any extra time I got in the warm glow of the tree was much appreciated.

It felt a little funny to be celebrating bookshelves and Christmas trees when I'd ordinarily post (on Insta) Broadway shows and summer adventures, but I'm also ultimately grateful for the quiet and small wins of the year. 2020, I'm not sad to see you go, but I'm also grateful for some of the gifts along the way. The little things really do add up.

2021, here we come!

Love, Bailey Jean

Back at it? Maybe so. Where to? I honestly don't know.

Two years. It's really been two years since I've used this space to write, dream, and share, and that feels hard to wrap my mind around especially after using this corner of the internet for almost ten years prior. The blog-o-sphere watched and recorded my transition to college (sic'em, Bears!), galavanting across Europe studying abroad, choosing the adventure of moving to Seattle, switching things up again by going to graduate school (go Pokes!), then finally becoming a teacher. I wrote, reviewed, planned, pinned, and more. 

Then after December 27, 2018, I somehow stopped logging in. Well, I understand the somehow a little more than that might lead you to believe, but I'm sure we'll get to that later...

Now, here we are.
December 29, 2020.
In the blink of an eye two years have passed.
In a matter of months the entire world has changed.

One of my favorite parts of my new apartment (since we've seen the insides of our homes more often than not this year):
a sign and a reminder that in the midst of it all I'm living in the middle of several answered prayers.

I've debated signing back on and putting fingers to keys on and off over the past two years, but in that time the blogging world has shifted (my world has, too). Instagram captions are the length (and attention span) of most readers. We scroll and we scroll, "link in profile"/lengthy post reading days in the rearview mirror. I'm lucky if I make it through one of the newsletter e-mails I'm still signed up for. 

We just don't do well with long-form writing any more. Or at least that's how it seems.

But you know what I've realized recently?

I do well with long-form writing.

I don't mean that I do necessarily well with posting consistently or creating out-of-this-world prose, but I -Bailey Jean as a person, creative, doer, and dreamer- do well (if not better!) when I'm writing consistently. 

My goals are more likely to happen when I'm writing out my thought process behind them and keeping myself accountable by checking in each month.

I get lost in my own mind less when pen is put to paper and I journal consistently or fingers set to keys and the swirl of thoughts find a home on a page or screen.

I do well with long-form writing. Or maybe just writing in general. I can't be entirely sure, but I think I'm willing to take a gamble here and I think we're about to find out.

I've also caught myself stuck in the thought that I have to live in extremes when it comes to my online life: all in or all out. Writing, promoting, sharing, content-creating on a mission or social media detoxing with strict limits and offline deadlines. 

When I've started to listen to that nudge and tug in my heart towards writing here again, I get overwhelmed thinking that means I have to get "back on a schedule" or try to promote my way through again, and it feels exhausting. The exact opposite of what I want.

And when I think about getting offline completely (goodnessit is tempting), going 100% radio silent doesn't feel like the right move either. I do know I need better boundaries (goodbye, 2020 doom-scrolling) and I also know that I don't have to produce anything in particular. It gets to be whatever I want it to be. 

I want my time online to serve my heart and my life well, and I also want to use the little bit of a platform and my tiny corner of the internet to serve and encourage anyone who happens to stumble upon it. But I don't want to manufacture pressure to perform because "everyone else" is doing it.

Welcome to the late night, innermost thoughts of Christmas-break Bailey.
*insert the squinting/grimacing/sort-of-smiling emoji here*

So here we are. Or here I am. Two years almost to the day since this place last saw something go live.
Will anyone read it? Maybe not. And that is 100% okay.
Will writing again help my heart and mind in 2021? I sure hope so.
But I also give myself permission here and now to let it go if it doesn't.
Here we are, and here we go.

And if you're here... thanks for sticking around. :) 

Love, Bailey Jean

Six Game Changers from 2018

It's hard to believe we're already approaching the start of another new year! If you're like me, you've had 2019 on the brain since about October 26th, and it's tempting to skip right to it. But one of my favorite things about this stretch of time between Christmas and New Year's Eve is the chance to reflect and prep for what's ahead.

The Cultivate What Matters PowerSheets have that built in, with lists of what worked and what didn't, and this year I was even more inspired by Lara Casey's list to look back and find the 5 biggest game changers from 2018. From daily habits to monthly appointments, here's what made the list.

1. Weekly Counseling Sessions
I first started thinking about counseling in 2014. I was in the thick of grad school, experiencing yet another major life transition in yet another new city, and my anxiety was wrecking havoc on my heart and my daily life. Time and money were my biggest excuses, so I shelved it. And I didn't think I'd gone through anything "bad enough" to need counseling.  Insert the same excuses and thought process going into my first job and next new city in 2016, only this time I looked up a counselor and bookmarked her name. Still, I did nothing. Then this summer I started experiencing weekly panic attacks and daily emotional breakdowns, feeling more stuck and lost than ever before. It was only then that I clicked the bookmark and sent this woman an e-mail.

It's been six months of meeting weekly and it has been worth every penny. Having a place to process through what I've experienced, what I'm feeling, and the thoughts that can rule and wreck my days has been so helpful. I've cried, I've sat quietly, I've worried about "getting it right", but I've kept going and I don't plan to stop any time soon. In the spring I'm switching to going every other week, but I hope to continue throughout 2019.

2. Bi-Weekly Budget Check-in
Getting my finances in order was one of my biggest goals (and challenges) in 2018. It was an area of a lot of stress and I typically operated under the "If I don't check my bank account and I don't get any alerts I'm sure I'm fine" mentality, and I swiped my credit card way too often. In August, after my summer of travels, I sat down with my mom for accountability and got a good look at everything. I now sit down and go over the budget and my account twice a month (once at each paycheck) to make sure everything is in order and taken care of.

When I ordered my 2019 GoldenCoil planner, I made sure to include monthly budget sheets to keep it all in one place. The goal is to be out of credit card debt by the end of 2019, and in order to make it happen these check-ins, too, will continue.

3. Monthly Massages
Self-care is an area of my life I all to often toss out the window to schedule in something else. Since my first year of teaching I'd talked about getting a massage after "my next show" but I never got around to scheduling it. But this summer, in the midst of a crazy season of travel and carrying the physical pain and tension of anxiety between my shoulders for too long, I scheduled one at my local Massage Envy. At the end, they talk you through their promotions and membership, and that's when I thought, "You know, I'm going to let you talk me into this" and I did.

It has been amazing! I worked it into my monthly budget and I get at least one per month, scheduling it often after a counseling session, and I try to take the night completely to myself (either at a bookstore or coffee shop afterwards). I go to the same two ladies and it's been so sweet to get to know them, sometimes we talk through it and sometimes we don't, and they are both so encouraging and AMAZING at what they do. They can tell when it's been a tougher month stress-wise and going consistently has helped the pain immensely. This is definitely a keeper!

4. Worship Music on 24/7
I listen to music ALL the time. I used to make monthly playlists on iTunes, and a single song can take me back to times in college and high school, hard heart places, too. I love country music and indie music and Broadway shows, but I came to a place early in the year where those things were no longer encouraging to my soul. I needed strength and was grasping for it wherever I could, so I made a playlist called "Rest Secure" that would fill my car, my classroom, my morning, or my breakdown with truth, even though I couldn't always sing it myself. It's still the playlist I go to again and again, and I've included it below for you, too.

5. Daily Adoration
I have been a long-time fan of Sara Hagerty, and her books Every Bitter Thing is Sweet and Unseen make the top 10 list of my favorite books with ease. She shares monthly downloads of Adoration, characteristics of God and a coordinating scripture. I use the printable in my prayer journal and sometimes when I sleep through my alarm or don't quite get my "full" quiet time, this is what I'll turn to. I've been using them for several years but most consistently in 2018.  I highly recommend them!

6. Qapital Saving App
Along with going through my budget at least twice a month, automating savings has also been super helpful! I've used the Qapital app for over a year now, and it's been great and even fun to set goals and rules for how savings increase. My favorites are the "set and forget" rule where I can tell the app to set aside $5, $10, or however much each week and the "guilty pleasure" rule where any time I go to Sonic or Chick-fil-a it moves $10 or $20 over into the designated account. So far I'm saving for a trip back to New York City, school supplies for next fall, and our family vacation this summer.  You can check it out HERE and if you set your first goal after using that link we'll both get $5 for it. :)

.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .

A few other favorites from the year:

  • Podcasts. Lots of podcasts! Specifically That Sounds Fun, Proverbs 31, & Cultivate Your Life
  • The Enneagram! I'm a 9w1 and it's been so helpful to know! More to come on this.
  • Meal prepping my lunches. It's a small task on Sundays but saves time and money later. 
  • Using Cladwell to get dressed in the morning! It picks my clothes for me out of what I already own! More on this soon, too.

Looking ahead, each of these things will be on repeat for 2019. Some of them were small steps toward healing, and others were what felt like big risks that are leading to breakthrough. I cannot encourage you enough to make your list. Look back find what works. Look ahead and choose a few small changes to make 2019 your best year yet.

Now it's your turn. 
What was a game-changer for you this year?

Cultivating December Goals

Gone again, here again. Sounds about right, right? I'm all over the place this year with the blog and being online, but I think that's okay. I'm still trying to find the balance, and the trying is worth it. But for December, we're back in action, and it's time for some monthly goals, don't you think?

It's the end of the school semester and the start of the holiday season, and both of those things make my heart so happy! It's also time to prep for 2019, but that will come later.

We festivized the mantle for Christmas! 5 stocking for the 5 roommates!

This month has more events than to-do's, but I think that's the way it should be around the holiday season. Lots of celebrating and gathering with community and less trying to do-do-do, go-go-go. On that note, here we go!

December 2018 Goals

Monthly Goals:

  • Close It's a Wonderful Life well Ta-da and ta-DONE! This week we closed our Christmas play so I can check it off already! We performed a live radio play at the historic movie theatre in our little downtown, and it was delightful! 
  • Finish the fall semester with gusto. Only three weeks left until Christmas break, y'all! The goal is to finish strong and not check out too early. Lucky for me we're in the midst of our musical theatre unit and doing How the Grinch Stole Christmas in class. What fun!
  • Enjoy Christmas at Pemberley with friends! Remember when I talked about filling my creative tank? I'm headed to see a play called Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley with friends this weekend and I cannot wait!
  • Clear the Extra Christmas Decor. I finished a daily decluttering challenge in November, and I want to keep the momentum going by getting rid of the excess Christmas decor that I didn't use this year. 
  • Complete 2019 PowerSheets Prep! It's PowerSheets prep week with Cultivate What Matters! I've started my new set and plan to go slow this month.
  • Finish 2018 strong + with joy. This one pretty much speaks for itself. Only one month left to finish the year well and look for joy (my word of the year) before the new year begins. 
  • Read 5+ books. I've only got a few weeks and a couple of books left to reach my 52 books goal for the year! I want to read/finish these books this month (plus a couple more):
    • The Bear and the Nightingale *in progress*
    • A Portrait of Emily Price
    • Becoming Mrs. Lewis
    • Creativity, Inc.

Weekly Goals:

  • Sabbath on Sundays. Make time to rest, dig in the Word, and prepare my heart for the week. 
  • Get active 2x's. Planet Fitness a couple of times a week. 
  • Timesheet turned in. I'm working some extra events at school and can't miss this. 
  • Blog 2 times. Just trying to get back in the rhythm here!
  • Finish a book or 2! I need to finish 6 this month to complete the challenge.

Daily Goals:
  • Study the Word.
  • Daily prayer topic.
  • Get active.
  • Drink water.
  • Read for fun.
With Christmas break on the horizon, I know full well some of these will shift, but it doesn't hurt to plan well! Writing it out, keeping the list where I can see it on my desk at school and on the chalkboard in my room, I think 2018 will come to a solid close. Wish me luck!

What about y'all? What are you going to cultivate in December? 

Cultivating September Goals

Sweet, sweet September. There's something about the shift into this ninth month of the year that has me reaching for my chunky sweaters and fall candles, despite the fact that Texas is still in the upper 90's (and will be through October...).

For three years I hosted The Blog-tember Challenge here on the blog (201420152016,), writing every day for 30 days, connecting with women and writers from across the world, but last fall I took a hiatus from the internet and put the thing on pause.

I have to admit I was tempted, in typical Bailey-fashion, to relaunch it this month, eager to dig back in at 60mph when I've blogged once in a blue moon (at best) over the past eight months. I'm an all or nothing kinda girl, so it sounded enticing... for a minute. But honestly it's pretty impractical, and that's okay.

At the start of this September, I am two weeks into my third year of teaching high school and two weeks into teaching at my new school. And at this moment I am two weeks away from opening night of my first production at this school, Peter and the Starcatcher. So... Blog-tember Challenge? Definitely not going to happen.

But a few blog posts? Definitely a possibility.

A rainbow of items fresh off the laminator? Makes my teacher heart flutter!

With that in mind, what better way to start than with my goals for the month? These, too, have been directly impacted by my teaching status and upcoming show, simplified and narrowed to suit the season. I have a habit of being too ambitious in moments like these, so this year I'm attempting to stay off that path.

September 2018 Goals

Monthly Goals:

  • Direct Peter and the Starcatcher well.  Surprise! This is number one on the list! I want to plan well, lead well, help my students have fun and make meaningful theatre, all the way through the end. September 13th will be here before we know it! 
  • Prep for and host a garage sale. The house I moved into has had a bunch of girls in and out over the years, so our garage is FULL (of my things included...) so we are having a garage sale to clear the clutter! It's time to be ruthless about what I have, what I need, and what I don't need to hang onto.
  • Implement a new fitness routine! My friend Samantha and I have started going to the gym, and my hope is to go 3x's per week! I gave myself grace when traveling this summer and transitioning into school, but I'm hoping to find a consistent schedule. And it's so much better with accountability!
  • Celebrate, savor, and protect Sabbath. During show season, my Saturdays usually hold workdays and rehearsal, so my plan is to truly treat Sunday as a day of rest. From 6pm on Saturdays to 6pm on Sundays, I will do no school related work. Instead I will rest, attend church, spend time with friends, and relax. 
  • Read 5+ books. I've only got a few months left to reach my 52 books goal for the year! I want to read/finish these books this month:
    • The Bear and the Nightingale *in progress*
    • Imperfect Courage *in progress*
    • Small Great Things
    • King's Cage
    • To All the Boys I've Loved Before

Weekly Goals:

  • Prep on Sunday evenings. Meal plan, pick out clothes, fill out my planner, etc. 
  • Get active 3x's. Planet Fitness with Sam at least 2x's after school, maybe one morning. 
  • Lesson plans in on time. They're due sunday nights, but hopefully will be in on Fridays. 
  • One night of downtime and counseling. Tuesday nights are reserved for relaxing post-counseling at my favorite coffee shop.
  • Finish a book! One book per week gets at least 4/5 books for the month!

Daily Goals:
  • Drink water.
  • Daily adoration by Sara Hagerty
  • Gratitude list before bed.
  • No spending money (besides gas or groceries).
  • Read for fun.
With something as big as our fall play on the monthly list, I'm hoping to spend more time focusing on the daily goals to keep a sustainable and healthy routine. We'll see how it goes! Also, it feels so good to be back writing in this space. I didn't put it down as a weekly goal, but I hope to pop in around 2x's each week with some kind of post, just to get back in the rhythm. Wish me luck!

What about y'all? What are you going to cultivate in September?