Wednesday Wellness: Success Log

Greetings, Friends!

I started writing about wellness topics on Wednesdays, as I noted how many of my creative friends struggle with balance, as do I. Join me on my quest for wellness as I stumble along the way– literally!

Accidental Planner

If you are reading this you likely already know that I am sort of the Accidental Planner, as a creative spontaneous type I eschewed formal list-making and such, until I became a mom.  I happened upon the Planning Community only two years ago and it really has changed my life.  Now I enjoy planning!  There are so many creative tools available to personalize your planning experience.  There are so many etsy shops with creative and functional stickers. There are Facebook groups and instagram for sharing layouts and ideas. It has taken me a little while to get into the groove, but now I know how to really USE my planner- in a way that works for me.


Good Vibes


What Works for Me:

I use a vertical weekly planner with 3 sections and no time stamps.  I like to list and use color, and of course, sticker! This was working very well for my life and life/work management.  I wanted to keep work details separate, so I keep a work-only notebook on my desk.  I used to keep To Do lists, but I found that to be somewhat anxiety-producing, so now I keep a Success Log.

I keep a running list of what I do all day, as I do it. This allows me to feel more accomplished.  Instead of getting stressed about what I need to do, I feel satisfaction at having completed it.  At the end of the day, it looks like a To Do list, only it’s all Done.


Success Log

When I Stumble

Recently I took a bad fall and had to recover at home for a week.  My planner was a great tool for me during this time, as I had previously decorated it with inspiring stickers for the week. I also used some stickers that said “Over It” “Survived Today” and “Let myself rest.”   And my daily list became Reminders: Rest, Meds, Ice, Repeat.


Got Ice

But What About Deadlines?

I do keep deadlines & priorities in the forefront of my mind by using the weekly sidebar on my life planner.  For my Success Log at work, I use a project management spiral notebook which has a blank sidebar, and numbered lines.  I also use the reminders feature in Outlook to keep my digital work calendar up to date.

Memory Keeper & Gratitude Journal

My life planner weekly spreads are so fun to create and decorate!  I often write in what we actually did, and even name the shows we watched and food we ate (or the amusement park rides we rode!).  It then becomes a memory keeper, which I can reference as I write in my separate Gratitude Journal. This is a good practice to keep staying positive.

Quotes of the Month

There is a blank page following the last week of each month in my planner.  I use this area to write funny or significant quotes that my family members say.  I found this was a really neat way to memory keep, as well.  Each member of my family has a different color for their events and quotes in my book.  My daughter is pink, and my son is orange.  So I can tell at a glance who said what.

How do YOU stay organized?

Please let us know in the comments!

Read about my Plan to Have Fun philosophy here.

Read about my 15 -year Historical Spreadsheet for Holiday Gift-Giving here.

Wellness Wednesday: Organized Chaos and Magic Words

My friends, I started writing about Wellness on Wednesdays, as I noticed so many creative souls struggle with balance, as do I.  Join me on my journey to wellness as I follow the yellow brick road, marching to the beat of my own drum, stumbling along the way.

I reached a milestone this year, and something has happened.  People are asking me what I think and I realized I have something to say.  Truth is, glimmers of whispers have been brewing, like quiet storms in the back of my mind- for some time.  And that’s part of what I want to share with you today.

I haven’t always been a planner. In fact, as an Introverted Intuitive Feeling Perceiver (INFP on the Myer-s Briggs Type Indicator), I often eschewed organization, preferring spontaneity and the freedom I perceived.  But in college, grad school, and then being a working mom, I began to see the benefits of planning.  I developed my own way of planning- that is Plan, to Have Fun.  Research and mapping activities sure helped get things done! When we go on a family trip, I know exactly what we need and when we hope to do things. There’s a lot of planning in advance, as well as some down time and flexibility. So, I’ve come to recognize planning as an important step. Otherwise, you are wandering a theme park not getting on any rides like the Heck family on the tv show The Middle. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

Holiday Collage

Planning for Chaos (Tis the Season)

It was only a couple of years ago that I finally discovered the magic of using a personal planner.  I have to say, finding the right one that works for you is everything.  I had used a Bloom planner, then the Shining Year (before it was discontinued) and now I use the Erin Condren Life Planner (vertical).  Michael’s Recollections line is very similar, and Happy Planner is another planners’ favorite.  There is also Passion Planner. All of these planners can be used quite creatively, you’ll see.

The magic is in writing it down.

I started using the spaces in a vertical planner for timed activities, but then I had these long lists that didn’t fit at the bottom.   So I learned to use the boxes for checklists and inspiring quotes. I use the lines for weekly focus, daily water tracking, goals and interests.  The thing about writing it down is that it makes it more concrete.  Our lives are so digital these days, we’ve literally lost touch.  But once we dare to write things down, we can see that more things are possible.  It’s visual. It’s real. Even long term goals and dreams become less intimidating once we break them down into steps. Successful athletes are known for practicing visualization to better their sports performance. Commedienne Ellen DeGeneres visualized her first Tonight Show monologue to the detail of crossing the stage to shake Johnny Carson’s hand. Envisioning success helps achieve success.

The trick is to find the words that motivate or inspire you.  Which word means more to you:  Motivation or Inspiration?  I am an inspiration girl working in a “motivation” world.  When I start to hear too many buzzwords, jargon, and “productivity-ness”, part of me shuts down and I actually get de-motivated.  You know the sounds that the teachers make in Peanuts?  Wah wah, wah wah, wah.



The kinds of words that means so much more to me (personally) are words like personal growth, inspiration, creativity.


“Someone is staring at you in Personal Growth.” – Carrie Fisher, When Harry Met Sally, 1989.

Writers and speakers know the importance of the adage Know Your Audience. Well, my friends, YOU are your audience. Plan accordingly. Use the right words for you: motivational or inspirational. And use your tools. Maybe all you need is black pen and the occasional highlighter.

Or MAYBE you are like me and you like COLOR! and STICKERS! and WASHI TAPE!


Focus on the Good Coffee (weekly spread)

I cannot tell you the joy I have found in discovering the creative planning community. I buy hand-drawn embellishment stickers and kits via Etsy. And I decorate, that is, pre-plan my week. My young daughter is doing this with me now, too. We are looking forward to using our planners. We fill them in and make check marks with pride. If I had forgotten to list something that we did, I will go back and add it. Then, my planner becomes a memory keeper, as well, which I reference when I complete my separate Gratitude Journal. I also write down funny/significant things my family and friends say. #quoteofthemonth

My life has changed since I started planning creatively. Sure there are things I haven’t quite got control of, yet. But I keep listing my tasks and dreams. Since I started planning creatively, I have written and self- published a book, earned a promotion at work, saved money by reducing bills and trading books/cds, made investments, and attended webinar trainings for work and personal growth. I’ve achieved a kind of work-life balance as I’ve learned to prioritize some things over others, at certain times, and then maybe getting back to them or just letting them go! If you haven’t watched 19 episodes of that show on the DVR, then maybe you are not really watching that show, are you? Time to let it go. Overall, I am much happier, and way less anxious.

Finally, I wanted to share the importance of remembering what’s in your wheelhouse. I keep a lot of what some people may call clutter, but I know these ideas and things will have usefulness. You never know when something you did long ago or kept will become needed. This has happened to me so many times, personally. I had saved a vinyl tablecloth, which I used again as a picnic blanket. My sister’s wedding singer cancelled last minute, thank God I studied church music and could literally just step up and SING the whole Mass including Schubert’s Ave Maria (with no rehearsal). (I’m still waiting for that opportunity where someone says, Denise, I will pay you a thousand dollars to sing a Karen Carpenter song! Alas, that has not happened yet.)

Having access to your own personal toolkit invites serendipitous synchronicity, which is when you are uniquely qualified and prepared for something, like when I got to sing for my sister’s wedding. Or when I used my experience training volunteer choirs to sing diphthongs to help teach my young child to correctly say the letter Y.

Or writing this post.

How do you plan? Are you organized? Do you like inspirational or motivational words? Let us know below.



Well, Well, Wednesday


Sometimes the best thing I can do for myself is NOT to write a wellness post on Wednesday.

Sometimes I spend my entire lunch period wondering about where I should go for lunch, and then it’s too late to go anywhere. Lunchtime is over.

Wednesdays are like that, too.

I am learning to be more flexible and expect the unexpected. Again.

When I was younger, I was so carefree.
I lived life as an INFP*,
Never knowing or caring where I would be
Improvising, literally

Adulting’s responsibilities
caused me anxiety
stifling my creativity

I’m finally coming back
I’m coming home
To being Me.

See? And here I thought I was going to type a post about my reading list and the virtues of paperbacks. Maybe talk a little about writing my new book of stories and recipes. Instead I wrote a poem.

Welcome to the Key of Dee.

*Introverted iNtuitive Feeling Perceiver according to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator personality theory. Check it out on

Plan, to Have Fun

As a child, I was happy frolicking around with no schedule.   In college, I resisted organization to the point of refusing to use my dorm desk for study, rather it housed my awesome keyboard. I celebrated being an INFP on the Myers Briggs. (That’s Introverted  Intuitive Feeling Perceiver, which basically means I didn’t even own one of those trendy organizer-planner thingees, whatever.)  College was great for spontaneity. Feeling like driving into San Francisco?  Cool! Feel like seeing Beach Blanket Babylon?  Cool!  Whoops, it’s sold out.  Want to see Phantom of the Opera instead?  Cool!  I did seem to have a knack for planning which courses to take and when to take them, it seemed.  (I knew the one finite math class was offered in  alternate years and would steer my liberal arts friends toward it.)

Eventually I learned how to marry my spontaneous nature with the necessity of responsibility.  You have to plan (at least a little), in order to have fun.  Fortunately, I am drawn to research.  I don’t always enjoy the coordination with others that planning sometime requires.  I find there are more people who resist planning than I thought.  Some people like to think of themselves as spontaneous, but they aren’t really.  And there are others  who always seem to want to change the plan to tailor their own individual needs, not of the group.  Those are the ones who accuse you of Not Deviating “the Plan.”

Here’s what I have learned:  Plan, to Have Fun.

In order to manage our family’s activities and household needs, I have to pretty much map out the weekends.  Then we have everything we need, and nobody’s late.

Disneyland.  Disneyworld.  Universal Studios’ Islands of Adventure. There are places you can’t go without having a plan.  Otherwise you end up standing in line all day like the Heck Family did in the television show, the Middle. I raced through US:IOA in Spring Break 2012 with a 103* fever because I wanted to get into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter first thing.  As you do.  (But be flexible, a ride could shut down and then you might have to adjust accordingly.)

I have plotted and outlined whole novels.  I even assigned myself scenes to write on certain days.  That hasn’t totally panned out, as sometimes my characters tell me they had other plans!  Also, halfway through November, Life interrupts and we have to take a road trip, start Christmas shopping, order holiday cards, etc. You know. Remember this photo of my Advent Calendar?

Tis the Season

Tis the Season

I research our vacation destinations with pleasure.  I study the airline entertainment options.  I study the cruise ship’s entertainment.  I pin packing tips on Pinterest. I have chargers for all devices and a mini powerstrip.  I make lists and lists and lists. I pre-purchase museum tickets (or show tickets) online prior to our departure. I plan my outfits and the kids’, so that we pack minimal items and do a wash halfway through the trip. Myself, I chose two accent colors and basic neturals, so anything can be switched.  For my kids, I choose brightly colored clothing for the days when we will be in busy crowds, so that I can easily spot them.

Because then, I can relax, knowing all this was already planned.  Sure there are some details that we figure out when we get there, but generally, I have an idea of what we are doing and when before we even get there.

Sometimes plans change.  Like when we missed our ship excursion due to having overslept.  (Whoops !) So we improvised, enjoying a delightful afternoon in Sicily, and it was perfect. Also, our reserved tour was cancelled in Barcelona, so after a quick consult of a handy guidebook, I suggested a fun tram ride with sweeping views and a walk along the beach in Barceloneta, and tapas, before heading to visit La Familia Sagrada.  One of the best afternoons of our trip, for sure. (Stay tuned for my Mediterranean Cruise travel journals!)

Tapas Tapas

Tapa Tapa

What are some ways that you plan to have fun?


I had an electronic keyboard in my dorm room.  On the desk where one would normally do homework, that is where I had by workstation.  I practiced and composed a lot of music back in the day.   I became inspired to write a musical, Mass parts, instrumental pieces, pop songs, and liturgical songs.  One of my compositions from that era, Be Still, was later published by GIA Music.

Many things led led me to that particular piece.  I was taking a course in Religious Studies called Christian Love, and one of the books we read cited  Psalm 46 verse 10.  I’d just finished writing a piece for flute and piano, and I liked a little turn of the flute melody, which later became the piano accompaniment into the verses of this piece.  At the time I thought writing lyrics inspired from others scripture verses -and relating them to music- was clever.  Though in actuality, too many scriptural references may have made it hard to find liturgical publication (it didn’t fit too easily in any one part of the Catholic Mass).  The first verse is inspired by a story in the Old Testament,  the second is inspired by the Emmaus story in the Gospels, the third by one of the Psalms. I thought the fourth verse, without an obvious scripture reference, was divine inspiration.

Leave behind your fears and worries

Soon you will rejoice,

You will rejoice and know/

You have no need to worry.

Imagine my surprise YEARS LATER as I drove down the freeway listening to KKIS 98.1 FM. I was groovin’ along to Chic’s “Good Times” when I heard

These are the Good Times!

Leave your fears behind.

MO-DED!  I had to admit, maybe I had been inspired by this Disco song.  Or maybe others.  My verse was kind of a hybrid of this song and Heatwave’s

Leave your worries behind,

‘Cause rain, shine don’t mind

We’re riding on the groove line tonight.

(Sing with me, now: Ooh-ah!  ooh-ah!)

You know I love you if you heard that in your head and/or sang it out loud!

So I’m writing about this now because you never know.  You never know where inspiration may come from.  Sometimes -lots of times- it is not where you expect it.  Disco lyrics swimming around your mind two decades past the era.

But it’s all related, it comes full circle.  It is your journey.

A Maze in Grace is now available in Kindle on  Print version coming soon.

Advent Calendar

Starbucks has their Advent calendars out.

But really it’s just a candy box.

Yes, I am offended that Starbucks markets it as an Advent calendar.

Advent is the Catholic understanding of the season of preparation for the religious reason for the season: the birth of baby Jesus. The Incarnation of God made human.

This is major theology, folks. Not chocolates in teeny boxes at a first world coffee shop.

There’s already enough distractions. We live in a commercialized smart-phone zombie world in which retailers are opening earlier and earlier on actual Thanksgiving Day in America. Amidst all the “Christmas” hype, I’m drowning. Where are you, Christmas?

Somehow, my kids perceive the magic. This is my kids’ Advent Calendar.

Little People

Little People

This is mine.

Tis the Season

Tis the Season

Am I the only one who inevitably feels like I’ve been run over by train?

My calendar is already filling up.

This year I am honoring Advent. I am practicing mindfulness and scheduling self-care.

In all my years as a highly sensitive introverted intuitive feeling perceiver, I have resisted scheduling and traditional organization. I much prefer the creativity and spontaneity that comes from well, organized chaos. But not utter chaos. We live in a society, after all.

One thing I’ve learned is to Plan to Have Fun. That is, Plan, to have fun. I know if you buy airfare in advance it doesn’t cost as much. I know that when I pay the mortgage first, I can better visualize what remains for expense and excess. I get the chores out of the way, so I can play. I don’t love the chores and the mortgage, but it’s part of the process. I admit I do enjoy consulting my ten year historical gifting spreadsheet, though. Knowing little girl B is now the same age little girl A was when I have her the musical tea set, I can now look for the same set online. The preparation is anticipation.

I guess Advent translates to our modern world, after all.

Snow White