What I Learned in 2015

I will try to keep my What I Learned in 2015 post fairly short and sweet as I feel that my last few posts have been pretty reflection-y and I’m ready to get on with the new content and year, already! But, being the natural processor that I am, when I saw emily p. freeman’s link up, I couldn’t resist the temptation to write my own. Here’s my last What I Learned post.

What I Learned in 2015

  1. I learned that real estate debt is good debt. This seems so obvious now, but I’m typically all caution before risk to the point that I may never take a good risk. The purchase of our first home in May of 2015 has finally found me at the point where I’ve never been more certain of a decision (and the need for an emergency fund). Paying the same amount or more in rent was simply no longer making sense. However, if you are in a rental, read this post I wrote on making your rental home as there’s a season for everything.what I learned in 2015, What I learned in 2015, from a Woodey Allen quote (bleh!) to some bloggers you should follow to why we take mini-trips.| naturallyjmharris.com
  2. I learned that mini-trips are always worth it. Which is why we have another booked for the end of January! We’re willing to make choices throughout the year to make it possible, such as more ( most!) dinners at home, little money spent on “entertainment,” fewer frivolous purchases, etc. It’s just what works for us and what we look back on as one of the year’s highlights.What I learned in 2015, from a Woodey Allen quote (bleh!) to some bloggers you should follow to why we take mini-trips.
  3.  I learned that my decor style has shifted as I have matured. I have shocked myself by learning that I am much more of a modernist at heart than I ever would have predicted. Just one look at my Pinterest boards will reveal a love affair with all things clean lines, golden birch, and mid-century mixed with California eclectic. But just the other day one of my best friends was in our house for the first time and said that it looked “so much more like me” than our other places. Now if I could just grow into the minimalist side a little more, my husband would be thrilled.
  4. I learned that “80% of life is showing up,” though I hate to quote Woodey Allen. The statement seems quite true in more ways than one. This year I’ve applied a lot of the creative discipline teachings that I learned through college to real life, and it’s not really about much more than showing up every day. Again, and again. (Dare I say, the same principle seems to apply to relationships?)
  5. I learned that it’s worth cultivating what I love. This fall, I decided to bake & sell homemade pumpkin breads as a side outlet and way to support my little family. It was perhaps the first time I’ve taken a creative idea for income and put it into action. Though it was of course a small effort, it gives me confidence in myself & my ideas moving forward.

What I learned in 2015, from a Woodey Allen quote (bleh!) to some bloggers you should follow to why we take mini-trips. 6. I learned that online creative entrepreneurs online lend so much inspiration! I’ve been closely following the blogs & outlets  of a handful, including Natalie at Natalie Creates & Elise from Enjoy It. Essentially, I want to be them when I grow up. The end. Also, comment below with YOUR favorite online gal!

Happy New Year, friends. I’ll be back soon with some thoughts + practical tips on how to set goals for the year! In the meantime, remember to follow me on Instagram if you aren’t already for a 12 days of Christmas post series.

What I Learned In October


Could it possibly be almost  November?  This month has been a total whirlwind, which, if you follow me on Instagram, you probably already knew.  My husband and I finally moved to our new home, which is a cute 1970s bi-level we’ve been working to make livable since May. I can hardly believe we’re actually living here after so much time, struggle, and work put into it. More on that later, but for now I wanted to let you know of a couple of changes around here:

First off, I will be regaining my bi-weekly posting schedule. Going down to a weekly posting schedule for the busy summer months was a decision I still stand behind, but I missed being here so regularly. I’m still working out the kinks about what that will look like, but for now, please look forward to it and come back Tuesdays & Thursdays (you can subscribe by email to the right)! Thanks for supporting this little creative space.

Secondly, I will be investing in blogging and writing projects to a greater degree. In addition to bi-weekly posts, look forward to link-ups, free downloads, more varied content (such as challenges) and better design.  It’ll take time, but I can’t wait.

Now that the housekeeping is out of the way, onto the true topic!

What I Learned in October

What I Learned in October  linking up with emily p. freeman for What I Learned to share the silly, mundane, & profound learning experiences of the month

I might have a dairy sensitivity. Short of allergy testing, this means an elimination diet in which I don’t consume any form of dairy (raw or pasteurized) for a period of time. Once that time is over, I can try to re-introduce kinder dairy such as goat cheese or raw milk products. The main reason for this is to see if it clears up my cystic acne, which I recently also learned is the name for the type of acne that’s run rampant all over my face as a young adult. And of course, chances are it is affecting my body in a different way so I will be observing that. The biggest issues I have with this? Half and half in my coffee and obviously butter. Coffee is just not the same 😦

organic homemade coconut milk

Making coconut milk twice as strong with a tiny splash of vanilla is way preferable for coffee creamer than chemical-y tasting almond milk. You just use twice the amount of coconut that my recipe calls for (or half the water). Top with pumpkin pie spice and you’re golden.

I am really, seriously tired and in need of rest. I feel like the stress of the house renovation and the struggles of the last year finally caught up to me and just settled over my bones. We’re asking the Lord to wash off our weariness and fill us with joy.  We will also be coming up with (and sharing!) some Sabbath living ideas for this new season.

what I learned

I don’t want to let fall go. I felt like I miss fall last year due to prolonged sickness, so this year we made a fall bucket list (read here). We’ve already done several of the things (hiking, pumpkins, making applesauce) but we finally have the leisure time to spend doing the rest.

I love white walls (as does my husband). We decided to be daring and paint the bathroom teal since the rest of the house is painted a soft taupe white. And guess what? We hated it. And then painted it white. And now it feels 100% more calming and improved.

How to better live in the here and now. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the various seasons of life that we’ve lived through in our 2 years of marriage already. I’ve been realizing that everything I’ve ever possibly wanted or needed I don’t need to have all at once. Good things come in time, so for this time, I’m choosing to trust that I’m where I need to be until an open door proves otherwise.

Happy to be fully here, friends! May November usher in the calm and clarity that you need and may it find you continually grateful for the everyday. See you Tuesday!

July Goals + June Goals Review

Last month I shared my May Goals, a bit on why I goal set, and my June Goals.  I also created a goal setting exercise for anybody who needs a little help getting organized.  The brainstorming exercise is a way to bring to mind your own goals and then create a manageable plan to in order to achieve those goals.

so to review…MY JUNE GOALS (and how I did)

JUNE FOCUS: continue the work I’ve been doing + writing daily. Work on house and MOVE!   

obviously we didn’t move: #24catsstrikeagain. you can read some recent thoughts on our fixer upper story here & check out my Facebook page for progress updates.

consistently keep to blog posting schedule (Tue./Th. by 7am).   I’ve worked really hard to stick to this & I can’t thank you enough for reading. more words on this below.

-Prepare several freezer /make ahead meals for the busy work-on-the-house days. I didn’t do this, but I probably should’ve.  We made do. We ate a few no-cook meals of meat, cheese, & hummus & I made a few simple meals, but the truth is cooking is the one thing that has fallen to the wayside as we’ve been spending almost every evening at the house. We’ve both noticed the effect on our body (Solomon thinks he’s gained a little weight, I’ve been extra fatigued) & I’m hoping to improve this this month.

Decide on a functional temporary office space. We had originally thought that we could move my desk and set up internet at the new house, but then decided it wouldn’t be functional.  I moved my desk to another room & while the internet still isn’t consistent, it has helped some & it’s the best I can do for now.

Devise some social media + phone limits. I haven’t actually set concrete limits but I’ve been mindful of leaving my phone at home from time to time & putting it away to spend time with Solomon.  I’ve also been working to schedule posts ahead of time to prevent constant phone attachment.  I could improve, but I’m content with where I’m at for now.

Start juicing again or making smoothies somewhat regularly.  Check. See my Instagram for proof.

Sheesh, that review was a bit lengthy.  Moving right along.


I have to say, I debated even setting July Goals.  June turned out to be a hard month. Everything feels unpredictable.  My husband’s work schedule is never consistent.  We’ve been working on the house with every scrap of time we have and running into issues we didn’t know were there.  Our living situation is temporary.

I need a little bit of time to breathe.


-Post one day/week instead of 2. This is temporary. I don’t want to make a bigger deal out of this than it is, but I will say that it will free up space to develop Naturally J.M. Harris further + get myself organized & that’s space I need to give myself during this crazy time. I will still remain active on social media.

-Start making/ packing dinner more days than not.

-Keep working on house (given)

-Be honest with self + my husband re: my limits.

These monthly goal setting posts will become a blog series!  At the beginning of every month, I will review last month’s goals and share my goals for the upcoming month.  I’d love if you shared yours – whatever form they may be in – so we can motivate one another.

Gifts for Graduates


As my previous post mentioned, it is graduation season.  Chances are you’ve already attended a graduation ceremony and party or two, but if you’re anything like me, you have a few gifts yet to give.  I decided to put together this post as an answer to the question:  what I do I get ______?

My cousin Maddie just graduated and is going into my program – Creative Writing – that I just graduated from last year.  It’s a bit emotional and strange for me to consider.  When I graduated college last May, everyone asked me if I was relieved, expecting to hear a resounding YES.  However, graduating was a bit shocking.  I poured my heart and soul into that degree, y’all.

Although my “college experience” was a bit atypical (I got married the summer after junior year) it was formative and wonderful and painful and I found myself among a community of writers that I never wanted to leave.  My program was where I discovered that 1). there were other (creative) people like me; & 2). I had a ton of work to do before my work could be considered good (read: my inborn talent would only carry me so far).

The thing about graduating is that you work so hard and are so immersed in a world that is suddenly GONE.  Maybe it’s just my personality type, but I personally experienced this feeling following both my high school and my college graduation.  There’s a certain safety net surrounding school.  You’re free to philosophize about yourself and the world around you all day if you want, but when you graduate you have to actually face the aforementioned realities.

Acknowledge this change with your graduate, but reassure them that there is SO MUCH joy ahead nevertheless.

Processed with VSCOcam with t1 preset

anywayyyyyyyys. moving right along. [I apologize for that display of pessimism.]

First of all, cash never fails.  Cash over gift cards, too.  You may think a gift card is a smidge more personal, but trust me when I say that the graduate is in desperate need of cash to apply towards a car, laptop, textbooks, fill in the blank – or even that sky high tuition.  Don’t feel bad about giving cash.

but if you do want to give a physical gift….

Think office supplies (if they are going to college or any desk type job).



Moleskine pocket notebooks. the so not cheap but 100% worth it notebook.  I can’t even explain the magic of this brand if you’ve never tried it.  these are perfect for any creative type, serious type, you-name-it type.  I’m not kidding.  Get over the sticker shock and pick up a set of three for $9.50 from Target.

A pretty, gold striped notebook. Useful for actually taking notes or for distractedly writing bad poetry or to-do lists while the professor is lecturing. The one pictured at the top of this post was $5.99 from Target.

Good pens. I grabbed 2 felt-tipped pens for $2.29 from Target. It doesn’t take long before you realize that the stick, ball-point pens are not gonna cut it because your hand is cramping like mad from your overly-ambitious prof’s power points on feminism.

Tube of lipstick. I grabbed the Wet & Wild brand for $1.97 to remind my graduate that she can be anyone she wants to be  so long as she is true to herself.

IMG_2608For a more serious type (or male):

this “decomposition” notebook that is made of 100% recycled pages, a moleskine notebook or three, & pen or $5 Starbucks gift card (trust me, all the serious types study there with their oversized glasses and macbooks. I may or may not have been one of them).


Also pictured:

Gold washi tape from the $1 bin at Target. Perfect for hanging up posters they will later regret & decorating their planner.

“Notes” pad from the $1 bin at Target. I use these things nonstop for to-do lists.  Most are magnetized and can be stuck on their mini-fridge to warn their roommate not to steal their food or else.

Floral (small) notebook from Target for $1.99. For to-do lists alternatively or those misfortunate days when the academic planner cannot be found because its under a pile of laundry.

And remember.  If all else fails, CASH. Happy Graduation season, and don’t forget to read Conan O’Brien’s Commencement Speech.

[psst. I received no compensation for this post. this blog is not for profit. I just love Target that much & hoped that by detailing the products + prices it might make your gift giving a bit easier.]

Stay Healthy and Succeed In Times of Busyness

If you follow me on Instagram or my Facebook page, you know that my husband and I are walking through the busiest season ever (well, maybe not ever, but it’s pretty intense!).  We recently purchased our first home, a total fixer, and have been fixing it up with every scrap of time we can find.  It’s one of the best, most fun things we have done together, but it’s also among the most demanding and exhausting.

I came across this post from my old blog and still resonate with it completely, so I decided to run it here. The nature of my busyness is different than when I was in college, but I still find the points relevant, and hope they are as helpful to you as they are to me!

Stay Healthy and Succeed In Times of Busyness 


1. Learn to prepare several simple meals, or rely on freezer meals made ahead. Consuming healthy foods will benefit you greatly, from energy levels to general health. The simplest stir fry or meat with plenty of vegetables take 15 minutes tops and it is always worth it.

2. Don’t overuse caffeine. I have made this mistake time and time again, only to learn that consuming too much coffee leads to a total crash in energy. Instead, I drink one cup in the morning and one in the afternoon (around the time I study). This take advantages of the energy benefit without disrupting sleep.

3. Juice (or make smoothies). When you are busy, it is far easier to make a juice packed with nutrients from a variety of vegetables (emphasize the greens, add an apple or citrus -even protein powder- for extra energy) than it is to ensure you get enough with every meal. You’re being hard on your body, so it’s important to replenish it best you can.

4. Hydrate. Drink as much water as you can. Bonus points for adding organic Apple Cider Vinegar to boost your immunity.  It goes without saying to avoid sugary drinks with corn syrup and pop.

5. Exercise or just get in nature. Take 20 minutes and go on a walk or do some yoga. One of the greatest pieces of advice I have been given relating to writing is to take a walk when stuck. Step away from the work and come back once you’ve cleared your mind.


6. Take breaks. When you’re especially busy, it’s tempting to nix the breaks you would otherwise give yourself. Don’t! The consequence will be poorer performance or more time spent working/studying. I love to take breaks to cook a meal.

7. If you’re on a roll, keep working. Forget the time, forget whatever you had scheduled for the night. Those spurts of solid energy are few and far between and it will greatly benefit you to take full advantage of it.

8. Shut out as much technology as possible including email, phone, facebook, pinterest, blah blah..and use the time you’ve saved to take those breaks and actually recharge.

9. Develop/utilize a system. I personally cannot live without sticky notes. Make your study time routine and familiar.

10. Don’t be a perfectionist (with your work). Now is not the time. Get it done, hand it in, and cross it off your list. Move on.  This has saved me many a heartache.


11. Sleep as much as possible. This goes without saying. If you have to compromise sleep (and don’t do it for long!), at least learn to nap.

12. Ask for help. I’m sure your mom would love to bring you dinner or your friend just listen to you vent. Last week I asked a sweet, motherly woman in my life for a hug. Sometimes that’s all you need.

13. Give yourself grace. Though I find it amazing what I can actually accomplish under pressure, I have limits I have to recognize. When I was in school, I  humbled myself and asked professors for extensions. I have a friend who goes to bed every night at 10pm, no matter what. It’s a personal boundary she has set for herself, and I think it’s wonderful. You can’t do it all, and that’s okay!

14. Know you will get through this. You will get it done…you will be fine. Encourage yourself positively. Every time I get overwhelmed I seem to forget this reality. I’ve done it before, and I can do it all again.

How do you get through times of busyness?  Do you have any tips to share or add?  I’d LOVE to hear them!

also: check back Thursday for my first post on our fixer upper! I cannot believe I haven’t shared about it here yet.  all I have to say is: GET READY!

Reflections on Busyness

We are currently walking through a season of busyness.  Truth be told: I hate being busy.  Busyness would never be my preferred mode of choice.  I used to assume that when I got out of college that I could control my busyness and would generally never have to be as busy again.

Ha, ha!  Right.  I now work from home and love the flexibility it lends.  Some days are more work-focused while others are largely spent on home tasks, while most are a mix of the two.  And guess what?  Sometimes I feel more busy than when I was that student balancing newly married life and college classes + coursework.

We are currently working + fixing our house + preparing for a move.   Our days have been feeling a lot like balancing acts that we are some days better at than others.  I will be running a post from my old blog soon : an old favorite based on practical tips for managing busy seasons and staying healthy while doing so.

For now, though, here’s a few of my current takeaways.

Busyness doesn’t have to steal your joy. I had the craziest, most intense day recently.  I felt like I managed a hundred different things, from scheduling to grocery shopping to work on the house to meeting with a friend.  At the end of the day, however, I was content – I had done what I could. Every busy day is a choice. Are you going to let it steal your joy?

Even in busyness, life is still good.  Life is good and the Creator is the same, unchanging and steadfast.  When life seems out of control, remember this.

Make time for relationships. Wait, doesn’t this seem like something that could wait?  Not in my mind.  I’ve been inviting friends to work on the house, come along on Target runs, or grab coffee for an hour.  I invite them into my life.  Nurture those relationships.  They keep you sane.  Plus, love isn’t a part-time calling.

You can choose what to push to tomorrow (or next month or year). There are things I’d love to get done, like paint our new front door or redesign this blog’s header – good things that will just have to wait until I can enjoy them even more.

Evaluate your priorities. In contrast to the paragraph above, some things can’t wait.  For me, these are tasks like paying bills and tiling the bathroom shower.  Because these are priorities, I can free up space to complete them – it makes doing them 100% less stressful.  No one can do it all. Sorry.

Look forward to a less-busy time.  Plan for it even! I’m a firm believer that busyness is meant to be temporary, not a way of life.  For us, once we move in, the work on the house will PAUSE.  There will be many more projects to complete, but we will choose to enjoy our first days in the new house, one another, and take back some of those slow evenings we don’t presently have.

emerson quote | reflections on busyness naturallyjmharris.com

Goal Setting Exercise


Last week I posted about my June Goals.  I received some positive feedback, so I thought I’d go ahead and create an exercise to help you brainstorm, set, and follow through with your own goals!

So, let’s set some goals together! HERE’S A SIMPLE EXERCISE TO GET STARTED:

1. Grab a scrap piece of paper and write a the top of it My Main Focus. You can interpret that as you’d like – it can either be super big picture (like a life focus) or just for the month or even week!  Scribble a couple of sentences or a short paragraph.  [It if is taking you a while to get there, you could start by making a list of what is most important to you, professionally and personally or whatever your life looks like.]

here’s mine:

  • My main focus is developing my creative life as a whole with the long term goal of writing professionally from home. My personal main focus is nurturing my home life and relationships.

“The real pleasure of one’s life is the devotion to a great objective of one’s consideration.” – George Bernard Shaw

2. Write How Can I Get There at the top of another sheet.  This list is PRACTICAL whereas the other was a bit dreamy.  Maybe you said you want to value your marriage, so on this sheet you would write something like have regular date nights and even some idea of what those dates might be.

Here’s a few from mine – the creative life focus, anyways:

  • Focus on maintaining blog + social media
    • develop posting schedule, etc. 
  • Write daily
    • Create Evernote notebook for the task, set phone reminders
  • Read a freelance book
    • Order one from Amazon and take notes
  • Have an active reading life
    • Always be reading a book
  • Implement rest to prevent burn-out
    • Set social media boundaries, designated work hours, etc. 

3. Get out your planner and pick just one of those practical items to implement starting this week.  So based on my list, I could set up the Evernote notebook and write “write 500 words” every day in my planner this week. (I could even set a time of day.) Then I could set a daily recurring reminder in my phone until I establish the habit.

If you make daily choices that are consistent with your goal over and over again, you will eventually reach it — though it may look nothing like what you expected. -Nadia Goodman, TED talk

4. (optional) If you wanted to take this even a step FURTHER, you could get out another sheet of paper and brainstorm expected hinderances to achieving your goals (and adjust your How Can I Get There sheet accordingly).  Being aware of what those are will help you be on guard for when they surface.

Finally, give yourself grace. Don’t set goals that are too lofty or unattainable – you will only get discouraged.

I’d love to know your goal-setting process, or, if you are new to the idea, what most overwhelms you – we can help each other out! 


[image #1 : background modified from death to the stock photo, image #2: storylineblog.com]