2013: My year in review

January 12, 2014

PSSTT! I am backdating this post to January, when it was originally written, but am just now publishing it because…because…well, because I’m apparently an airhead who forgets the difference between the Publish button and the Save Draft button. #doh And then doesn’t even notice her mistake for four long months. #doubledoh
Thanks for reading. :)
Hugs, AS 4-16-14

Phew. Where did the year go?! And don’t we say that every year?

The days go slow, but the years go fast. Couldn’t agree with that more.

Anyway, at the turn of every calendar, being the personal development, goal-setting, geeky gal that I am, I always like to set a few goals for the coming year. But before doing so, I think it helps to take a few moments to review the year prior. What did we accomplish? What surprised us? What goals did we even set for ourselves last January again? And wha? We really did all of that?! It’s a fun process.

I’ll share a few things we’re aiming to accomplish (Book publishing! Vemma growth! New baby!) in 2014 later this month. Today, here are my thoughts on what went well and not so well in the amazing year that was 2013.

What went well in 2013

Writing projects This was the year of pushing for progress on several major writing projects. There were moments I wasn’t sure I would survive, I’ll admit (the month of June, you’re lost to me), but man did I get so much done. I launched two huge full-length ghostwriting book projects for clients at the very beginning of the year. I had never done anything like that before, so the learning curve was high. Overall, though, I’m proud of myself for leaping into it and figuring it out as I went. I made mistakes, big ones.
1) Ask a LOT of questions at the beginning about what you will be writing, or else your bid could be way off.
2) Bid honestly. And don’t be afraid to value your time. Amen.
3) Specifying how many rounds of editing you’re willing to do is a must. Oh my.

I wrapped up one of those projects just as we found out we were expecting our second punkin in late June, basked in the glory of only have one project to focus on for a quick month, then launched another one in August. Seeing that first book listed on Amazon and holding it in my hands, priceless. Even though it didn’t have my name on it (hence the term ghostwriting), it was an enormous personal accomplishment. And a continual motivation. If I could produce that body of work in six months, what else could I do? Especially if it was my own content, or on a subject that I was personally passionate about?

In May, I frantically wrote a rough draft of a children’s book using my iPhone after writing it all in my head while in the shower moments earlier. This fall, I finally did something with that draft, editing it a bajillion times and contacting an author consultant to begin the illustration and self publishing process. The project has progressed, albeit rather slowly, something which is completely my fault, but I’m thrilled and scared to the death at the idea that sometime this spring I might be able to actually hold that book in my hands too. I have learned so much about children’s books that I never realized was even a thing: sizing of the book, font selection, color pallete selection, how to purchase the ISBN’s that all books have, self publishing options (read: tons of them), and how fun it is to request samples from illustrators and actually see interpretations of the character in your head come through your inbox.

Finally, I kept chugging along and writing and sharing here on anniesorensen.com. My little corner of the internet has been around for several years now, and I’m proud that, at the very least, it has succesfully grown and changed and morphed right along with me. It follows my personal journey, both in my writing styles, subject matter, and voice. Thinking about that makes me happy.

Press badge I may or may not have had my very first event pass that said Press on it this past summer.

And for a “I say I’m a writer but really I don’t think I am” type of gal, that was one of those little things that was really just SO FREAKING COOL. The end.

Personal financial accomplishments This year was a big year for Hubz and I personally. We extended an investment in a documentary that we made in mid-2012, kept our two single family home rental properties up and running and cashflow positive, sold our personal home quickly and at a large profit compared to what we purchased it for in 2007, and invested in a new home that we love.

Every year we set personal financial goals. Everything from how much we want to add to this account or invest in that place, to big goals like adding new rental properties or doing business with someone or something new. 2013 started out intending to simply be a year that maintained, and it turned into a year that really looked strong with growth. The year included smarter spending, lots of communication, and strong deposits into our investments. Awesome.

Baby numero dos I would be remiss to include a list of things that went well in 2013 without including our second child! We celebrated our first punkin’s first birthday in early May, and in late June found out we were expecting our second. In a couple months we will have a couple of little girls a couple years apart. And we’re thrilled.

Balance Ugh, do I hate this word. But I accomplished something close to it this summer when I employed a nanny for several hours a week and busted a move on my work in all areas.
I was able to get a ton done, of course, but most importantly got my groove back of balancing mommyhood with Vemma building and coffee drinking and writing. That confidence and contentedness followed me all the way through the fall, even well after the help was no longer available. I learned a lot, too. Namely, it doesn’t take much to make me feel comfortable in my work (#2 job) and my mommyness (#1 job). Just a couple hours a week makes all the difference in the world. Incredibly reassuring. And helpful for making future plans.

Expanded our team The people and experts that surround us – the accountant, banker, mortgage broker, contractor, painter, web developer, marketing expert, publishing expert, etc – we strengthened that team this year, adding a few new people to the roster and strengthening the relationships with those already a part of the team. I know that’s kind of annoyingly general, but it’s a big deal to us. To be able to be in a situation and have those relationships already established to call upon, it makes growing any business, venture, idea, or just life change in general that much more efficient and possible.

Expanded friendships For two homebodies who are often blinded by business goals and house projects, we often have to pathetically force ourselves to get out and focus on friends. But we did this year, including a ton of events with our wild toddler and even a week-long vacay. And it was so worth it. Surround yourself with people that make you better, surround yourself with people that make you happy…and as much as possible, remember that you will closely resemble the lives of the top five people you spend the most time with. We’re blessed with the new friends and even better old friends that were a part of our lives in 2013.
Kept dreaming I have often considered the time I spend writing in my personal journals as worthwhile, but actually sitting down to do it seems self-serving and pure entertainment sometimes. Selfish, even. Dreaming and big-hairy-audacious-goal setting is definitely one of those. Before doing it, it seems not as important as finishing these dishes or calling that plumber before his office closes or responding to those final two emails. But once it’s done, both immediately and long term, its importance is incredibly apparent. And it should have priority. Dreaming is the same way. Amongst it all, we found a few moments this year to dream together, Hubz and I. Future freedoms for our family, growth of our businesses, expanding our residual income streams, future travel, etc. I also kept it up for my personal goals, and I have big things on the horizon of my mind like a personal essay collection, continued personal daily journaling, speaking on stage in front of 5000 screaming Vemma affiliates, commerical real estate, turning my children’s book into a series, etc. All sorts of fun things await us and our family. Can’t wait. Some of these dreams we have expanded on and turned into accountable, measurable goals, others we haven’t yet. But they are there. And I would argue that’s half the battle.

What didn’t go so well in 2013

Lack of consistency here on AS.com This summer, when book project deadlines loomed and I was thrown off kilter with suddenly have a moving, exploring toddler, this ‘lil site got pushed to the backburner. I wish that hadn’t been the case. I write something, somewhere, every day, whether it’s in my journal, punkin’s journal, on my hard drive, for a client, on our personal family blog, or here on AS. While I think it’s more important to simply keep writing versus worrying about where I’m writing, I still wish I would have prioritized keeping up with posts here. This is one of the more formal outlets for my writing, and it pushes me. It’s easy to be casual. It’s harder to be polished and professional. If I can make time to write, I can make time to better spread that writing across all of my outlets.

Silicon Prairie News, wha? I miss my contributions to SPN! That was another outlet that pushed my writing – writing more journalistic, reporting-type pieces. I need to prioritize it again. If they’ll have me. :)

Not. Enough. Books. Okay, I don’t think I could ever read everything in a calendar year that I want to.
How many books would you like to read this year?
ONE MILLLLLLLLION!

Ha. But still, as I’ve mentioned, this was a year for experiencing a ton of new things and teetering this way and that to learn, adjust, and find our own definition of balance. Sitting down with a book, unfortunately, sometimes fell by the wayside. I still covered more than 33 titles, though, so I’ll consider that a win and be realistic with my goal for 2014.Vemma maintenance versus growth Maintaining a six-figure, largely residual-income producing business amongst wifey and mommy and writing and moving and family’ing and traveling and just life in general? That’s a win. A HUGE win. What Vemma has done for my family and our future, the lives of so many of our friends, family, and colleagues, our health and our freedoms is so substantial, I sometimes can’t even begin to wrap my head around it without shrinking into Do I even deserve all of this amazingness? type of thoughts. All of that being said, the company has hit momentum. Seven years to hit $100 million in annual sales ($10 mill + monthly), then $220 million in annual sales barely a year later. Uhh, yeah, ridiculous. There are pieces of the pie – HUGE pieces of the pie – still out there for the taking. Despite the massive growth, Vemma is still a microscopic fish in the ocean of networking, and the potential is limitless. It always has been, but it is even more so now, with huge recent changes to their business model. I don’t like limits. It’s up to me to step up and double, triple, quadruple the piece of our pie. The only way to do that is to help others do it, too. I’m on it.

Treading water with personal interests A year of new experiences and projects brings about a lot of awesomeness, but it also brings quite a bit of Thrown Off Kilterness. Leisure reading, as I’ve mentioned, along with things like consistently working out, focusing at all on one of my favorite hobbies: home decor, and even simple things that I take responsibility for like the dishes and the mail and cooking and housework.

It was an amazing year. On January 1, 2013 we had a 7 month-old infant, a cozy home we loved, and thriving businesses. 365 days later, on December 31, 2013, we had a 19 month-old talking and walking toddler, a new home, and a second pregnancy well into its sixth month. I wrote a full-length book, started new journals, read almost three books a month, and published 33 pieces here on AS.com and dozens more on our family blog. We kept up our two rental properties, continued our documentary investment, traveled as a family and as a couple, kicked off a large home remodel, and happily consumed loads of coffee and wine (well, at least the first half of the year) and meals with friends.

Can’t wait to see what 2014 brings. If anything, I know this for sure: it will be an adventure. Thanks for being there for us!

Hugs,
AS

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I’m almost done reading Happier At Home, the second “happiness” book from Gretchen Rubin. Her first, The Happiness Project, I enjoyed reading, but found a bit dull at times. This book I’m enjoying much more for some reason. Maybe I’m in a different place in my life? Perhaps it’s because I’m at home most of every single day playing mommy and wife and squeezing in Vemma and writing and real estate? Perhaps I’m simply enjoying it more because the book is just a bid more casual and laid back. Who knows.

Anyway. I haven’t been underlining passages in this book, something I do in almost all non-fiction I read, but a line I read earlier this week caught my eye. I actually got my almost-seven-months-pregnant self up from the arm chair, walked to the desk, grabbed a pen, and walked back. The quote was actually not from Rubin herself, but from another author she was referencing:

“My mind works in idleness. To do nothing is often my most profitable way.” – Virgina Woolf

How true is that!?! I practically said AMEN when I read it.

My mind. It *totally* works in idleness.

I get my best creative ideas in the shower.
I do my best planning while outside on a walk.
I can visualize and strategize like a pro when I’m driving down a lonely interstate. (Carefully, of course, Mom. Very carefully.)

I often get out of the shower or get home from a walk or hop out of the car and run like a crazed chicken to my laptop or journal or scrap piece of paper in an attempt to save some of the amazingness that just ran through my mind.

I am seriously productive when I’m not doing a damn thing. No cell phones, laptops, dishes, to-do lists, or energetic toddlers.

Are you like this? Do you let your mind sit idle often enough? Even though I know that I can be incredibly “productive” when I’m not doing anything, I know I don’t do it as much as I should. I definitely don’t plan it very often, if ever. However, a shower and a walk and a drive aren’t planned idle times, really.

Can you plan idle time?

Sitting on the porch by myself with nothing to read or look at or distract me is hard to do, at least for more than a moment or two. Even then, if I did accomplish it, the fact that I could immediately change my surroundings and grab a distraction kind of ruins the whole affect. After all, I’m pretty sure the productivity that comes with idleness only occurs when you let your mind fully relax and run where it wants to. One hour into a three hour road trip, where there’s no turning back or getting out, accomplishes that.

So that piece of this equation still needs a little sorting out. The chosen idleness part. The planned part.

Until then, I think I’m going to try and embrace the forced idle times a little better. Sometimes mind-wandering truly can be so worthwhile.

Don’t you think?

Do you get your best ideas in the shower too? I wrote the entire text of my children’s book, the idea of which had never occurred to me before then, in the shower last May. BK Boreyko came up with the idea for a crazy healthy energy drink, now the product behind a more than 100% growth in company-wide sales over the past year, in the shower a few years ago. Nowhere near as major, but I did some great strategizing a few weeks ago while on a road trip with my punkin.

Psst…quote from page 138-139 of the hardcover version of Happier at Home.

Your thoughts?
Am I the only weird one?
Do you think fabulous stuff while driving? Or working out? Or, umm, bathing?

Sending great and weird thoughts your way,
AS

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This is gonna be fun! Here we go, a few gift ideas for those in your life that are…

Book Geeks:


Kindle Paperwhite
Dude, the price tag on this thing is ridiculous at only $119, and with CNN’s stamp of “the best e-reader ever” you know you can’t go wrong. The no-glare, the lightness, the multiple-week battery life…I’m not sure why I don’t have one of these myself. Guaranteed to make your book geek recipient one incredibly happy camper.


B, by Sarah Kay
Sarah Kay became a sensation when she performed her poem “B” vocally at a TED conference in 2011. It’s beautiful, moving, and awe-inspiring. Seriously. This book version would be a lovely gift for mothers, daughters, grandmothers, aunts, or even a best friend.


Hogwarts House Metal Bookmarks
True book geeks love Harry Potter. True book geeks will GEEK OUT over these book clips. (Click the link to see better photos.) They will also put way too much emphasis on which house they choose to mark which book. (Not enjoying that book? MARK IT WITH SLYTHERIN.) But that’s the fun in it, right? And that is what makes us geeks. The end.


Jonathan Adler Elephant Bookends
Umm, yeah, these might be the cutest things ever. Plus, with JA’s line of home decor items at Barnes & Noble, you get a touch of his trendy design without the three- or four-digit price tag. Bonus.

Food Lovers:

Williams Sonoma Tortilla Soup Starter
Is there anything more fun than tortilla soup? It can be made a bajillion different ways, and almost all of them are delish. Add chips and your meal is complete. So many of the Williams Sonoma starters are worth the price, and this is one of them.

Gingersnap Boulangerie Jar Candle
Your house will smell like Christmas cookies, without having to clean flour out of the cracks in your countertop. What more can ya ask for?

Hammond’s Old Fashioned Christmas candy
Who else received these in their stockings as a kid?! Love love love. Such an enjoyable throwback.

Coffee Lovers:


Classic Sweater Mug
These are all the trend right now, but seriously, can you blame the trendsetters? These mugs just beg your hands to wrap around them and sip something hot and steamy. Bonus: they’d make a darling pen holder for your desk.

Dunkin Donuts French Vanilla Ground Coffee
Dunkin Donuts = Best Grocery Store Coffee Ever. Amen.

Writers:

“Be Filled With Joy” journal
Such an artsy and colorful cover. Use it for a daily journal, recording the witty things your children say, or to finally start jotting down that novel you’ve been meaning to write.


Seven Year Pen
I’m not sure about you, but I have a couple nice pens, and they’re so lovely that I find myself not using them very often. Instead, I do the majority of my journal writing with plain black Bic pens. Nothing against Bic, but wouldn’t something a little funkier be nice?

Why We Write, edited by Meredith Maran
I read this book last spring, and it remains as one of the most inspiring things I’ve ever read. It was eye-opening in that it was…realistic. Why We Write is a peek behind the scenes of some of the worlds most successful authors. In their own words they describe, well, why they write. And how they write. And, often, the fascinating stories of how they determined that pulling their hair out while writing books was what they wanted to do with their lives. This would be a thoughtful gift for aspiring writers, bloggers, self-published authors, or anyone looking to make a mark in the large, large world of books.


On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, by Stephen King
I haven’t read this one, but if you Google “books about writing” it always tops the results. A Memoir of the Craft is Stephen King’s famously candid account of how and why he writes. Any SK fan, writer or not, would enjoy this amazing look behind the curtain of one of publishing’s most prolific and successful authors.

Busy Mama:

Banana Republic slouchy beanie
The stocking hat that doesn’t ruin your outfit, while still disguising the fact that you haven’t washed your hair in two days.

Vemma Bod-e Burn
Natural caffeine, check. Protein, because heaven knows we don’t eat enough, especially for breakfast like we’re supposed to, check. All of the vitamins and minerals we need for a day on the go, check check and double check. Plus, a bit of carbonation to make us feel like it’s a special treat, got that too. A gift guide wouldn’t be complete on AS.com without a Vemma product, and while our Verve energy drinks are all the rage these days, the product I cannot.live.without is Bod-e (pronounced like body). You’ve gotta try it. And gift it. Today. The end.

Black & Grey Comfy Winter Cardigan
Perfect winter addition to the Mom uniform of a fitted tee or tank, leggings and boots. (The secret to scoring great clothing finds at Target? Raiding the mens department!)

Burt’s Bee’s Tinted Lip Balm
Lip balm and gloss in one. No need for both. Twofer. Use one get one free. Two products, one application. Do you need me to keep going?

Vintage bud vase set from Red Envelope
Because it’s rare that we’ll buy ourselves an entire bouquet as we walk by the display at the grocery, but prettying up our table with a small bud from the backyard is quick, cheap, easy, and a guaranteed way to make us smile every time we walk into the kitchen. Don’t make us put them in a juice glass.

Wohoo! Double high-fives for gifties. Hope this helps generate a few ideas for the lovely folks on your gift list this year. Or perhaps adds a couple things to your personal “totally gonna buy this with my Christmas money” list.

Happy holidays, everyone!

Hugs,
AS

Psst…a few, but not all, of the links above are affiliates. None of the products I was paid to mention, they’re just things I truly love. Over and out.

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I took a road trip with my punkin last weekend. We spent 14 hours total in the car, just the two of us, and somehow we made it home in one piece. Well, in two pieces. Her and me. I mean, but we were each in one piece. (Huh?)

What I’m trying to say is, we didn’t kill each other! Even though we both wanted to. A few times. Like, a lot of times.

Anyway, during one of the calm moments (read: when she was sleeping) I dialed up a recorded conference call from a few days earlier that I hadn’t yet had a chance to listen to.

And it knocked my socks off.

I don’t know if it was how quiet it was in the car, or the fact that I was driving solo down the interstate in the middle of Midwestern farm country, or perhaps I haven’t had a plethora of alone time to just veg and think lately, but I was overwhelmed with the message of the call.

The gist of it was: the time is now.

I had one of those moments where you hear something and immediately start processing it and formulating how you are going to use this newfound knowledge-slash-motivation-slash-determination to better yourself. I was day dreaming while listening and visualizing the results while formulating the plan to get them. I had a specific game plan before I even had the conscious thought of, hey, maybe I should make a plan!

The details of the call don’t matter (this one was specifically about Vemma), or even that it was a call instead of an event or a video or a conversation or a great book.

The point is that I 1) took the time to focus on it, 2) let it sink in, and 3) made a plan of action immediately after, or in my case during, the call.

Lemme expand on those a bit:

1) Discipline. I swear the ability to truly focus on something all comes back to discipline. You have to prioritize. Rearrange. It’s NOT easy to do to sit down and truly focus on only one thing at a time. Ask any working parent. Ask any stay at home parent. Ask any entrepreneur, period. But once you start, as with many things, it’s easy to finish. And you feel fantastic after you’ve truly focused on one thing with all of your attention for a while.

2) Just as important as prioritizing the time to focus singularly on something, is taking a few moments after to, well, stop. To pause. To process what you just did or learned or experienced. If we too quickly move on to the next distraction, we probably didn’t do ourselves much good, am I right? Take a breath. Let your brain cells absorb what they need to.

3) Motivation is temporary. It’s lost within days – hours and minutes even – of happening. (I think there are even studies on that? Right?) If you don’t make a plan to implement whatever new knowledge you gained or inspiration you picked up, you aren’t going to make any progress. You essentially wasted your time. And when we just took all that time to focus and process, what a shame to not follow through and make a game plan.

So that’s what I was thinking about driving up Interstate 35 towards Minneapolis last weekend, a sleeping punkin in the back seat. Focus, breathe, plan. Fun stuff. Simple stuff.

Let’s do this!

Have a fantastic weekend, all.

Hugs,
AS

2 comments

1. It’s our punkin’s half birthday today! 18 months. Wow.
2. The fall colors this year have been so stunning. I’m not sure if it’s my viewpoint that has changed or that they really are more brilliant this year, but either way, stun-to-the-ning.
3. I have not read a lot lately. I must remedy that. ASAP.
4. What should I read? I feel out of the loop.
5. Should we just sell our rental properties already?
6. Ugh.
7. No. No we shouldn’t. Keep repeating that, Annie. No no no no no.
8. Why won’t she sleep?
9. Why is the dog snoring so loud?

10. Who have I not shared Vemma with this week that I should have?
11. Stay in the game. Stay in the game stay in the game stay in the game.
12. What if everyone thinks my children’s book is dumb?
13. What if no one buys it?
14. What if a ton of people buy it and then expect me to write another one?
15. ACK!
16. I love our new house. It has a huge kitchen desk, plus a lovely office.
17. I love our new house. It has built-in bookshelves out the wazoo.
18. If more people were able to see into the future and see themselves and their lives if they took that risk today, would more of them be willing to do it? But would that even be considered a risk? I guess not…
19. Last year at this time, I was typing like mad and on my way to completing NaNoWriMo 2012.
20. I still have yet to open the file of the manuscript that I wrote last November for NaNoWriMo. Like, not even once. Me scared.

21. If I drink another Bod-e Burn this afternoon, will we run out before my next order arrives?
22. Annie, bump up your next order of Burn so that you don’t run out. Amen.
23. Oh! The baby just moved! Hello, little lovely lady.
24. Hey, little lovely lady, what is your name? Would you mind telling us? We’d really appreciate the help. Thanks so much.
25. My God am I grateful for my Vemma business. Sometimes if I think about it too much, about how it has affected practically everything in my life today, it overwhelms me and spins me into one of those mind meld type situations.
26. You totally know what I mean when I say mind meld, right? Like, think about space and how it goes into infinity. See? Mind meld! That’s what I mean.
27. I wonder if John Grisham’s new book, Sycamore Row, is any good?
28. I wonder why that children’s book, The Day the Crayons Quit, is a bestseller? I kinda sorta maybe didn’t care for it when I read it in B&N the other day.
29. I wonder if Sheryl Sandberg is going to write another book? Man oh man did I love her first one.
30. Umm, I totally want to read this. Shhh. Don’t tell anyone.
31. Can I add another hour into the day so I can spend it sipping coffee with vanilla creamer and reading in the sunroom?
32. I can?! Yes! Thanks so much.

Whoops, that was 32.

Hugs, ya’ll. Have a GREAT weekend!
AS

What’re you thinking about today?

2 comments