Dream Big – How to Set Big, Juicy Goals

Dream Big - How to Set Big, Juicy Goals

Do you remember the last time you dared to dream big? For many of us, it goes all the way back to childhood.

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” It’s a question every child is asked nearly from the time they can talk. Until I was nearly out of elementary school, my answer was always, “Live in a big house with lots of animals.”  Invariably I got a smile and a kind and encouraging word…no one judges the dreams of children.

By the time I reached my teen years my sweeping passion was horses, and I still fantasized about a future filled with animals (I alternated between wanting to be a vet and wanting to ride in the Olympics). I believed in those dreams with my whole heart, but now I was starting to get some less than positive feedback (my parents called it “being realistic”).

Soon after I was out of school (having traded my pre-vet major for accounting), I set aside my passion for horses (just for awhile, I told myself) to start a family. Over the next two decades, I did the “responsible” thing and worked hard to provide for my kids. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t regret for one second pouring myself into my family 100%!

But…one day I looked around and somehow found myself solidly in middle age, and it had been more than 25 years since I had ridden a horse. My inner teenager was mortified, disappointed, and full of regret.

Does this sound familiar?

If you’re like me and many others, life happened to you too, and you woke up one day with dreams long buried, dreams that were only meant to be temporarily shelved. Maybe you have accumulated a list of “someday” dreams. Maybe, you have even forgotten how to dream big.

Well, today we are going to channel your inner child and do some serious dreaming! It’s not too late to chase – and catch – your wildest dreams, no matter what your current circumstances are.

First, some rules:

NO JUDGEMENTyour inner critic is not invited to this party

SET ASIDE FEAR & REGRET – they are also not welcome

SUSPEND LIMITATIONSnot is not the time to worry about the “how”

Download this worksheet to help you with the exercises

Ready? Here we go.


1. let’s brainstorm (or, as i call it, “dreamstorm”)

First, make a list of all the things you can think of that you want to be, do, or have. Don’t censor yourself! Imagine you have everything you need to make all of your dreams come true – all the time, money, and resources in the world. Just start writing and see what comes out.

Write down everything that comes to mind, no matter how big, small, or seemingly impossible.

Still stuck? I get it! As moms, we have made careers out of putting others first. Sometimes when we have stifled our dreams for a long time, it can be difficult to get started. Here are some prompts to help “prime the pump.”

  • What did you love doing as a child?
  • Where would you like to travel?
  • What have you always wanted to learn to do?
  • Who have you always wanted to meet?
  • What did you want to be when you grew up?
  • Is there a career that has always fascinated you?
  • Do you want to start a business?
  • How would you like to give back?
  • Are you satisfied with your health and fitness?
  • Are there ways you would like to challenge yourself?
  • Need more inspiration? Check out Pinterest!

2. Set it aside

I guarantee that once you have opened the floodgates, your heart and soul will continue to feed your brain ideas while you go about your daily life. I call it “percolating.” Sometimes my best ideas come to me while I am in the shower or walking the dog!

Pay attention, and add things as they come up.

3. Review & edit

Now that you have a list of your wildest and most wonderful dreams, big and small, it is time to read over it and pay attention to your reactions.

Do these things resonate with you? Excite you? Inspire you? Do they align with your values? Most importantly, are these dreams YOUR DREAMS?

For years, I aspired to goals I thought I was supposed to aspire to. My list included far to many “shoulds.” Don’t let this happen to you – it will cause you a lot of stress and distress. There is no room for “shoulding” all over yourself here!

Cross off anything that isn’t authentically you.

Next, look at your list with a critical eye and decide if there are dreams that would require so many resources that pursuing them would interfere with other parts of your life or other important goals. Decide if there is another way to include them, or honor their importance and let them go with love.

Finally, make sure that each of the dreams you have listed are specific. For example, don’t say “I want to travel.” Say, “I want to visit each of the 50 states.”

4. put your list someplace special

I am a sticky note addict, but our dreams deserve something better, don’t you think?

  • Write out your list, laminate it, and hang it somewhere you will see it often
  • Find a beautiful journal to record your dreams and progress
  • Blog about it!
  • Create a word document or spreadsheet
  • List them on a website, such as BucketList.org (as an added bonus, you will be able to give and receive encouragement from others chasing their dreams)

5. Look at it often

Keep your dreams front and center so you are constantly motivated to work toward them!

What are some of your big dreams? You can see mine here. Share yours in the comments!

Meal Plan: Week 38

Meal Plan: Week 38

meal plan for the week

I think my recipe choices for this week’s meal plan reflect my excitement for my favorite season, and the fact that I have been under the weather for almost two weeks now. Definitely craving some comfort food!

1. Avocado Baked Egg ~ Six Sisters Stuff

Can you believe I had never had an avocado until about six years ago? How did I make it four decades without them in my life?

2. Classic Meatloaf ~ McCormick

This is Mom’s meatloaf recipe and definitely comfort food! I tried a Paleo recipe in the past, and the kids said no bueno, so I plan to modify it by using gluten free bread crumbs. The ketchup does have  sugar in it, but compromises need to be made sometimes so the teenagers don’t live on hot dogs! We also put Mom’s homemade chili sauce on top – my mouth is already watering!

3. Parmesan Roasted Cauliflower ~ Peace Love & Low Carb

This will be a side that goes with the meatloaf, I think. Also, my eldest is a vegetarian, so she will probably make this her whole meal. I’ll have to double the recipe so I have leftovers!

4. Pan Fried Italian Chicken ~ Barefeet in the Kitchen

This week was the first time I ever made pan-fried chicken, and IT WAS SO EASY (I’m not kidding when I say cooking is not in my skill-set)! I will definitely include some variation of this on my weekly menu going forward.

5. Paleo Sloppy Joes ~ My Natural Family

I have never made sloppy joes from scratch (I’m sure that comes as a surprise), but this recipe looks delish. I’ll skip the bun and load up on veggie sides.

6. Zucchini Lasagna Rolls ~ Recipe Runner

This recipe does have cheese in it, which I am supposed to be avoiding, but again, with a vegetarian in the house sometimes I have to make compromises.

7. Spanish Bean Soup ~ The Noshery

This is a more grown-up version of the recipe that we make – we just use canned potatoes and garbanzo beans and link kielbasa. It’s a recipe the non-vegetarian kids both love and as a bonus, it’s something they can and will make. It’s always a win when I don’t have to cook!

8. Rotisserie Chicken ~ Grocery Store

I plan to pick up a rotisserie chicken each week on grocery shopping day, so I am not tempted to eat something unhealthy after grocery shopping and food prep. There usually isn’t too much left over for meals during the week, but I am going to make chicken broth from the bones.

I swear these words have never crossed my lips, but I can’t wait to get in the kitchen next week and do some cooking!

Sick & Tired


I am so sick and tired of feeling sick and tired.

Oh, and fat. I’m tired of being fat. After losing a significant amount of weight six years ago, I’ve gained it all back and more. If you add it up, I’ve gained more weight than all three of my pregnancies combined. Sob.

While I can blame some of it on a legitimate health issue (I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism at 14 and Hashimoto’s a few years ago), my biggest problem by far is me. I am my own worst enemy.

I love to eat. Food is my drug, especially since I quit smoking 7 years ago. I hate to grocery shop. I hate to cook. And although I enjoy being outdoors and being active, it takes a lot of energy to pry myself off the couch.

Over the years I have lost and gained the same pounds again and again. With every birthday, it gets harder and harder to shed the pounds, but they manage to come back so much easier! To add to the frustration, things that worked for me when I was younger don’t work for me any more.

Now that I have both feet pretty solidly in middle age, I have to do really hard things to get the weight off, and it comes off in ounces, not pounds. Hard things are…you know, hard.

Also, menopause can suck it!

All this is to say that it is time for me to stop being a whiney bitch, walk away from the fast food buffet, and get down to it. It’s not just about tight clothes or huffing and puffing my way up the stairs any more.

It’s not about the ever increasing pants sizes or the 4:00pm face plants that are immune to any amount of caffeine (and my daughter works at Starbucks, y’all, so there is no shortage of caffeine around here).

Suddenly it’s about the scary fact that my A1C number is right on the edge, even with medication.

It’s about the fact that metabolic syndrome is now part of my vocabulary, and my doctor has made me painfully aware of the risks associated with it.

It’s about being afraid for the first time in my life that I may not be around to see my grandchildren grow up.

So yeah, I’d say it’s time to get my head out of my ass the sand and stop putting off the hard things I have to do to get healthy.

Hard things like giving up gluten and dairy and sugar. I don’t know if the devil wears Prada, but I promise she comes bearing milk and cookies.

Hard things like sitting down and doing some meal planning, and then doing the grocery shopping, and then doing the actual cooking.

Hard things like getting up early to move my body, even though here in NC it is still far too warm and humid for a fat girl who sweats when the temps get above 72 (I swear I was meant to be a Canadian).

I know I can do the hard things. I’ve done them before. And I know that my journey won’t be perfect, because let’s face it – I’m still a highly reactive single mom with more issues than National Geographic.

But the rewards are so, so worth it.

Small step by small step, and ounce by ounce, I will find my fit. I have to, because my life depends on it.

50×50 Win – Go Tubing

I may have been one of the only people in the state who hadn’t been tubing before, but on July 27 I was finally able to cross that dream off my list!

Tubing on the New River

Twelve years ago when we moved to North Carolina, I made a list of mountain adventures I wanted to have. I have always wanted to live in the mountains, so naturally I figured living so close (within three hours) would mean that we would go all the time and check everything off my list pretty quickly.

Except, we only made it to the mountains twice. For a long time it was due to financial limitations, but then not spending money on vacations became a habit and I just didn’t prioritize it.

Jorden turned 21 in July (which doesn’t make me feel old at all), and what she wanted for her birthday was a trip to the mountains. I’d like to think I would have planned a trip anyway, but this gave me a great excuse to cash out my travel fund and make hotel reservations.

It was a quick trip – we arrived in Boone on Wednesday and headed home on Friday – because she could only get three days off work. We initially tried to go tubing on Wednesday afternoon because the weather forecast promised rain almost the entire time we were there. Unfortunately, we missed the last shuttle, so we decided to go first thing on Thursday before the rain rolled in.

On the way to the outpost, we drove through a quick thunderstorm, but by the time we got there the rain had stopped. It turned out to be perfect tubing weather, overcast and not too hot, and our two hour float was absolutely perfect.

We used High Mountain Expeditions, and we will definitely use them again! We are already planning a white water rafting adventure with them in 2018. I just love their two dogs in a raft logo!

High Mountain Expeditions Tubing Trip

It was so fun I was left wondering why the hell it took me so long to do this and why we hadn’t been spending every free weekend in the mountains. We will definitely be making regular trips back. In fact, if Jordan gets accepted into Appalachian State, we may be moving there next year!

Fifty by Fifty: My Bucket List


Over the years, I have created various bucket lists. I’m sure they still exist in notebooks or journals or computer files stored on an old hard drive somewhere. Clearly, they aren’t something I have spent a lot of time thinking about, much less planning to achieve.

A few of my big goals – the lifelong dreams I don’t need to see written on a piece of paper to remember – have been consistently pushed to the back burner for years, leaving me feeling frustrated and depressed. A little voice in my head was always asking “Are you ever going to make these dreams come true?”

After my 47th birthday, I think I freaked out a little (ok, a lot) about time passing me by without any forward progress. I started swinging blindly, taking action without thinking it through, trying to scrabble my way toward something, anything, before it was too late.

Thankfully, I came to my senses!

I took a pause before I did anything really stupid (like packing up and moving to a strip of land with a barn in Tennessee at a time my family really needed me here). After a lot of self-reflection, I came to the realization that I was jumping into things because I was afraid: afraid I was getting too old, afraid that if I didn’t do it right now I would never do it at all, afraid that I was stuck and my dreams were slipping away.

I decided to make another list, but this time one that would live on a new blog, front and center. A concrete list of things to motivate and inspire me, but also things I could reasonably, with hard work and persistence (in the form of small, consistent steps) achieve before I turned 50.

Now I wake up every day with a feeling of purpose and direction. I know what I’m working toward, and it excites me. It gives me a structure around which to plan, and helps me decide how to spend my time, energy, and money.

I’m sure the list will evolve and change over time (I actually don’t even have fifty things just yet), but this is what I have so far. I plan to share my progress on a regular basis as I baby step toward my dreams…I hope you come along on this journey with me!


  1. Get a passport
  2. Learn calligraphy
  3. Lose the weight and keep it off
  4. Go white water rafting
  5. Go zip lining
  6. Learn to drive a team of horses
  7. See Pink in concert


8. Ride in a bi-plane
9. Build a Habitat for Humanity house
10. Catch up on scrapbooks
11. Visit Alberta, Canada
12. Go to Harry Potter World
13. Section hike part of the Appalachian Trail
14. Run a trail half marathon


15. Tour New England in peak leaf season
16. Jump off a cliff into the water
17. Learn another language
18. Grow a successful summer garden
19. Build a successful blog (hopefully you’re reading it!)
20. Toastmasters (yikes!)
21. Go hiking in the Rockies


22. Watch a meteor shower where there is zero light pollution
23. Go horseback riding on the beach
24. Go horseback riding in the Rockies
25. Get a truck (tow vehicle)
26. Get a camper
27. Go snow-shoeing
28. Become Certified Financial Recovery Coach


29. Go rock climbing
30. Go tubing
31. Buy an awesome new wardrobe that suits my style
32. Write a book
33. Figure out where I want to live
34. Go kayaking with dolphins
35. Send Mom & Dad on vacation
36. Visit 15 National Parks


37. Go whale watching
38. Ride in a long distance trail ride
39. Start personal finance non-profit
40. Meet the man of my dreams
41. Get an Australian Shepherd puppy
42. Take a photo every day for a year (Project 365)
43. See the Northern Lights


44. Learn archery
45. Travel cross-country in an RV like I did when I was young
46. To be determined…
47. To be determined…
48. To be determined…
49. To be determined…


50. Spend my 50th birthday in Scotland

So, there’s my list so far. I hope to have a lot of new memories to smile over on my fiftieth birthday!

Do you have a bucket list? What are some of the things on it? 

First Step

About six years ago, I stumbled across this little book sitting unassumingly on the shelf at the library. It looked interesting, and as I read it I felt little light bulbs exploding in my brain. It made so much sense! It was such a huge mindset change for me, and I used the philosophy of small steps to make some big changes.

I ran a marathon.

I started a side gig.

I registered theartofsmallsteps.com and made big plans to start a blog to document my small steps toward the life of my dreams.

I left a job that made me miserable.

And then…

I got sidetracked. That happens to me a lot. I am ADD and I see squirrels everywhere. Since then, there have been a lot of changes in my life – some intentional, some not; some good, some not. Now I find myself staring down the barrel of the big FIVE OH and I am nowhere near where I thought I would be, or where I want to be. I’m fat, stressed, and broke.

Things have got to change, but it seemed completely overwhelming when I looked at how far it was from here to there. Until I rediscovered the book, sitting unassumingly on a shelf at the back of my closet (my own copy, not the library copy, though I have been known to take almost that long to return a book now and again).

So I think it’s time for me to start the blog.

I am here. I am going to get there. I’m going to do it by taking as many small steps as necessary, and I’m going to share it all here.

First step…check.

50×50 Success Story #2

Ever since I got my JEEP, I’ve been casually checking out used RVs. Meaning, when I’m bored I jump on Craigslist and see what’s out there (even though pretty much everything road-worthy is out of my price range) and dream about traveling.

Well, last week, I stumbled across the perfect camper: it is absolutely adorable, affordable, and maybe best of all…the perfect Pinterest project!

We are going to work on it over the next few months, take her on some test runs over the summer, and hopefully hit the road long term in the fall.

Meet Lucille, our vintage “canned ham” 1961 Mallard:


She’s not much inside…yet…but I can’t wait to get started making her into our home away from home. Project updates to come!

50×50 Success Story #1


When I was 14, my parents took my sister and I on a cross country trip in a 25′ RV. At the time, the thought of spending six weeks crammed in a small space with my parents was about the worst thing I could imagine. As it turned out, those are some of the best memories I have and I dreamed for years of taking my kids on the same kind of trip.

Although two of my kids are older now and living their own lives (and will barely agree to share a hotel room with me due to my alleged snoring issues), I would still love to get a pop-up or small tow-along and go exploring with the one kid still willing to put up with me in such close quarters.

I wasn’t really in the market for a new vehicle, but as it so happened, my daughter and I were in a series of car accidents that left both of our cars totaled. With the paltry insurance proceeds, my mad negotiating skillz, and some good luck, we were able to replace both cars within our tiny budget, and I got my dream car – a Jeep Grand Cherokee. She is a ’99 and a little rough around the edges, but it only makes me love her more.

I can’t wait for the many adventures we are going to have together!