on taking stock and making resolutions.

January 3, 2017

hoping_notebook_reading_my_tea_leaves_img_6421I’ve never been someone to journal. (Full disclosure: I’m the particular breed of grumpy that rather balks at the use of journal as a verb.) List-making, however, I can get behind, and resolutions in particular. Jotting them all down with pen and paper is even better. 

James and I have a tradition of writing our New Year resolutions in a tiny shared notebook. It’s the same notebook where we keep a list of could-be baby names and a running list of places where we might travel one day. It’s a hoping book, if you will, and though the contents will no doubt be different for everyone, it’s a genre of notebook that I recommend everyone tuck into a sock drawer or a bedside table, or some spot for secreting away semi-secret things. 

(There’s no reason in particular that it needs to be so tiny, but I’ve never been very good at filling up adult human-sized notebooks. And I love tiny things best of all.)

Yesterday, Ashley Ford mentioned that she’d made a list of “firsts” that she’d experienced in 2016 and it struck me as the perfect kind of list for adding to our tiny book. The past year has gotten a fairly universally bad rap as a crappy year, but while I appreciate the impulse to slam the door firmly behind us, I also think it’s nice to acknowledge the complexity of a given year. It wasn’t all bad and it certainly wasn’t all good. In that spirit, here’s to compiling, along with our hopes for self-improvement going forward, a list of accomplishments looking back.

Maybe most appropriate for a year that felt difficult is that compiling a list of firsts doesn’t necessarily mean making only a list of triumphant moments—it can also include storms weathered, limits tested, strengths demanded. If there’s anything that might help inspire action and change and forward momentum, it’s recognition of what we’ve already done. A list of firsts can as easily be an ode to survival as it can be a list of successes. And of course, as anyone who’s survived anything can attest, to survive is to succeed.

So, here’s to making resolutions and taking stock, warts and all.

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  • Reply Loribeth January 3, 2017 at 11:14 am

    This is such a lovely idea Erin, thank you for sharing!

  • Reply Flora January 3, 2017 at 12:31 pm

    Hi Erin 🙂 I really enjoyed reading this (and admiring your beautiful pillow cases… I think I saw them on Instagram the other day and admired them then, too!).

    I like how you and James have a shared notebook: that’s lovely – a good way to note down snippets from tiny daydreams or conversations that you may or may not have had together! I particularly like the idea of noting firsts, though – good AND bad firsts. Ashley had a great idea there!

    Unfortunately 2016 feels like such a blur (it was a good year, just busy) that I’d struggle to think of many firsts right now… but a bit like performance reviews at work, I tend to better by listing down some examples throughout the year as and when they happen, rather than waiting for the end of the year and hoping I can recall all the details. So, perhaps I’ll invest in a tiny little journal like yours and just jot down the ‘firsts’ as they arise in 2017. 🙂 Wishing you a very good year indeed!


  • Reply KTINKA January 3, 2017 at 1:25 pm

    I love the idea of a list of firsts – I (worst filler of notebooks on the planet) might try that as well!

  • Reply Camila January 3, 2017 at 2:21 pm

    Such a lovely idea Erin. I think I’m going to do just as you suggested. Also, I bought a journal called The 52 lists projects. Not sure if you’ve heard of it, but it’s a pretty cool idea. I’m all for journaling, list-making, resolutions, intents, the whole nine yards hehehe. Here’s to a more enthusiastic and hope-filled year. And you’re right… as sour as things got at the end of the year, it really wasn’t all that bad. 🙂


  • Reply vanessa joie January 3, 2017 at 3:30 pm

    i love this idea – i love lists. i’ve been tempted to buy the 52 lists book but i want to start blogging again too. we’ll see! haha. happy happy new year, erin.

  • Reply Alix January 3, 2017 at 3:36 pm

    I love the idea of a hoping book!

    As a fellow list-maker, I keep track every year of (1) books read, (2) movies seen, and (3) new restaurants visited. It’s a fun and different way to look back on the year.

  • Reply Emily January 3, 2017 at 6:37 pm

    A ‘hoping book’ is an adorable couple activity. So sweet and simple, and an incredible archive for yourselves and your loved ones one day. Our version, as it stands, is strewn across Excel, Google Docs and email drafts. Much less romantic. I’m inspired!

    I’m a fan of resolutions as well (super goal-oriented). I used to make many each year, but for the past couple of years have opted for one specific and achievable priority. 2015 was reading one book/month. 2016 was running a 10K. We travelled intentionally lots in both years and made career strides, but didn’t make formal resolutions out of them.

    We’re expecting our first baby in April, and for some reason, it has made making a resolution tricky this year. Perhaps settling into our new roles as a parents and caregivers… we’ll see.

    All the best in 2017 Erin!

  • Reply Erin January 4, 2017 at 8:50 am

    I have tried to start a hybrid bullet journal/diary type thing and one of the pages is a “something good happens every day” page where I jot down something, even if it’s small, that was positive that day.

  • Reply Kristal January 4, 2017 at 1:39 pm

    Love the idea of a list of firsts. I am a big list maker, writing things down makes a huge difference for me. I can’t wait to start my list of firsts!

  • Reply Danielle Caley January 4, 2017 at 3:41 pm

    This is a great idea! I came across your book a couple months ago while visiting friends in New York City and have been in love ever since! 🙂
    One of my resolutions for this year is donating more to companies I really want to support. I appreciate GlobalGiving.org — they have a search engine that allows you to find your donating interest. They’re transparent about overhead costs and send email updates on the projects to which you’ve donated.
    A project in particular that I think you may find of interest is a camp called Camp Everytown – it’s focus is teaching teenagers about how to fight racism, prejudices, etc. I realize the irony of supporting one of the richer sections in the country — but sometimes the richest are the emptiest, right? And, I think these values are so crucial to communicate to teens who are beginning to form their adult opinions about the world. Anyhow, here’s the link if you want to check it out: https://www.globalgiving.org/projects/campeverytown/
    Thanks again for all the positivity you spread!!

  • Reply Samantha Lee January 4, 2017 at 5:06 pm

    I’m so with you! Everyone has been giving 2016 a bad rap, but honestly, it was quite a year for me, personally. I traveled to new places and hit new milestones and generally experienced a lot of growth. Looking forward to what 2017 brings.

  • Reply Jakki January 5, 2017 at 2:25 pm

    Random question here — one of my New Year’s resolutions is to be more informed…what are your favorite news sources? I figured to ask you since you always provide such great links on your end of week posts. I’m trying to move beyond the CNN types of news sources since they are full of lots of noise and not a lot of meaningful content. Just not sure where to start!

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE January 5, 2017 at 2:28 pm

      Hey Jakki, We don’t have a television, so I get all of my news from print and internet resources. New York Times, Washington Post, MotherJones, Democracy Now, NPR, etc. are some favorites!

  • Reply Alexandra January 6, 2017 at 9:37 am

    This is a lovely idea.

    I was never able to keep up a journal – it just seemed too overwhelming to write my feelings out like that. Some time back, on a whim, I picked up a “five year journal” – a small little notebook that has five small spaces per day to write maybe a sentence or two. You start in the first line of each page per day, then cycle back to the beginning at the end of each year and start on the second line and go through the year like that, and so on. It worked for me. It is such a small commitment that I feel freed from the “need” to write a whole lot, yet the little sentences I choose to write – whatever defines any given day in that moment – are so evocative to read in the years that follow (as I return to each page in turn) that it is very poignant. Something as unremarkable as “Made a meal in the new crockpot” brings up memories of that first brave attempt, the foreign feeling of it; I can still remember what I made and how it tasted – and remembering it calls to mind how different my life is now, where with a baby and a full-time job, I rely on the slow cooker several times a week to feed us all, and have an arsenal of recipes at the ready, the new mundane. I have found that only having space to write a sentence or two makes me much more likely to do it, and at the same time, being able to glance over what I wrote in years past is surprisingly poignant and meaningful, even when banal.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE January 6, 2017 at 9:56 am

      Ah yes. Have about six months of a five year journal filled in from the year Faye was born. Whoops!

  • Reply Raza January 8, 2017 at 9:38 pm

    I’ve been journaling for seven years now and it’s something that truly makes me feel better, particularly when I’m stressed. I just began a gratitude journal for the first time though, and I’m eager to see how that goes. A journal of firsts sounds like something interesting to incorporate in there, too. As for 2017 goals, I’m trying out a vision board this year!

  • Reply sam-c January 17, 2017 at 1:13 pm

    Yes, I can relate. I hate journal as a verb.
    Hope you are enjoying that precious baby! 🙂

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