Start an Accountability Group

accountability group

I have a small group of friends I meet with weekly over a group conference call to set goals and check in on our progress. We each have our own individual goals,  but together we report on how those goals are progressing. 

The thing I appreciate most about our accountability group is that we are achieving, maintaining and prioritizing the things in our lives that are most important to us: our family, spouse, spiritual development, personal health and more. What it boils down to is that we are being intentional about cultivating our top priorities.

It’s commonplace to give priority to the things that are most pressing or urgent in our lives and too often it comes at the expense of the people and things that should be most important. I love that I have a system in place to help me prioritize and maintain that which is my top priority. I want that for you too. 

Just before Christmas my accountability group and I were interviewed for a podcast with Jen VanHekken. Be sure to listen to it here.  It went live today, just in time for the New Year! What a perfect season to grab a few friends and start a group. 

On the podcast we talked all about goal setting and how we encourage each other to accomplish those goals. What I really hope is that you feel inspired to start your own accountability group. To help you out, I’ve written a step by step guide with all the details on how to do it. The link is at the bottom of this post. In fact it’s at the bottom of all my posts! That’s how important I think this content is for you. 

 
 
 
 
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    Selecting Your Word for the Year

    Simply Sara Anthony

    Do you have a word for 2020? It’s been a trendy thing to do for several years now. Choose a word that you will live by for the year. I’ve been drawn to the concept. I’ve even chosen a word several years only to forget it by January’s end. 

    For 2019 I set out to change that. I wanted to not only choose a word with intention but also not to forget it! More than all of that, I wanted to live it out! I carefully selected the word: LEARN. 

    I chose “learn” because I’d recently begun a new vocation, I’m considered middle age, therefore somewhat set in my ways, and I had a bit of a fixed mindset around education. I set out to change my state of mind! I wanted to learn new things and be willing to change regardless of mid-life statistics saying I’m  “set in my ways”. 

    One thing I have established is a pretty solid morning routine. I get up at the same time each day, pray, read, meditate and journal. Because of that it was easy to tack on more little thing on to the morning’s end. I’d also write “my word” down each day. Nothing time consuming or fancy. I’d just scribble LEARN at the end of each journal entry. 

    When you write a simple word on paper everyday it’s hard to forget it. And I did not. When I’d come upon a new challenge I’d remind myself “I’m open to learning”. When something would come up at my new job I  didn’t know how to do I quickly recalled how, “ I’m a person who is willing to learn new things”.  As I close out the year I began studying the book of Daniel with the aid of a Bible Study. There’s a portion in the study where the author references that some of the material will be difficult and she encouraged us to write down, “ I am willing to LEARN.” What a fun way to close out 2019, literally prompted to write down and apply the word I’d written everyday of that year. 

    Perhaps writing your word daily feels like overkill. I would encourage you to, at the very least, write it down once and place it in a location you will see it everyday. You will be less likely to forget it.  You will be more likely to live it out. That’a the overarching goal, to grow and evolve into the best version of ourself!

    For this upcoming year, I’ve settled on RESOLVE as my 2020 word.  I don’t have much internal drive built into my personal make up.  However, I have determined, resolved, if you will,  to work hard and put effort into my dreams and ambitions regardless of how I feel or the obstacles I come up against.  I guess you could say I learned a few tings in 2019 I’d like to continue to apply in 2020.

    How about you?  What is your word for 2020?

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      Simplify & Slow Down Christmas

      Simplify Christmas

      Christmas. The season of peace, love, joy.  It’s a time to create memories and build traditions.  It’s filled with gingerbread house competitions, sugar cookie decorating, circling favorite toys in the local ads, cousin pajama parties, candle-lit services, slow strolls through lighted neighborhoods, and past bedtime replays of The Christmas Story. “You’ll shoot your eye out!!”  Oh, and let’s not forget the gifts. There’s so much gift giving and generosity. I love the Christmas season!

      The problem is those same holiday events can also cause stress, anxiety and physical illness.  Growing up my mother often fell prey to the pressure of the season. One year she shopped at such length, the weight of her purse caused her shoulder to tense up. She couldn’t move for days after that. Multiple years I can recall her over exerting herself to the point of illness. It would put her in bed for close to a week. It was all in the name of creating Christmas memories for her children.

      I appreciate my mother’s intentions, but not at the expense of her health.  When my kids came along we opted to simplify Christmas. Each of our kids receive one gift and a stocking filled with practical items like socks, underwear, a toothbrush and a book. Planning ahead and setting goals to complete things I love to do, like sending Christmas cards, bake cookies, delivering a thoughtful item to our neighbors, and volunteering for a nonprofit are completed within a segregated and manageable timeframe.  That helps relieve the pressure of everything piling up as the 25th nears. You don’t want to cram it all in while frantically shopping the extended hours because you’re “making memories with/for your kids”.

      Yes, I have amazing childhood Christmas memories, but I also vividly remember the stress and sickness the season delivered to my parents. Let me encourage you with this, it’s okay to slow down. To simplify. To be intentional with just a few items on your calendar.  I’m granting you permission. Here’s the problem: if you don’t adjust your pace, your body will do it for you. You will become ill. Sickness never comes at a convenient time. 

      Plan ahead.  Incorporate moments of rest and relaxation.  Be sure to take a walk outside, not just through the mall. Take a bubble bath or a Saturday nap. If you’re reading this and thinking, “I have absolutely no time for naps and walks”, then it’s time to begin turning down some of your holiday activities.  If it doesn’t all get done, give yourself some grace! A happy parent is much more enjoyable than an ill, anxiety riddled one, even if you didn’t frost cookies this year.



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        Creatively Hang Christmas Stockings

        Christmas stocking

        Our family of 6 moved into a small 900 square foot home about 3 years ago. We don’t have a mantel.  We don’t have a fireplace. What we do have are stockings that need to be hung during the Christmas season!  I needed to come up with a creative way to display our 4 kids’ stockings. Whatever I came up with needed to take up very little space and not need to be stored when Christmas was over.  Our storage is quite limited too.

        While enjoying our front yard one day, an idea came to me. I could hang the stockings from a spare evergreen branch.  I trimmed a branch from a tree on our property. Nailed it to one of our walls. Hung the stockings from it. In just a few minutes I had created a festive and functional way to display the holiday stockings.  No mantle or fireplace needed!

        Christmas stocking
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          Meditation Made Simple

          morning meditation

          I’ve implemented meditation into my daily morning routine.  Being able to calm my mind and bring peace and quiet to my ever overactive thoughts felt like a skill I should improve upon. And so I am. I am not claiming to be an expert. I’m simply sharing what I do and how it has benefitted me.

          There’s a scene in the movie Eat Love Pray where Julia Robert’s character is learning the practice of meditation and she falls asleep. Later she attempts it again and can’t believe it when only a minute has passed. I can totally relate to all of this! Learning to quiet your mind can be grueling. It is work.  

          I’m still very much a newbie, but here are 6 tips that have helped me along the way in my pursuit of, what I consider to be, successful meditation.

           

            1. Choose the same place and time: I meditate each morning after being rested {to avoid sleeping through the whole process}. I do it as part of my morning routine, post coffee. During this time, I’m alone and my home is quiet.
            2. Take a deep cleansing breath. It truly helps to positively trigger your mind that meditation is about to begin.
            3. Start Small. I meditate for only 5 minutes.  I set a timer on my Calm app. 
            4. Visualize a place that makes you happy: There is a place in the British Virgin Islands that is so beautiful.  I envision myself there, floating in the water.
            5. Feel Free to Include God: Some people get weirded out by meditation.  As a person of faith, the Bible clearly references meditation as a holy practice {Psalm 19:14, Psm 119:15}. As I’m floating in the water, I envision God floating next to me holding my hand. All these elements represent a calming peace to me. That’s what I’m after with this process.
            6. Finally, I repeat a word in my head that reflects the quality I want to instill into my body, mind and spirit.  Most often I choose the word peace to repeat as I “float’. Sometimes I do not feel peaceful.  In those instances, I envision God softly whispering “peace” to me over and over. The thought of Him being there for me is so helpful.

           

           

          I perceive at the quick 5 minute morning meditation as a practice session.  It’s trial run for times I may need to meditate throughout the day when life is a bit faster and chaotic. In addition, I’ve found it very helpful to meditate  as I lay in bed. At that time, it’s perfectly fine to fall asleep mid-meditation.



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            The Best “Zoupa Toscana” Knockoff on the Block

            Fall has me craving all the hearty soups! One of our family-favorites is an Olive Garden Zoupa Toscana knockoff.  It’s so good. It’s so easy. Therefore, I tend to serve it year round. My family doesn’t complain about that one bit. In fact, they request it.

            Ingredients: 

            32oz carton chicken broth

            1 cup heavy whipping cream

            6 medium red skin potatoes 

            14 oz. spicy Italian sausage

            1 teaspoon crushed pepper flakes {or to taste}

            3 cups fresh spinach

            Serves 4-6

            Step 1: Brown the Italian sausage until crumbly and no longer pink. Drain the grease and set aside.

            Step 2: In a pot combine the chicken broth & heavy cream, stir and leave on medium heat.

            Step 3: Cut the potatoes into bite size cubes. Add them to the chicken broth and heavy cream. Increase the heat to medium-high.

            Step 4: Add the Italian sausage & crushed pepper flakes to the pot.

            Step 5: Allow the ingredients to simmer until the potatoes are soft.

            Step 6: Lightly chop the fresh spinach and add it to the soup.  

            Give it about 10 minutes to simmer with the added spinach and then it’s ready to serve!

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              My Adventure Badge Should Read ECUADOR

              Last month I met up with my sister, brother in law and their team. We hopped on a plane and headed to Quito, Ecuador.  My sister, Rachel, owns a gymnastics gym in Michigan. Her husband, John, works for a water treatment company. John has an uncle who has dedicated his life to providing clean water to remote people groups throughout Ecuador. When the three of these geniuses put their resources together, amazing things happen! I had the privilege of documenting it all with my camera. It was worth dusting that heavy beast of a lens off and lugging it to the mountains of Ecuador to photograph the awesome ways they are helping provide clean water to impoverished communities.

              For the last three years Rachel has taken staff from her gym to assist Ecuadorian people groups provide a clean water source for communities that don’t have access to it.  They team up with Life Giving Water International, a nonprofit started by John’s uncle. 

              The week I was along for the adventure, each morning we helped fill 5.5 ft. deep and long trenches that had already been dug by hand before our arrival.  The Ecuadorian people worked circles around us. Mercy. I blame the elevation. The 13,000 feet above sea level made breathing feel like a workout in and of itself.



              In the afternoons,  alongside the local missionaries, we helped lead a Vacation Bible School for the children of the community.  VBS was my highlight of the trip and not just because the other option was digging through blowing dirt at 40 degree temperatures. The children and their rosy-windburned faces captured my heart. Looking into their warm brown eyes as we taught them to wash their hands before snack is etched in my brain as a moment I never want to forget. 

              One of the words I want to describe me in 10 years is ADVENTUROUS.  A more apt current descriptor might be cautious. Having braved a week in Ecuador I do feel like I earned, at least, my first level Adventure Badge, if such a thing exists. Here’s why:

              1. Before we wound our way up the mountain, we took a late night hike in the Amazon jungle with head lamps in search of tranchulas and snakes. I lived to tell.
              2. I shared a hotel room with several cockroaches. I lived to tell.
              3. I rode in a single prop, 5 seater airplane with a grass runway. I lived to tell.
              4. I slept on the floor with 15 others, sleepover style, if your sleepover was in a room with no heat and previously housed, what smelled like, several wet dogs.  I lived to tell.
              5. We were encouraged to drink a lot of water to avoid elevation sickness and dehydration. Bathrooms were tricky to locate and I often used make-shift facilities, AKA: sides of housing structures.  This included, but not limited to, a home I was not aware was full of Ecuadorian people waiting to join us for work. I bet they didn’t know their day was going to begin with a view of a middle-aged white girls bum. I lived to tell.
              6. I tested out being vegan for a week. Some of the popular cuisine is guinea pig and ALL the parts of other commonly edible animals. Chicken breast, okay. Chicken tallon, I’ll pass. I lived to tell.
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                Making Drinking Water an Easy Habit

                healthy habits

                For most people, well for me, and I have to believe a few others, establishing a new positive habit can be hard! Drinking the suggested amount of water in a day was one of those hard healthy habits for me to establish.  When I first started out I made it a goal and had weekly check ins with my accountability group to be sure I was getting in 64 oz. of water a day. I did it, but I complained A LOT. My method was to keep count of the 8 glasses throughout the day.  The problem: it would be evening I’d have only drank 2 glasses of water and then I’d be guzzling h2o before bed to meet my goal and you know what happened next. I’d wake up multiple times in the night for drainage. 

                That was clearly not working.  Instead of giving up, like I really wanted to, I came up with a different method.  

                                                                       SAME GOAL, DIFFERENT APPROACH!

                I figured if I filled a water bottle with the amount I need to drink, when it was done I’d be done. Visually helpful!  The problem, carting a 64 oz. bottle around is heavy. Solution: I broke the amount in half and filled a 32 oz. Nalgene water botte. This was the game changer.  Here are 5 things I did to EASILY and successfully drink the recommended amount of water each day without struggle!

                FILL A 32oz NALGENE REUSABLE WATER BOTTLE:

                I fill a 32oz Nalgene water bottle with water before I head to bed.  In the morning I drink room temp water when I first wake up as I make my coffee.  There are apparently a bunch of benefits to water when you first arise, including waking your body up.  I consider this is my “bonus water”. I drink some quickly without concern about how much.

                THE LUKEWARM TEMPERATURE HELPS IT TO GO DOWN FAST. 

                Post coffee, I fill the Nalegene bottle back up and I carry it with me when I leave to take the kids to school. I drink it with my breakfast {that I often eat in the car}. I drink it with my vitamins {that I keep in the car #lifehacks}. My goal is to drink all 32 oz. by the time I’m done with school drop off and I’m entering the gym for my morning workout.

                I USE A FLEXIBLE SILICONE STRAW:

                Utilizing the science from a study McDonald’s did regarding soda consumption, I learned that you drink more when you use a straw.  If a regular straw is good, a large circumference smoothie straw is even better for getting the job complete! So, I stick one of those in my water bottle.

                REFILL A 32oz REUSABLE WATER BOTTLE:

                When I reach the gym I fill my water bottle back up.  I sip it as I workout. On my drive home I drink it with my post workout snack.  I sip it with lunch or as I run errands. I’m usually done with the suggested amount of water by 1pm.  

                DON”T ALLOW YOURSELF TO DRINK OTHER BEVERAGES:

                Until the necessary water consumption is complete, don’t drink other beverages. It’s a motivator to complete the water goal. {This does not including morning coffee, no one messes with the morning cup of joe.

                BONUS: Make your water bottle fun! Add cute stickers to your water bottle like a middle school girl!

                I now successfully drink an adequate amount of water each day without struggle and without middle-of-the-night trips to the bathroom.  I’d love to hear what tips you utilize to drink enough water. One thing I can attest to is that my body craves water now. I can clearly tell if I haven’t had enough to drink.

                health habits
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                  The Fanny Pack is my New Best {Travel} Friend

                  Last week I traveled to Quito, Ecuador.  It was an experience of a lifetime. I teamed up with Life Giving Water International, together we worked alongside the Ecuadorian people from a remote village to help supply them with a clean water source. More on that later!

                  Right before I left for the airport my sister suggested I bring along a fanny pack. I’m not privy to such elegant accessories, but my 15 year old had a pineapple one he was willing to share with me. 

                  Let me just tell you, it was a game changer!  I feel certain I won’t travel out of the country without a fanny pack again.  I know, I sound like a grandma who’s also outfitted with therapeutic shoes and a walker, but I’m sticking with my preferences here! 

                  HERE’S WHY:

                  It is extremely conveniently located. The front of the lower belly region is easy access for sure.

                  It makes it harder for the thieves of the world to steal at least not without more of a challenge.

                  It’s the perfect size to hold what’s most needed without putting a kink in my neck, like a purse and a backpack have the tendency to do. 

                  In addition, here are the 5 items I kept at my ready with the help of the trusty fanny pack {in my case, aka: belly bulge}:

                   

                  Cash.

                  Passport.

                  Phone.

                  Headphones.

                  Hand sanitizer.

                  Wet wipes {toilet paper is hard to comeby in Ecuador}.

                   

                  I’m not saying you have to use a fanny pack on your next trip, but I do strongly suggest it!  

                   

                  GRANNIES UNITE!



                  Fanny Pack is an excellent traveling tool
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                    These are a Few of my Favorite Things

                    Shopping Few of my favorite things

                    Since downsizing to our 900 square foot home in 2017, I’ve been much more intentional about what comes into our house.  In such a small space, just a few added items can make our house look and feel cluttered very quickly.

                    With my intentionality intact, here are a few things I feel l can’t live without, even in our small living quarters:

                    Madewell Whisper Cotton Crewneck Grey Tee:  I love the cut.  I love how it’s so soft. I love that you can roll the sleeves or don’t! This t-shirt goes with anything!

                    ⅞ Zella Live In Leggings: This brand is my go-to workout pant.  The 7/8s part is because this girl has THE shortest legs! They are extremely comfortable.  However, I will be completely honest. I buy most of my gym clothes from Poshmark. I’d like to say it’s because I’m being kind to the environment by purchasing second-hand {well, I am}, but I really like their price point the best.

                    Gap Breathe Bikini Underwear: These itty bitties are so comfortable I forget I have them on.  Okay, not really, but the comfort is for real.

                    Pura Vida Jewelry: It’s by far my favorite jewelry. It isn’t fancy. In fact my friend, Ashley,  calls them my “camp bracelets”. And several 13 year olds have asked me where I got my wave ring.  Whatever, I love the jewelry and their cause.

                    fav shoes isle jacobson

                    Isle Jacobson Tulip Shoes: I get stopped and asked about these shoes the most out of anything I wear. They are extremely comfortable. Easy to slip on. Bonus, they are washable.

                    Tyler Glamorous Diva Laundry Detergent: Actually, this may be the most asked about item.  I’m quite picky about my detergent smell. This one is de-lic-ious!  Clean. Fresh and a wee bit masculine… just as I prefer it.

                    Harney and Sons Decaffeinated Hot Cinnamon Tea: In my effort to cut out sugar from my diet this tea has been a life saver.  I must often crave something sweet after dinner. Instead of grabbing a cookie I now enjoy a cup of hot tea.  Not just ANY tea! This particular one has sweet notes to it that make it feel like a treat, yet no sugar added!

                    Nalgene Water Bottle: This water bottle goes with me everywhere. E-VERY-WHERE. I’ve found that I do boredom water drinking, especially in the car.  So having it always with me allows me to drink a ton more water.

                    Lululemon Hair Tie: As much as I try to wear my hair down, it all too often gets pulled up.  This particular hair tie is kinda cute as a bracelet for the few minutes a day I don’t have my hair up. In addition the size is great for wrapping a few times around for the perfect ponytail.

                     I love hearing about what people love. My hope is that you also find it intriguing. Do you have a favorite item you can’t live without?  Drop it in the comments.  

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                      Welcome

                      I’m Sara Anthony. I love keeping things simple, working along side my husband, Drew, & raising our 4 kids. I've dedicated this space to sharing what I've learned about raising teenagers, simplifying our home and staying motivated through accountability.

                      SimplySaraAnthony@gmail.com

                      Located in Southern Georgia