Introducing The Hope Planner

Almost two years ago I started reading the Bible everyday. It was at a time in my life where everything I was working towards was working against me. Eleven years into our marriage, after the birth of our son, while I was still trying to manage my role as “the boss” in the growing company I had founded before motherhood, I was miserable. Self-doubt consumed my thoughts, exhaustion overwhelmed me, our marriage was suffering and I thought “this is not the life God planned for his daughter,” and then it occurred to me in all of these new things in my life, I had left God out of them.

I had it all wrong. I sought encouragement from business books, followed other entrepreneurs on Instagram, got up earlier and earlier to crush my to-do list, yet I rarely spent time in prayer, I never opened my Bible, I had zero fellowship with other Christians, and we hadn’t been to church in years.
I was empty and the only thing left in me was an overwhelming feeling that I just needed Jesus and that God was calling me to invest my time in the Scriptures.
And so I did.
Because I’m a graphic designer, list maker and generally pretty organized, I turned the weekly to-do list I had designed for myself into a daily one that split my to-dos between “God, family and work” so I could visualize on paper where my priorities were each day.  I wanted to find the harmony between my role in our household as a wife and mother, my faith and also my desire to lean into my career ambitions…. without letting one area become neglected as I was currently battling.  Over the last 18 months I have used that daily planner (printed and bound at Staples every 3 months) to make a habit of reading the Bible every morning and letting that study lead my prayers, reaffirm my faith and help me grow confident as a wife, mother, business owner and Christian.
When I tell people now that I read the Bible everyday, they look at me in amazement (mostly shock) and ask me “How?!!? How do you find time for it!?” And I say this: I simply made a space for it on my calendar and remained committed to my daily “appointment” with God. However sterile that my sound here on this blog, I can assure you what started out as something I needed to do, has now become something I want so badly to do each day. It has made me realize that no amount of planning or organization…. or crushing, or hustling, or competing, or dreaming …can hold you together like the glue of God’s grace.  Absolutely nothing compares.
As the pages and my faith have matured over the past 18 months, I realized this planner was meant for something much greater than my own personal use. It’s meant to serve you too.
In the last year, between growing St. Augustine Social, negotiating and managing the sale of The Celebration Society, launching Littleature and writing two children’s books, I took what I know about publishing and design and used it to move the production of this planner from my local Staples to a mass production facility on the other side of the world so maybe it could change your life too.
Today, I am humbled to introduce to you our latest brand, Hopefuel – a faith-based publisher of workbooks, planners, and journals and most importantly, home of the Hope Planner.
The Hope Planner serves two purposes…

1 – TO HELP YOU STAY ORGANIZED.  Like a traditional agenda or daybook, it’s a place for you to keep track of all the priorities of your daily life –  tasks, appointments, shopping lists, reminders. In addition to that, I’ve added my personal system of weekly “big picture” planning and monthly goal setting as well as progress tracking that has helped me keep my family and company on track. 

2 – TO HELP YOUR FAITH GROW STRONGER.  Unlike a traditional planner, its primary purpose is to help you make a place for Bible study and prayer in your daily life.  Because it is your trust in God’s direction that is the ultimate peacekeeper in our lives. 

This planner is not a Bible study – it is a tool you should bring with you to Bible study. There are no pre-selected Bible verses for each day, instead blank designated space for scripture and prayer. I know that everyone’s journey is unique, so I wanted it to serve as a clean slate you can use during each phase of your life, where you can pair it with the scripture you are being led to study at that time.   

A few key features to note….

  • It is undated so that you can begin devoting yourself to daily bible study among all the other things on your to-do list at anytime.
  • It has a 6 month layout out because I just don’t feel like I want to carry around 12 months worth of paper at a time.
  • It is 6″ x 9″ linen wrapped hard cover with gold foil.  So beautiful!

For women who are craving a way to be more “in Christ” in real life I can tell you based on my own personal experience that starts by spending time “with Christ” everyday.  The Hope Planner helps you prioritize your daily devotions before you ever tackle the to-dos and serves as a subtle reminder throughout the day that God is with you, wherever you are.
We are now accepting pre-orders for the first batch of planners currently being produced.  They are $34 each and will be shipping in October 2018.
I don’t know where this brand will grow or how many people will use the Hope Planner like I have, but I can tell you I am leaning hard into the direction of God in my life these days because of it… and if I can help one person or one thousand do that too, I will have succeed beyond my wildest dreams.
Here’s a direct link to our new Hopefuel.co website and the Hope Planner.

Our Journey to Minimalism

I have wanted to write this blog since January 1, 2017. That’s when I knew the changes Andrew and I made in our life between December 24, 2016 to January 1, 2017 would be so beneficial for our family that I’d have to share it with you.  And I was right.

Finally, a year later, I can say without a doubt.  Andrew and I are minimalists.  Or at least a version of minimalism that suits our life.  And our quest to get here started a year ago on Christmas Eve as we were wrapping presents and continues every day.

Earlier that week a friend on facebook posted the quote “Love people and use things, because the opposite never works” followed with a link to the documentary Minimalism – A Documentary about the Important Things.  It immediately peaked my interest.  So when everyone was finally asleep and we brought out the last of the Christmas gifts to wrap for the next day, we turned it on to keep us company.

The concept of the film is that things and consumerism do just that – CONSUME our lives with THINGS. They leave no room for living because we are chasing an idea that we need a bigger salary to be able to buy the things we think will bring meaning to our lives. So we work more and more to buy those things.  We become too busy.  We keep thinking we’ll be fulfilled by a content feeling we expect to have as we achieve those things. But, they don’t. The American dream has become a hamster wheel of chasing more and more.  With no finish line in sight.

Why do we need three car garages?  Or the stuff we store in them?  Meaning should come from what you do with your life, not what you own.  Instead with minimalism, every possession in your life serves a purpose or brings you joy.  You choose to live deliberately with less. You get off the hamster wheel.

It hit close to home for us because we’re already pretty minimal in our household in that we are attracted to a clean, tidy house and minimal, contemporary design.  But especially since being new parents, we’d begun to experience ways that having kids can bring so much more stuff into your life if you’re not careful.

So, on December 26, 2016, when the last of our visiting family left town we launched the most epic cleaning-out project of our lives.  Every cabinet, every closet, every drawer was taken apart and paired down to only the essentials.

Here’s what our version of minimalism looks like…
Let’s get one thing clear, we didn’t bring our lives down to the bare bones like Joshua and Ryan did on the documentary.  But we did clean a lot out.  We’re not trying to take the beauty of design, art and homemaking out of our lives, just a more simplified version of those things to create a sense of mental clarity.  In the film they say if you love books, keep your books.  That’s the direction we took. Here’s what worked for us so far…

We have 1 of everything we need.  Like dishes. Inside of our kitchen cabinets were several variations of serveware, all wedding gifts from 10 years before, that we had never used. What was I holding onto these for?  Yes. I had a bit of guilt to donate these items because they were thoughtful gifts from friends or family, but every time I looked into the cabinet they gave me the feeling of inadequacy because I didn’t have the time or energy to put together a grand celebration.  Let alone the desire. Cooking for big groups just isn’t my thing.  Bakeware representing my inabilities didn’t help my mental state of well being. So, off to the garage sale pile they went. Along with vases, candles holders, decorations, jars and jars and jars.

I adopted the capsule wardrobe and I love it.  Do you have a favorite outfit you love to wear and feel the absolutely best about yourself when you wear it? Okay. Imagine your days if you could wear it daily.  So I did!  I love wearing skinny jeans and a cute top.  Long sleeve, short sleeve, vintage tee, bunchy sweater. Whatever the case – I live for jeans and a top.  No crazy patterns or pops of color. Just classics like navy, green, black, gray and white.  Now, when I get ready in the morning, I turn to my sea of favorite pieces and easily select.  No fretting that I have nothing to wear.

I started by going through my clothes and pulling out everything I haven’t worn in the last year.  If I didn’t, even if the clothes were still style relevant and nice, I chose to get rid of them to minimize the distraction while choosing what to wear each morning. Obviously if I hadn’t worn the item in over a year, I just wasn’t that into it.

The secondary effect has been that it’s given me clear direction for shopping.  Now, I only buy select colors and styles of clothes instead of what looks good on a mannequin or what’s on sale.  I buy what I KNOW I like and feel comfortable in.  I have specific gaps to fill in my wardrobe and I don’t buy outside of those.

Speaking of shopping – we just don’t.  Unless of course, we have something specific to shop for. But the freedom that comes with choosing to only have one of a specific item means, you’re not compelled to stroll the aisles of Marshalls for random items that make you feel good that day.  Retail therapy is expensive and short lived.  I don’t need a new potato peeler and I definitely don’t need 14 pairs of nude wedges or stilettos in every color.  I have a plenty good potato peeler and I have a beautiful, high quality pair of Tory Burch wedges… I don’t need another until those go bad.

Retirement savings and knowing we have money in the bank is our therapy at this point in life.

This means gifts too.  We don’t exchange gifts with each other and our families and this has alleviated so much stress at the holidays.  I don’t need things. I need quality time with the people I feel compelled to buy for.  I crave meaningful conversation and laughter… not scented candles.

Kids need minimalism too.  This was an easy transition for us because Asher is still young and we’ve intentionally not overdone the baby and kid gear since his birth.  I’m a big believer that clutter contributes to confusion and being unfocused in kids.  I just don’t think children need every toy they want and 50,000 pieces of legos.  So, we merged the playroom with Asher’s bedroom and kept only the toys that he really liked and got rid of everything else.  A playroom made room for a lot of things and keeping it only made me feel like I needed to fill it up.  I noticed the less toys Asher had to play with, the more time he actually spends playing with them.  Every toy has it’s designated space and we teach him to put it back where it belongs each night before bed.  Structure. Amen. Hallelujah!

To keep this under control we asked our families to minimize the gifts around birthday and Christmas and ask us before they opt for anything big.  Since Asher’s birthday is the day before Christmas I often pack up a few of his gifts and store them in the closet to bring out later in the year when he’s bored with his current toys and that has worked well.

We run a minimalist office.  This was a biggie for us and very hard for me to swallow at first.  I was fearful that this would create an impression of downsizing and that we weren’t growing.  I was worried what other people would think.  But, not one single person even noticed anything changed because nothing did, except where we logged onto our computers.  Now we have a home office with four computers set up.  Our two employees come to our office from 9am to 2pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays and work from home on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.  This gives us time to come together a few times during the week but also the privacy to focus on our task lists without distraction.  We use chat a lot throughout the day to communicate quickly as well.

An office space represented our need to buy two of everything for our small company.  Two toilet papers, two paper towels, two microwaves, two refrigerators, two internet bills, two electric bills.  All so we could have a few readers stop by to pick up magazines a handful times throughout the year.  Nope.

Minimalism isn’t just about things, it’s about reducing distractions, to-dos and activities that take our attention from our core focus.  At the office, this was our internship program.  While a great way to give back to younger generations at my alma mater and fun to have extra chatter in the office, when we went to a home office scenario, this meant we couldn’t have our internship program anymore.  It’s very difficult to manage a team of interns in office, keeping interns accountable while they work remotely is down right impossible in my experience.

Minimalism for us equals mental clarity.  It frees of from the weight of “shoulds” and “wants” and just lets us be present in the moment.  But even more so, it’s given us laser focus on our finances because when you stop buying things you really don’t need, you really start to notice how much money you wasted overtime.

As of today, we consider our efforts still a work in progress.  We act intentionally with our purchases and plans to keep our lives simplified as much as possible so we can live.  We don’t want to spend time cleaning our house and maintaining our stuff.  We want to do things, go places and see people.

You CAN do more with less.

Happy Anniversary

Today Andrew and I celebrate our 9 year wedding anniversary so it seems there would be no better day than today to introduce this new site to you.  Formerly known as HeatherVreeland.com – a poorly tended to soapbox I used at various points in time to share random musings (mostly rants) – has been transformed into a shared space for Andrew and I to update our friends, family and circle of influence (whoever that may be) with what our real life is like being married and being in business together.  Welcome to our virtual reality show.  Just kidding.  No really.  IDK.

married-with-employees-husband-and-wife-business-blog

I never gave the previous platform much attention because while I do love to write and am a natural “over-sharer” it always felt very unnatural to just be blogging by myself.  While I am very much the face of what we do at our company, I am in no way the only part of the engine that keeps our business running – yet people always think that this gig is all mine.  It’s not.

I am the optimistic, dreamer and doer.  I often describe Andrew as the weight to my bushel of balloons.  If it weren’t for him I’d be all over the place.  Over worked, inefficient and out of control and so would our business.

His perspective helps me focus my energies toward the most efficient workflows and effective area of growth for our business… and for the beginning 7 years of our business – he did all that while also managing thousands of air planes flying at 500 miles an hour.  Talk about a multi-tasker.

The core reason Occasions Media Group is what it is today is because, as Andrew once said, “My wife is a genius and I have a loose wallet.”  Pretty much.  I only began to think it was possible to start a business until I met Andrew.  When we were first married he supported whatever it was I wanted to do – be it start a family, find a job or start a company.  I chose the later and he asked how much was it going to cost – both financially and emotionally for a newly married couple – and then he bet both on my vision and alas here we are together, today.

It’s not all rainbows and unicorns like it sounds or may seem when you flip through the pages of our magazines or instagram feeds.  We’re not the perfect couple, but we try to live humbly in God’s perfect vision and plan for our life.   One thing we both wholeheartedly agree on is that there is a mass amount of transparency that is lacking in today’s online arena that misleads people to think that business, marriage and parenthood is easy.  So – you won’t find any of that here.  We’re all about keeping it real.

Photo by Zach Thomas of Monarch Studios

Stay tuned for more stories of struggle and triumph and probably potty training horror stories.

Happy Anniversary Andrew – we made it 9 years!

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  Jeremiah 29:11.

I’m Fundraising for the Junior Service League of St. Augustine and the Alpha Omega Miracle Home

Sometimes you have to get outside of your bubble to get the best perspective on life.  Or at least that’s what I’ve heard. I personally find it very difficult to do this.  I’m a keep-my-nose-to-the-ground, spend all my hours at my computer, plugged in 24 hours a day type of business owner.  To a fault.

So, when we relocated our family to St. Augustine, FL and I became a mom, I told myself I would make more of an effort to say yes to more party invitations, say yes to more family time, say yes to building more relationships outside of my comfort zone – the offices of Occasions Media Group.  And as luck would have it, just as I was telling myself to be more of  a “yes woman,”  I was asked by the Junior Service League of St. Augustine to volunteer as a “candidate” for their annual gala.  So I said yes.

This year I’ve been asked to be a “Queen Candidate” to raise money on behalf of the Junior Service League and their charitable efforts each year.  In doing so, they asked me to pick a local charity that I will represent in my efforts and if I raise the most amount of money among all of the other queen candidates….. my charity of choice will be awarded $5,000 for my efforts.

I got this.

I have chosen to fundraise for the Junior Service League of St. Augustine on behalf of the Alpha Omega Miracle Home.  While the money I raise goes to the JSL’s bank of funds that are donated to the St. Augustine community, it is awareness and additional funds that my efforts will bring to the Alpha Omega Miracle Home.

Why did I choose the Alpha Omega Miracle Home?
My life was transformed the day I became a mother.  I had an amazing pregnancy experience, was showered with gifts from friends and family, had an amazing birth experience with the best midwife, doula and nursing staff, the most supportive husband a girtl could ask for, and had access to every convenience, technology and information resource a new mom could ask for.  While I was experiencing a surge of “happy mommy hormones” I couldn’t help but think of the many other mother’s who wouldn’t have it like me.  I thought of every women who has struggled with the choice of abortion.  Women who are on waiting lists for adoptions.  Mothers who were in unsafe home environments, victims of abuse, struggling to recover from past choices ….whatever the case… my heart was so heavy for these women and felt like I had to do something to help.

0Y6A3635

I started to do research on organizations that help women in crisis pregnancy situations and mentor them by providing relief during their pregnancy and life as a new mom or educating them on the gift of adoption.  I found the Alpha Omega Miracle Home in St. Augustine, FL.

FullSizeRender-web

What is the Alpha Omega Miracle Home?
AOMH provides transitional housing for homeless women and their children and permanent, supportive housing for senior women.

The organization was started by Lisa Franklin, a native of St. Augustine, who was once herself a pregnant teenager.  In choosing life at such a young age, she has seen her son grow to be a loving husband, father and community leader.  Because of her experience, she found herself called to mentor young mothers and support elderly women in a way that forms a surrogate family for the two.

Alpha Omega Miracle Home is a safety net for women and children that works to break the bondage of poverty, abuse and homelessness by responsibly sowing Godly love, compassion, and material resources. They are a hand up, not a hand out organization.  They address both the external issues of income and housing, as well as the root causes that have led to a family’s homelessness, in order to help single mothers become who they were created to be: productive members of the community. In addition, Alpha-Omega endeavors to honor the gifts and contributions of our senior residents while providing safe, affordable housing.

Below is a video about their efforts worth taking a few minutes to watch….

For more information on the Alpha Omega Miracle Home, visit their website here.

What does this all mean to you?
It’s fundraising time.  I am seeking corporate sponsorships for the Junior Service League Gala to be made in my name.   If you are seeking PR opportunities for your company that supports a worthy local cause, give you the benefits of a tax write off and tickets to the gala, I will happily hand deliver your donation to them.  😉

You can access a PDF outlining the efforts of the Junior Service League and the sponsorships levels at the dropbox link below.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/wun0m2ahi2sgptk/2015JSLGalaSponsorship.pdf?dl=0

Please let me know if you have any questions and what level participation you’d like to be involved in for this year’s event.

Thank you so much for your support and help to win the Alpha Omega Miracle Home $5,000.

Showing the Way

I recently came across this quote on Facebook that struck a nerve with me. A good one.

“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way. ~ J C Maxwell

It made me think of how I feel about this blog.  I started it with the intention of sharing marketing and business advice with friends and clients and not with the intention of being a blogger.  A money making blogger that is.  So, posting here gets put on the bottom of my to do list after I’ve tended to everything relative to what I DO make money at.

Then there’s the whole “perception” thing that comes with bloggers. Perfect perception that is. I’m a big believer that there is way too much emphasis on being the most stylish, most put together, and most successful person out there in the blogger hemisphere and I just do not have the time to keep up with that nor do I want to mislead my people to thinking this life of mine is so simply perfect.  It ain’t.

And don’t even get me started on the whole “but who really cares what Heather Vreeland has to say?” ever looming question I ask myself everyday.  There are A LOT of people claiming to be experts on the internet and whether they are just making noise or making a living….how is my experience/take any better/different?

But, I’ve found that as a result of being concerned if this is the best way to be spending my time, or are my pictures pretty enough for this blog, or is anyone even listening… my voice has become stifled.   Which is sad because I really like helping people and I really feel like I can help the most amount of people here.

So, when I read that quote this week I realized – that’s me.  A leader.  I know the way because I work it every single day.  I don’t proclaim to be an expert, but I AM experienced.  I go the way because that is what it takes to survive and be successful.  I’m not a millionaire, but I am making money.  And, because I know in my heart of hearts that sharing those two things can make all the difference in someone’s life who is just starting out….  I will show the way.  Okay maybe not the way.  But, my way.