Have we become too casual?

A video of the late poet, Dr. Maya Angelou from 1991 recently resurfaced on Twitter and has sparked considerable debate around civility and manners. I’ve heard opinions on both side of the aisle, so I’ll share what is dictated by etiquette; always err on the side of formality first.

Until an older person permits you to address them casually, always add an honorific, or like us Southerners say, “a handle” to their names.

It’s always best to show and earn respect before assuming it.

A letter to my 33-year old self on motherhood

Today I had the privilege of speaking on motherhood as part of the Mother’s Day celebration at our church.  The talk brought up a lot of memories I had forgotten about and many I thought I should document and share.

Becoming a mother didn’t come easy for me.  We suffered from infertility for almost seven years before Solomon was born.  There were many disappointing months, fertility doctor visits, surgeries, shots, miscarriages, an ectopic pregnancy and prayers that preceded his birth in September 2009.  Because of my previous troubles, I was highly concerned my entire pregnancy so much so that after Solomon was born I was relieved to have gotten through the pregnancy but I didn’t have the immediate bond with him that I’d heard so many other mothers talk about.  Sure, I loved him and nurtured him but that head over heels in love and “I’d die for this tiny human” feeling didn’t come until a few months later.  I think I was simply overwhelmed by the enormity of it all.

I’m going to let you all in on a bit of an intimate letter. A letter to myself, my 33-year-old self on the verge of giving birth to my first baby (picture above from my baby shower). 

A letter to my 33-year old self

Dear 33-year old Madelyn,

Soon you’ll be on one of the greatest adventures of your life. You prayed for years to be a mom and thought a lot about the mother you want to be and the things you want to do. So since I know you better than anybody else in the world, I’ve got a little advice I’d like to share with you that I think will help. 

First of all, being a mother enhances who you are but isn’t all you are. If your children become the measure of life or your sense of worth, you’re setting yourself up to be disappointed.  God has given you a unique set of skills, interest, and abilities and one of the best things you can do to help your kids is to show them how to live out their lives as the unique individuals they are called to be. A very wise person will one day tell you that one of her greatest regrets as a mother was not pursuing interests of her own; listen to her and take that wisdom to heart. 

Go out with friends, take the class, start the business, read the book, love on your husband, give to others; just always remember the person you are now before they are born. 

I also urge you to resist the mother comparison game. It begins when your kids teethe late and really doesn’t ever end. The comparison will rob you of so many of the small joys of motherhood.   Don’t stress over your 3 1/2 year old that hasn’t potty trained or the fact that you 3rd grader doesn’t get multiplication as quickly as his peers. Smart, polite and adorable children are great but your ultimate goal is to give the world children with a heart to pursue God wholeheartedly and who, with full force, will go after His call for their lives. Children who have character, good manners and share love unapologetically.  And for goodness sake, stay away from Facebook, Instagram, and all the other social media platforms so much!  They only increase the comparison game plus you’ll stay up way too late looking at them and be grumpy the next morning.

Please remember to Give yourself and other mamas some grace. You’ve made a lot of assumptions about motherhood based on all the books you’ve read and advice you’ve been given but you’ll soon find out there’s nothing that will change assumptions about motherhood like being in the trenches of everyday life with a little human you’ve been entrusted with and no experience. Learn early on to lean on God to show you YOUR road of motherhood and not necessarily the road others have taken. Advice is wonderful and you’ll definitely need and use it but be open to realizing that God may be taking you down a slightly different path and that’s okay. Also be mindful to keep these same thoughts In mind when you’re tempted to judge other moms for their choices that are different from yours. Remember, you’re all trying to figure it out. 

Stop rushing things. Really, I mean it. Life goes by so much faster than you would ever believe. I know it doesn’t feel like it now, but it will. Each year it will seem like the world is spinning faster and faster. Stop wishing away time because you are looking for the next stage of your kid’s lives. Try to enjoy the moment and the uniqueness of each stage. It would behoove you to know that the days are long but the years are fast. I know this is difficult for you since I am you, but you have to try to remember this. 

And finally, remember that no mother is perfect and the years will help you sort out your priorities and calling as a mother which is uniquely tailored to you and your children. 

Your children will live what they see consistently not just what they hear.  Let them see you fall but get back up with grace and faith. Let them see you smile, laugh, be silly and get in the family pictures. Let them see you give and help others. Let them see you mess up and apologize. But most of all, let them see you live your life sold out to God and pursuing your call as a woman, wife, sister, friend, and mother. 

P.S. You’ll be an all boy mom so let go of the twirly dress dreams and prissy tea parties. Brace yourself for dirt, burps more fart jokes than you could ever fathom and more love than you ever thought was possible here on earth. 


Your wiser, 42-year-old self

Sunday Love List

Pizzazeria’s new entertainment book has me swooning.  Beautiful photography and great inspiration.



Land’s End’s new scalloped loafers are the perfect accent to a cute outfit.  From casual friday to school drop-off, you’ll look super cute in these.  Now to decide which color(s) to grab….ummm.



Anyone that’s known me for a while knows I’m fascinated with Seth Godin’s writing.  He doesn’t disappoint with this blog post.  Click here to read it.


Are you looking for an easy and delicious appetizer or weekday lunch recipe?  This is your answer!  My recipe for sundried tomato crostinis are del.i.cious. Seriously, make this your got to appetizer for potlucks and you’ll become the queen of the party!



Emily Ley’s new Simplified Planner will soon be released and I plan to be in line to order mine. Last year I switched to the Simplified Planner from my longtime planner and I was very happy I did.  The handy size, superior paper weight and super, simple design make the SP easy to use and fun too!  If you’re in the market for a new planner for 2018, check it out!

Is fear holding you back from your goals?

Hey, friends!  I wanted to hop on and talk to you for a minute.  Let me start with a short story.  My husband and I have been raising beef cows as a hobby for the last 3-4 years. It’s been a fun and adventurous little venture that our boys thoroughly enjoy.  A few months ago we purchased this year’s cows that we will eventually sell in quarters early next year.  To say these cows were skittish from the get-go is an understatement.  The move from the farm where they were born to our current location was traumatic for them.  My husband first held them in a small holding pen for a couple of days before opening up a corral and letting them out into the larger pasture that had been cordoned off with a portable electric wire.  The cows, being curious and trying to run from my husband, went up to the wire and as expected, it shocked them.  The electric wire stayed up for three to four days before my husband removed it to give them more roaming privileges. Here’s where it got interesting; Even though the live wire had been taken down, the cows refused to go past where it had previously been.  Here they were with the complete freedom to roam free and run the entire length of the pasture yet they were too afraid to go past the spot that had previously caused them pain.

Fear can happen to any of us

I wonder how many of us are like that in our own lives?  Living a fear-based life because of what happened in the past when we have complete freedom at our disposal.  I’ve been there, so I know how it feels.  You try something new, and it doesn’t work.  All the negative circumstances that come with the failed attempt leave you hurt, vulnerable and afraid to step out again so that when another opportunity comes along, you refuse to take a chance and try.  When this happens often enough, we can lose confidence in ourselves, our abilities and the goals we’ve set for ourselves.

Move past fear

Friends, don’t let past failures keep you from pursuing the life of freedom that lies ahead of you.  Don’t be like our cows who missed out on a great opportunity of fresh, green grass for days because of past disappointments. You’ve been given the world to conquer. Refuse to let the fear of repeating past failures hold you back from conquering it. This time you just might find an open door and success.


The Sunday Love List

I’m excited to share a new weekly series with you!  Each Sunday evening I’ll share a list of my favorite finds from around the web and beyond.

Picture via Instagram @ashtonhillfarms

  1. Cedar Rapids event center Ashton Hill Farms has me swooning!  I can’t wait to visit it. Look at all the natural light and high ceilings.  Who wouldn’t want to host an event there?


Via thinksplendid.com

2.  If you’re an innovator with big dreams and ideas, you should read this blog post by Liene Stevens of Think Splendid.  She’s a wedding industry consultant that I’ve had the pleasure of working with before. Even if you’re not a wedding professional but have big, new ideas you’re working on, I advise you to read this.  Liene’s unique background and research lead to some fascinating reads.


Photo via Mark & Graham

3. My southern girl radar went off immediately when I saw these acrylic coasters.  Tortoise shell & monograms?  I’ll take one for the win!


4.  Work gadget etiquette: A quick reminder and good pointers on how to use smartphones and other electronic devices at work.


5. Speaking of etiquette, did you catch my latest blog post in the summer etiquette series?  I talk about asking for leftovers.  Is it tacky or not?  Find out here.


Image via Pizzazzerie

6. How cute are these back-to-school teacher gifts from Pizzazerie? Click here to get the free printable and make your own!

See you next Sunday!






Are you walking in your purpose?

Do you know each of us has a particular purpose?  A purpose that fulfills you and shares your gifts & talents with the world?  Walking in purpose helps you feel satisfied, needed and for the most part, complete.

Did you also know that people are waiting for you to walk in your purpose? That’s right, walking in your purpose has just as much to do with the people you are called to help and influence as it does with you being happy.

You will always touch other lives when you’re doing what you were created to do. It doesn’t matter if you’re the next Steve Jobs, a teacher or a stay-at-home mom.  What a great thought that you will change someone’s life because you are who you were meant to be! You could very well be carrying someone else’s miracle inside you right now.

Here’s the thing y’all, walking in your purpose is NOT just about being well-known or making a lot of money.  It IS about touching every life you are meant to reach and bringing everything you are made to bring into the world; every gift, every word, every invention, every drop of love, compassion and attention to every human who is meant to receive it.

I’m encouraging you to dust off your dreams, let go of your fears and start doing what you are called to do. Don’t fret if you’re not sure what you’re called to do.  It’s not as hard as you think to find out and we’ll talk about how to do it soon.  Just remember people are waiting for you to step out and walk in your purpose.








Summer Etiquette Series: Can I ask for leftovers?

I’m back with the summer etiquette series and today I’m tackling a situation I’ve run into many time over my years in the hospitality industry; is it okay to ask for leftovers at a cookout?

As a hospitality management major I started my hospitality career as a server for banquets before becoming a catering assistant, a catering manager at a college and eventually owning my own catering business. I cannot count the number of times a guest has come to me and asked, “can I take a plate to go?”  In the beginning it was the little old ladies who dared to even bring their own aluminum foil but then it became just about any guest who enjoyed the meal or didn’t want to make lunch the next day.

So is it okay to ask for or expect leftovers when attending an event?  You should follow the lead of the host or hostess.  If the hostess offers leftovers then by all means, take advantage of the offer if you’d like.  If there is no offer, consider that there could be a number of reasons why one wasn’t extended. You should not attend a party with the expectation of taking home tomorrow’s lunch. I’ve also seen guest ask to take plates home for relatives who didn’t attend and this is not okay especially if the relative was invited and didn’t attend.  It is not the hostess’ job to feed them.

As a hostess I’m always obliged to give a guest a to-go if they ask since it’s my job is to be gracious and accommodating whenever possible. However, there have been times when I did that at the detriment of my plans for the leftovers.  If you are not inclined to be overly gracious as a host, it is perfectly okay to thank the guest for their compliment and politely decline the request because you already have plans for the food.

The goal is considering the feelings of others.  In most cases the host would LOVE to unload extra food so they don’t have to store them or eventually throw them away.  BUT, if they don’t offer, do your best not to ask and put them in an uncomfortable situation and for goodness sake, please don’t ever attend a dinner with your aluminum foil and bowls in tow!





Is it okay to ask who will be at an event?

Quite often I get questions about etiquette from friends and family and this summer has been no different. With all the cookouts happening this time of the year, I’ve gotten many questions that I thought were worth sharing in case they might help others out.  Over the next week or so, I’ll be sharing some of these etiquette conundrums with y’all.

First up, I was recently asked by a friend who was attending one of my events if it was rude to ask who else would be coming to an event. To set the scenario up, this friend had already rsvp’ed that she and her family were attending the event when she asked me the question.

Here is my answer:  Yes it is rude and no it isn’t.  It really depends on when you ask the question. If you ask before the event, yes it is wrong.  I’m a hard core introvert and when I go somewhere, I LOVE to know who will be there so I can plan my escape socializing game plan if necessary so I understand the desire to know who will be at an event.  However, this isn’t always possible.  Asking before the event  indicates that you might be basing your decision to attend solely on who else is there or not there.  This can be hurtful to the host as well as those who might be attending a party you decide to decline the invite for.  Also, asking before the event indicates that you are trying to decide if the event is worthy of your presence and let’s be honest, that is self-centered and inconsiderate of the host who cared enough to invite you and their other invited guests.

I get it, you want to know who you can hang out with. If you can find out quietly by doing some investigating on your own, then by all means, go for it!  Maybe the host set up a Facebook event or sent online invites and you can see who else was invited.  However, if you can’t be discreet about it, decide on other merits and remember that we often get out of an event what we put into it.  If you want a good time, attend and be a part of the good time.

On the other hand, it is not rude to ask who will be at an event if you’ve already accepted the invitation.  There could be many reasons why you might ask who will be at an event; you might want to carpool with one of the other guests or you want to avoid talking about the event to someone who might not have been invited which could also be insensitive and cause a stir.  Nothing is worse than talking to someone about a party they were intentionally left out of (which is totally at the discretion of the host, by the way) only to realize they’re not on the guest list.

So go forth and enjoy all the great bbq summer has to offer with your friends and build great memories.  Just remember to always be kind and considerate while doing it.




Favorite Goal Planning & Organizing Tools

2013 Shay Cochrane

I know it’s February  but it’s never too late to get started on a strategic plan for accomplishing your goals.  I’ve been asked many times about the tools I use to set goals and stay organized so I’m sharing them today in hopes they might help you.

Being a wife, mom to three kids (two in school), working part-time, running two family businesses, and volunteering can be chaotic at times to say the least.  In order to keep it all together, I have to stay organized, focused and determined. Although I don’t always hit the mark, my batting average would be a LOT lower were it not for the tools I use to set goals and keep me organized. The tools below are the my favorites for my life.  There are many tools out there so I encourage you to do your research and determine which fit your life the best.


  1.   A time map– As a mom with a lot of intricate details and events to remember for my entire family, it’s pretty easy to blank out and forget something.  A time map is a tool I use to help me visualize my days  and know where I have the all allusive, free time.  This tool seriously helped me figure out where I was wasting my time and schedule my days more efficiently.  One of my favorite quotes from John Maxwell says “The secret of your success is found in your daily routine”.   Below is an example of the first time map I created.  I started with this and tweaked it as my family needs and schedule changed. Time map
  2. Powersheets- Powersheets are the brainchild of Lara Casey, editor of Southern Weddings magazine.  Lara created the powersheets to help women “uncover purpose-filled goals and strategically plan action steps to make what matters happen.” What I like most about the power sheets is that they allow you to put everything out there and walk you through each step to make great things happen.  They are simple and step by step.  They usually sell out but her shop recently re-stocked so if your interested in them, head on over there by clicking here.
  3. Day Designer– The Day Designer planner is the bread and butter of how I stay organized.  I’m in my 4th year using this planner and I can’t say enough good things about it.  Not only is it beautiful and well-made, it is a great tool for staying organized while also being mindful of your overall goals.  The layout includes priority “to-do’s,” expenses, meal planning and the all-important “don’t forget” items. Whitney English, the creator of the Day Designer, includes daily motivational quotes and gives you a place for gratitude which further allows you to focus on not just your schedule but also your health and well-being.  There are three versions of Day Designer available on the website; the flagship, full-size which is what I’ve always used, the mini, a smaller version of the flagship, and the recently released A5, a ring bound planner.  You can download  free daily and monthly planning pages on the Day Designer website to try out as well as access many other free downloads.  Whitney also partners with Blue Sky Planners to offer planners for those who are more cost-conscious.  Weekly and monthly planners can be found on the Blue Sky website while the daily version, much like the flagship is offered yearly at Target, usually in July.  The Target line also features and academic calendar planner. For more pictures and information not the Day Designer click the link found in the sidebar.   Disclosure: While I am a Day Designer affiliate, the opinion offered in this post are fully my own.
  4. A Well-Designed Year–    AWDY is another creation of Whitney English, the creator of the Day Designer.  I like to think that A Well Designed Year is a deeper version of the Powersheets.  It is a “Life Planning System” that helps you delve deep into your life by focusing on three areas (from the website):
    1.  Defining your Core: We start with discovering who you are, so you can focus on maximizing your strengths and minimizing your weaknesses. This process empowers you to honor your values, recognize areas in need of improvement, and utilize your passions as fuel for your journey.
    2. Heart Goals: We help you set focused, balanced goals in a way that’s totally different from the traditional goal-setting methods you’ve likely tried before. This revolutionary system will be eye-opening and life-transforming.
    3. Alignment & Action: Finally, we help you fine-tune your goals to ensure that what you’re aiming for is in line with who you are. Your to-do list means nothing if you lose yourself in the process of accomplishing what’s on it. We’ll help you keep your character and natural bent in mind when goal-setting.
  5. 2Do App– For several years I used an electronic calendar to stay organized.  While I like the functionality of an electronic calendar, I missed being able to write and check off my to-do list.  After moving to the Day Designer, I realized I still liked the convenience of having something electronic for quick access to certain things such as my grocery list. I use the 2Do app in conjunction with my Day Designer to jot down quick lists such as groceries, or to-dos I don’t want to forget. It syncs across all of my Apple devices so the information is available pretty much whenever I want to access it.  I periodically transfer the information from 2Do to my Day Designer which is my central planning tool.

I hope you find some of these tools useful.  Feel free to ask questions comment letting me know your favorite organizing and goal planning tool(s).


Woodland Baby Shower

This summer I had the pleasure of hosting a baby shower for my friend Morgan.  Morgan was once a nanny for our boys and we became really good friends during that time so I was over-the-hill-excited when she told me she was pregnant! I immediately declared “I’m giving you a baby shower!”

Morgan’s favorite store is Anthropologie so that’s where the ideas started to flow from.  I wanted an event that was intimate, full of color, rustic and somewhat eclectic; all of which I think of when I think of Anthro so I eventually settled on a woodland chic theme with a dose of monogram for good measure.

As fortune would have it, I had the cutest white, wood grain invitation pouches I had accidentally ordered that provided the perfect foundation for the invitations.  The details make an event so I focused on making sure the mom-to-be felt loved and each guest felt they were a part of something special.

M87A0174 copy

The mom-to-be and her mother-in-law entering the shower.

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I didn’t necessarily want to play a traditional party game so I created a game called “Who’s that Baby” and had each guest who wanted to participate send me a baby picture of herself. Each participant’s name was put on the list on the right with a blank.  The guest who guessed the most correct matches won the prize. A special shout to anybody who can figure out which baby I am!


baby game

Aren’t these vintage schoolhouse chairs lovely?

M87A0229 copy

M87A0190 copy

 Brunch was on the menu for the day. Besides a yogurt bar and fruit, quiche, southern ham biscuits, and homemade lemon, pound cake cupcakes were also served.



Perhaps one of my most favorite elements of the day was the guest book.  Instead of a traditional guestbook, I opted to go with a photo guest book based on the three words concept originated by Good Morning America.  Guests were asked to give words of wisdom or thoughts for Morgan using just three words.  Below is a sample of some of the photos we captured.






I’ll end with a picture of Morgan and me.  To say it was a pleasure throwing this baby shower would be an understatement.  I now get the pleasure of cuddling and playing with sweet, Baby B also.