OUR SHOP STORY

The week The Ever Co went from being a full time hobby to a full time job.

and also the week I had to personally make the decision to sink or swim.

Here's our story.

Thursday, August 16, 2018: We were prepared to launch a new line like every other limited edition line we'd launched for the previous 8 months since our little shop came to be. 

Except this time, I could tell something was different. The feedback I was getting from our community at The Ever Co was CRAZY. I was gaining an abnormally high number of followers by the minute, and I could tell this was going to be a very successful Back to School / early fall launch.

But what I didn't know was how successful it would be.

We launched four designs and in total, 520 shirts were purchased in a combined total of 8 minutes.

 

The shirt that changed our business. 

 

You would probably think that we were poppin' bottles of champagne and celebrating huh?

You hear all the stories of shops having their "moment". Their claim to fame per say. And quite honestly, our tees went on a mini viral spree. The instagram algorithm which has worked against small business owners for soooo long was actually working for me and spreading our tees like wildfire. Honestly? Who knows how many shirts would've actually sold had the stocked inventory  been "unlimited." We'll never know. 

But my celebration never happened.

and honestly, it was quite the opposite.

From the moment we sold out of 520 shirts at 10:02 pm on Sunday August 19th, 2018, to the moment my tired wet eyes finally fell asleep the next morning at 2:00 a.m., I sat in my office and cried.

Not quite the success story I imagined.

But I wanna share why this hit me so hard, and try to explain a little about the business model we are aiming for here at The Ever Co.

My hope is that in sharing these words you will understand why we have limited quantities, why we more than likely will always have limited quantities and why my heart was so crushed to sell out so fast. You've watched this business go from dream on a paper napkin to full blown reality, and it's an honor to share this story with you. 

 
 

On June 4th, 2018 I officially became a "stay at home mom." 

Up until then, The Ever Co was truly just a hobby. I put in minimal time to the business, but in June I knew I needed to start pouring my heart and soul back into a community I was so eager and passionate to Found last December. 

What I didn't realize was that our little Everly was going to be diagnosed with Austim this year and that there would be so many other huge life changes for our family that would be continuous competing requirements with my desire to jump in head first to this business. 

It's all taken so much energy from me - more than I realized I had. And every single morning I open my eyes, thank the Lord for another day here on this Earth, place my feet on the ground and pray for energy and grace to get through another day living selflessly for so many people I love. 

(side note: I wrote a post on Time Management Hacks if you're interested in reading it. It's saved me time and time again.)

So I've continued to just give as much as I could to this business while not jeopardizing time with my family. That's a choice I've made and will always make. The hubby and those two little girls will always always come first.  I've heard too many stories of entrepreneurs losing their relationships because they poured too much of themselves into their businesses. Cause their hustle couldn't stop hustling. And I never want that to be the case for me. I think that's why I dream of doing something that the family can be involved in. One day, our little pumpkin patch or Christmas Tree farm dreams will come true. 

 
 

In making that decision though, I've had to make some major business decisions as well. While Blake is still equally the co-founder of The Ever Co, he's also still an active duty army pilot, which means understandably he doesn't have nearly as much time to put into it as myself. He handles all of the day to day financial management, inventory input, buyer analytics, shipping material purchases, product photography, and actuary type risk management data analysis. (ha!) 

I've had the honor and burden of single handedly running the other 80% of this business. You can call me a 

  • marketing strategist
  • brand and content curator
  • graphic designer
  • merchandiser 
  • social media manager
  • customer service agent
  • community outreach coordinator
  • inventory manager

And this is what EVERY SINGLE small business owner has to decide when the moment comes.

When is it time to outsource some of these duties? When is it time to ask for help? When is it time to allow yourself to grow while being able to stay true to who you are and what your brand was intended to be.

So many decisions came pouring in this weekend. And while Blake was sleeping cause he had to be up early for work the next morning, I sat in my office and cried big ole alligator tears that poured straight onto the keyboard I'm typing this on right now. 

How did we get here so fast? What am I supposed to do?

Quite honestly, this weekend was the first time since I started putting pen to paper a year ago to make this business happen that I wholeheartedly believed in myself. Believed that this could really be it! This could be my "job" for the rest of my life. The Ever Co could actually retire us.

the first time I truly believed I could swim. 

But ironically, it was also the first weekend that I doubted everything I was doing. That I started questioning if I was in way too deep.  If we were growing too fast and couldn't keep up. 

the first time I truly believed I would sink. 

It's crazy that your heart and mind can go to completely opposite ends of the spectrum in a moment like this. But every single possible thought of success and failure crossed through my mind and I felt like I was drowning in my own thoughts. 

I sat on my phone and read nearly 300 messages from people asking why we sold out. why a pre-order didn't have unlimited stock. when we were gonna restock. why their carts had items in them and then the items sold out before they could check out. and the list goes on. I then read another 100 emails echoing the same thoughts.

i was sinking fast.

I hopped on my phone and texted two of my closest friends and business partners Haley of Indy and Pippa Co and Blake of Jean and June. 

and I just said, "help." I feel defeated.

For the next hour at 10:00 pm they assured me that I was okay and they gave me the boost of confidence I so desperately needed in a moment I felt all alone. They continued to remind me that I was doing everything I could and didn't know this would happen.

But they both continued to say something that will resonate with me until the day The Ever Co no longer exists: You are doing ALL YOU CAN while not jeopardizing time with your babies and hubby. 

And they were so so right. That was all I needed to hear to start swimming out of deep waters into shallow territory.

i started to swim again.

I hopped back on Instagram and carefully wrote some defensive messages about why our shop is the way it is, and instantly started receiving so many messages of encouragement. It was as though everyone knew (without knowing) that I was really having a hard time. The messages of encouragement flowed in and finally by 2 a.m. I was able to close my eyes and look forward to the joy He so graciously brings anew every morning.

 
 

So a night that I should've been celebrating, I felt defeated.

And here's why.

I am a people pleaser by nature. I've been that way for my entire life. I've gotten sooooo much better at it over the years (mostly since meeting Blake and being in the Army), but I'm still a pleaser by nature.

And it's not because I want to necessarily make everyone happy and make everyone love me. Quite honestly it's just cause when I care about something or someone, I care about them hard. I am so passionate about the things I love, and when they hurt, I hurt. When they worry, I worry. When they're disappointed, I'm disappointed. So I'm overly passionate about this community because I truly LOVE you all. I want to serve you, because you allow me to pursue my passion. 

I wrote a blog post when I first started the blog called "Redefining profit" and the main theme was that I didn't care how much money we made. My promise was to always pursue the people.

you. 

So when all of the messages started pouring in of disappointment for selling out too fast, I felt like I let an entire community down. I felt so painfully defeated. The anxiety that I deal with daily started pouring in the floodgates and I was sinking. fast. 

I started questioning how I could've done everything better instead of being down right grateful for 520 orders. 

but joy comes in the morning.

And I woke up this morning feeling revived. Blake and I had a "business meeting" hahah! for about two hours and I placed another huge order of shirts to get us through fall. 

i'm swimming again. 

So here's the deal.

I don't think we're gonna change much about our business model. For now. I know that for this season that we're in - it's what's right for our family. I can't risk it for them.

Our shop was founded to inspire you to celebrate holidays and create family traditions with those you love most. 

Our tees were created to inspire you to ACT. To get out and make memories with your loved ones.

Because each of our tees has a distinct purpose and correlates with a specific event or holiday, we release them in limited quantities because they are unique to a certain time of the year. 

We did this to limit the amount of dead stock we would maintain. Our goal was to sell through 75% of our inventory every month so we wouldn't have to maintain a lot of stock on our shelves as we move to the next holiday. In doing this, it allows us to continuously bring you new trendy and hip designs for every season and occasion! So if you don't snag one one launch, you can hopefully get one at another. 

Being that we are a Military family, this is CRITICAL for us. We cannot maintain a lot of stock because we are constantly moving. It's just not smart for us. 

Additionally, we are a live debt free kinda family. Both in and out of the business. We pay for everything on our credit cards and ensure we are able to pay it off every month to build up our credit while maintaining no debt. Every month, we then put 40-50% of our paycheck into savings or investments. We've implemented these same principles into our business and are doing everything we can to remain debt free. In doing this, we are only using the money made from previous launches to reinvest into the company to fund future launches + more! 

So the better our sales do, the more we can bring you in the future. 

Because our shirts are made custom for our shop from scratch right here in the USA, our turnaround time is very long. From the moment I pay for an order, it takes 4-6 weeks to have the fabric cut, sewn, dyed, screen printed and sent back to me to send to you! I am extremely involved in the process and keep an eye on the timeline throughout it all to try and get the shirts as quickly as possible, but I also know that it's because we are getting the BEST quality organic cotton shirts and so every minute and day that we wait is worth it because of the quality. 

However, with this timeline, that also means we have to "front" the costs of all tees. Even if we do a pre-order, we are paying for the tees up front because of the timeline. This is specifically why our pre-orders also have "limited stock". We will continue working to announce and release pre-orders sooner so that customers are actually able to front the costs for their own tees, but that will all be a work in progress. The end goal will be to have unlimited pre-order stocks. 

So... for now we will continue releasing limited quantities at each launch and based on the response and time available we will do a "pre-order" sale shortly following the launch.

 
 

We just started all of this 8 months ago. We just ask for so much grace upon grace as we continue learning to swim over and navigate these new waters. 

And if you can put your trust in me, I promise we will continue to learn and be the best Ever Co tribe leaders we can possibly be. 

I pray that this blog post (which was probably way too long and way more than you wanted to know-story of my life) brings some light to our shop and how it came to be. I hope that it will answer questions in the future if we run into this again. 

I also pray that I don't have a night like that again. I know that there will be so many sink or swim moments for our Ever Co journey, but I hope every time we find ourselves in that rip tide:

we're able to swim.

And lastly, If you're a small business owner and are reading this, are you sinking or swimming? I pray with every ounce of my being that this post gives you a little boost of encouragement to reevaluate your passion and your purpose. Don't over hustle the hustle. Keep reminding yourself why you started and who you serve. 

there you will find shallow waters.

there you will swim. 

xoxo,

Amy

 

 

 

 

OUR AUTISM JOURNEY

I'm really bad about putting off stories I want to share. I still haven't written out my girls' birth stories, one and three years later-can anyone else relate? But I've learned that the longer I wait to share these stories, the less I remember. The more the beautifully exquisite details start to fade away.  And I want to stop doing that. I want to share these stories when they're raw and real. When the infinite details are still so vividly fresh in my mind.

 
 

So here we are on Mother's Day, 2018. 

And here's her story. Here's the story of our sweet Everly being diagnosed with Autism.

She was born on December 1, 2014. It wasn't until she was around two that we started questioning if she was behind.  I was very optimistic as a new mother.  I was a "she will learn when she's ready," and "she's just a little slower speaking" than others kinda mom.  I never EVER thought something was actually wrong until she turned two and I realized she wasn't talking as much as other kiddos her age.  I also attributed all of her other "off behaviors" to being a young little girl.  It's really really hard those first couple years. I can attest to that.  How do you know if they're just a little slower to develop or if there's something actually wrong? I get your fears mama! It's so so hard to know! But here's our story and what lead us on our journey to finding answers. 

  • She was (and is) very delayed in speech. We cannot hold a conversation with her. 
  • She would (and does) constantly point and grunt at objects to let us know she wants it.
  • She made (and still does make) very little eye contact. 
  • She made (and still does make) weird facial gestures and awkward, repetitive body movements. 
  • She was (and is) always hyper. Not just "being a toddler" hyper. OVERLY hyper. 
  • She was (and is) very independent and typically doesn't want to/care to play with others.
  • She was (and is) not bothered when she hurts another child or adult. 
  • She takes a long time to respond to her name, as though she is deaf or zones us out. 
  • She didn't (and doesn't) like any change to her routine. She's very bothered by it. 
  • She was (and is) very into specific items and those items alone.
  • She was (and is) very aggressive towards other children and adults.
  • She has an EXTREMELY short attention span and doesn't follow directions well. (insert at all)
  • She is overly adventurous and fearless. She doesn't cry often when she gets hurt.
  • She is very picky about colors and order and sorting. 

This list may seem exhaustive and some of the items may seem "normal" for a three and a half year old, but when there's been little to no improvement for almost a year and a half, it's a different story.

So from two to three we just watched her. I knew my time in the Army would be coming to an end soon, so we didn't make any life altering changes. We just watched her and hoped there'd be improvement. 

This was our year of denial.

Blake and I rarely spoke about her delays. Part of it was anxiety. Part of it was denial. And honestly, part of it was embarrassment. I don't think ANYBODY wants their children to be delayed. We aren't ashamed of feeling that way. It's natural to want your children to be normal and to excel developmentally! 

Eleven months later.

It was November of 2017. We were making numerous transitions between sitters/nannies and because of my work schedule and the holidays, I was spending a lot more time with Everly and at home.  It was truly my first time seeing her around other kids her age in over two years. We'd been around kids at play places and at birthday parties, but I hadn't seen her around this many kids her age, well...ever.

On December 8, 2017, Blake and I made the decision to take her in for a three year checkup. Not required, but just to get her pediatrician's advice. It was Hadley's first birthday, and seven days past Everly's third birthday. 

After about an hour of paperwork and back and forth conversations, she said the words we weren't ready to hear: "Have you ever been screened for autism? Your daughter most certainly needs extensive developmental therapy."

It took Blake and I a couple days to really let our new reality sink in. This was the first time we were told by a medical professional that something was indeed wrong. 

We were immediately approved for speech therapy, but they wouldn't allow us to start Occupational Therapy (OT) or Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) Therapy until we saw another developmental specialist. 

If anyone is familiar with the military referral process/system to see civilian providers, it is an extremely exhausting and tedious process. We first were sent to UNC Chapel Hill, and told by their doctors that we could not be seen until August 2018...8 months later. We then were referred to nearly ten different providers until I gave up and said I was going to find someone myself.

During the month of February, I became Everly's biggest advocate.  I drove from Fayetteville to Raleigh to Durham to Chapel Hill to Charlotte to Wilmington and all over the state practically.

During this time we actually declined an initial diagnosis because it seemed to early on in the process. We didn't feel she'd be seen enough or by the "right people." If I'm being completely honest, with the rising incline of an autism and developmental delay diagnosis, we didn't want to jump the gun. We wanted to be patient with the process. We'd heard too many stories of kiddos being diagnosed "just because" there was no other answer, and we didn't want to be that statistic. Whether it's true or not, we still wanted to be patient. So we set out for more. 

That was when l I landed upon the Doctor who I know without a shadow of a doubt the Lord was holding us out for. 

I contacted Developmental Pediatrics of the Carolinas in Concord, NC and after a VERY long paperwork process, we were scheduled to meet with Everly's new developmental doctor on April 30, 2018. 

It was the day after we returned from a week and a half trip across the country to Blake's parents. We were exhausted, through and through. But, the day had finally come.

 
 

We started the day at 7 a.m. and drove three hours to Concord, NC for a 10:15 appt. Unfortunately, due to being on vacation prior, Blake couldn't afford to take another day off work because he's in command. So it was just E and I. 

We were checked in and within three minutes taken back for vitals.

The sweet physician's assistant was so kind to us. Everly was being herself and not the easiest in a confined environment, but the ladies and gentlemen in this field know patience if I've ever seen it. 

After the vitals, she looked at me and said, "what do you want to come out of this appt? Do you have an end goal?"

Ugh, my heart sank, my eyes filled with tears and I broke down at such a simple yet profound question. 

I responded, "I just want to get her the help she needs, if she needs it. I just don't know what to do anymore." And she said "that's what we're here for."

We went into the appt and within five minutes Dr. Stegman walked in. I was already aware of his extensive resume and he came highly recommended from hundreds upon hundreds of families walking a similar journey. I knew we were in good hands.

For the hour and a half we were in that office with him, I don't know that I've ever felt more pressure.  Not intentional pressure, but I knew so much was going to come out of this appt.  I knew the magnitude of this diagnosis or lack thereof.  I wasn't searching for a diagnosis, I just wanted to get her help. 

Prior to the appt he had me fill out a ten page questionnaire with social, cognitive and behavioral type questions on a "1 being the least, 10 being the most" scale type thing. He said on that alone she met the pillars of autism, but of course they don't just go off of a questionnaire.  It just helps to see what parents and caretakers see. He kept us in there for an hour and a half to make the observations himself. He's been doing this for 30 years. I knew I could trust this man. 

At the end, he looked at me and said, "okay mom, you ready?" 

 
 

Phew. I wasn't.

The next thirty minutes are honestly quite a blur. I remember crying and holding Everly. I remember him handing me kleenex and saying, "Everly scored a 79/100 today. This puts her with a diagnosis of mild to moderate autism.  She's bordering moderate based on my notes and observations. She's also being diagnosed with global developmental delay. She is currently testing at a 22-27 month level. In her mind, she's barely 2 years old." He then went on to say that 1/3 of his patients seem to outgrow their symptoms by the age of 10. 1/3 of them seem to get worse by the age of 10. 1/3 of them have no change and continue to develop delayed for the rest of their life.

He looked at me and said, "you're doing everything right mom. But hopefully this helps you understand why things are so hard. Normal kids want to please their parents. They know that kids are supposed to behave because their parents want them to. But our special autistic kids don't understand that concept." (insert ugly alligator tears!)

I can't really explain the feeling that washed over me except that I was grateful and heartbroken all at once. Grateful for a diagnosis that would allow us to get the help Everly so desperately needs to thrive. Grateful for a doctor and his team who truly care about their patients more than I could ever hope for. Grateful that the Lord had us wait for them. Grateful that the Lord lead me out of my active duty Army career when he did so that I could be with her every moment of every day. Grateful that suddenly our little Everly made so much more sense to us, even though our situation became more complicated. 

But also heartbroken. 

Heartbroken because Everly was now qualified as "different." As "special." Heartbroken that she had and still has NO idea what this diagnosis has done to her future. Heartbroken for her childhood to be stripped by daily therapy sessions, when she could be outside playing with other kids or at school. 

It hit me as we were walking out of the clinic that it was April 30th. The very last day of "Autism Awareness Month." And now, a day etched in my memory forever. 

As soon as we got into the car, I broke down. I called Blake and told him everything, and we both cried. It was one of the most raw and real conversations he and I have had in our entire nearly seven years of marriage.  He shared a story with me that he hadn't yet shared. He told me about a podcast he was listening to a few weeks prior. He said a lady in her forties or fifties was talking about her autism journey, and how it made her the smartest lady on the planet! That she's now a doctor with tons of degrees and the diagnosis never slowed her down, but made her so uniquely special and smart. He cried telling me this and said, "As soon as I heard that, I knew I was hearing it for a reason. I had a feeling this was going to happen." We both burst into tears. We then spoke about the song we've dedicated to Everly. "True Colors" by Justin Timberlake from the movie Trolls. Every time we hear it, we just hold our little girl. 

You with the sad eyes
Don't be discouraged, 
Oh I realize
It's hard to take courage
In a world full of people
You can lose sight of it all
The darkness inside you
Can make you feel so small

Show me a smile then
Don't be unhappy
Can't remember when
I last saw you laughing
This world makes you crazy
And you've taken all you can bear
Just, call me up
'Cause I will always be there

And I see your true colors
Shining through
I see your true colors
And that's why I love you
So don't be afraid to let them show
Your true colors
True colors are beautiful

We can't help but shed tears every time it comes on, and friends...I kid you not. While we were on the phone, it starts playing in my car.

God... WE HEAR YOU! WE KNOW YOU ARE NEAR! 

 
 

Everly and I then drove to Ikea. For two hours we walked aimlessly around the store, eating pizza and ice cream and just being together. It was my first Ikea trip (of about 100) where I bought nothing. I just let her wander freely and I just watched. It was like an out of body experience watching her unknowingly walk into a new life.  We walked passed the play center, where I was hoping I could let her go and be wild and free. Then I read the sign that said kids must be toilet independent/trained. Yet again, my heart was crushed. I don't know when that day will ever come.

I wanna share some things that have been on my mind. Some things that are raw, vulnerable, ugly and embarrassing. But mostly, things that are true.

  • Anxiety rips me apart wondering if I should've put her in daycare right away to be around other kids her age. Would that have helped her develop? It breaks me to my core. 
  • Anxiety rips me apart wondering if she watched too much t.v. before she was two and if that had a lasting impact on her speech. It breaks me to my core. 
  • Anxiety rips me apart wondering when I will ever be okay with having to put her into a special needs class. Honestly...I'm so embarrassingly scared of that. It breaks me to my core. 
  • Anxiety rips me apart wondering when she and Hadley will ever get along. We can't leave them alone. She puts bruises and draws blood constantly. Hadley (HER OWN FREAKING SISTER) is scared of her. It breaks me to my core.
  • Anxiety rips me apart because she hurts other kids and adults and they sometimes don't get to see the sweet, innocent, pure Everly that we get glimpses of. It breaks me to my core.
  • Anxiety rips me apart because she's going to be a flower girl for one of my best friend's weddings in July. Will she ruin the wedding? Of course not. But my mama heart worries so much because we never know what kind of day she'll have. It breaks me to my core.
  • Anxiety rips me apart wondering when she will ever potty train. Dr. Stegman asked if she knows what it means to be wet or dry? Ummm, NO! She has NO idea. He said it could take years then. When will she ever be able to play in Ikea by herself. It breaks me to my core.
  • Anxiety rips me apart that Hadley is leaps and bounds above Everly. She's truly outsmarting her and she's two years younger. I don't ever want that to affect Everly's confidence. It breaks me to my core.
  • Anxiety rips me apart because Dr. Stegman said Hadley is twice as likely to develop autism because of Everly. And that though she is developing well now, it could suddenly stop at any point. That fear breaks me to my core.
  • Anxiety rips me apart because Everly has no idea what it means when someone asks her "what's your name" or "how old are you?" She's 3.5 and looks like she should be able to answer those things! I can't blame people! But it's so sad when she just looks away when they ask that. She has NO idea. It breaks me to my core.
  • Anxiety rips me apart reading all of the "you should change this in her diet" forums and "you should supplement this or use this oil" posts. I CAN'T DO ALL OF THAT! It's too much for me right now. I can hardly take care of myself. It breaks me to my core.
  • Anxiety rips me apart when someone says "Everly will be fine! She's going to outgrow this!" I know the friends and family who say this mean well. But Blake and I know she will be fine. This is not a death sentence. But these words sting so so so bad. Nobody sees the full story. There's a reason we are going through all of this. There's a reason one of the best Autism doctors in the state (who's been doing this for 30 years) diagnosed her with autism. She does need help. And for whatever reason, those words break me to my core.
  • Anxiety rips me apart that I got out of the Army to have more freedom. To be able to focus on our family business and to grow myself spiritually and physically. Yet now I'm taking Everly to therapy nearly every day of the week. This wasn't in my playing cards. It breaks me to my core.
  • Anxiety rips me apart when we see gravel or rock.  She has an infatuation with rocks that knows no bounds. She will throw an hour long tantrum and scream as though her dog died when we pull her away. One too many people have witnessed this. It breaks me to my core.
  • Anxiety rips me apart not knowing how to explain her to other kids and parents at school or on playdates. I don't want to introduce her by saying "Hi this is Everly and she has autism!" It doesn't define her, yet we feel so obligated to explain to others who she is and why she is how she is." It breaks me to my core.
  • Anxiety rips me to my core when I feel a sense of jealousy wash over me when I see kids her age acting "normal." I feel so guilty when I feel this way, but it's so hard not to compare. There's absolutely NO shame in wanting your child to be "normal." That's natural. But still, it breaks me to my core.
  • Anxiety rips me to my core when people say, "oh but she's so beautiful!" as though her beauty (and yes, SHE IS OUR BEAUTIFUL PRINCESS!) takes away her delays. As though it erases all of the other troubles. It breaks me to my core.
  • Anxiety rips me apart wondering if this will affect her ability to play sports.  Sports are such a huge part of mine and Blake's life, and we've looked forward to her playing sports almost more than anything. How will this affect her? It breaks me to my core. 
  • Anxiety rips me apart knowing how many bullies I faced as a child. For my teeth. For my Walmart shoes. But this? Not this. It breaks me to my core. 
  • Anxiety rips me apart because I haven't spoken to daddy about this. I never got to cry into his arms. I never got to hear him tell me how much he loves her, just one last time. And GOSH THAT BREAKS ME TO MY CORE. 

Every night before bed, since Everly was born, I've whispered prayers into her ear, rubbed the baby hairs that sit across her face, and sang "Amazing Grace" three times through. It's our routine every single night. The last couple weeks have been so special. She needs those five minutes with me. I need those five minutes with her. But for the last week, out of nowhere she's started rubbing the little hairs that lay across my face while I sing to her. It's as though she's telling me, "Mama, it will be alright. I'll always be your Everly, and you'll always be my mama."

Everly Brynn Hawthorne, no matter what diagnosis this world may throw your way, I know without a shadow of a doubt that you are destined to shine. That your true colors will shine bright and the Lord will guide us through this journey of uncertainty. You are mine and I am yours. Forever and ever, my Ever. 

Love, momma

 
 
 
 

Lastly, I can't thank my husband enough for this photoshoot. It is truly one of my most cherished shoots ever. So candid and natural. Just me and my girls where we love to be most. LOVE YOU HUBS! Thanks for an amazing mother's day! 

XX, Amy

TIME MANAGEMENT HACKS 101

It's pretty ironic, if I'm being honest. I thought getting off Active Duty Army status would give me more time to focus on this business and myself. That I'd finally be able to put all of my energy into my family and The Ever Co.  I thought being a stay at home mama meant watching Netflix and Hulu all day while drinking coffee and sitting on the couch.

wrong.

Honestly, I feel more busy now than I ever did before! Ha! I can hardly ever remember what day of the week it is. When I was working, you better believe I ALWAYS remembered how many days were left until Friday. ha! But...

Much of it is the season of life we're in.  

Battling grief with the loss of my daddy . 

Learning the ropes of entrepreneurship and starting our business

Receiving Everly's autism diagnosis and endless therapies.

Cuddling my littlest who's in the heat of separation anxiety and has health scares of her own.

Loving my hubby who is very busy with Army life. 

Going from two steady paychecks to one.

And all the in between. 

But one thing I've learned since being home: TIME IS PRECIOUS! If we manage our time wisely, we don't have to feel as overwhelmed with ALL THE THINGS. 

So let me start with this: it started in December of 2009.

I was depressed. To make a long story short, I was living in a little apartment in Auburn, Alabama and went a few days without throwing away any trash or doing any dishes because I was in a rock bottom moment in life.

Someone finally came over to help me clean up (which by the way is crazy, because I am a neat freak - but that’s what depression does to ya). When they came over to help, I had maggots in my sink.

my life has never been the same.

That was the first moment in my life that I realized, no matter what season you’re going through-there are expectations that must be met and responsibilities that must be tended to because we are adults! I had nobody to pick up after me or check on me. And it was that moment that I knew I needed to figure out how to manage life and manage responsibilities all in one.

Truth be told, I’m actually a closet lazy person. haha! But there’s something about becoming a wife and mother that’s made my closet laziness be put to rest. I’ve realized that so many daunting tasks stink, but when they’re actually done I feel so much better about life and have so much more time! And I even feel more capable of doing these things because I have these little eyes watching everything I do. They see how I use my time every day. And I want them to emulate me. I want them to look up to me. That’s the good kinda pressure.

So, I'd love to share some of my favorite time saving hacks. Things we've either always done or I've implemented since being at home full time.  If there's anything you do that's not listed below, please feel free to share in the comments below or comment on my latest IG post over @amylouhawthorne

So here goes.

 
 

TIME  MANAGEMENT HACKS 101:

1. Become a morning person, if you aren't already one. 

The premise of this is to 'do what matters most, first, when there are little to no distractions.' If that seems completely unrealistic, and you are a night person through and through, then simply maximize the time that you work best and have the least distractions. For me, that means getting up at 5 a.m. every morning (no matter what).  Setting an alarm, not hitting snooze and making it a routine.  When I get up early, before anyone else is awake, I am truly at the most peace I feel all day. Because for the rest of the day, I feel like I'm in a blender in the midst of chaos! Ha! So why not sit in peace and quiet and focus on things that MUST get done when there are no other distractions. For me that looks like this.

set alarm for 5 a.m. GET UP. ll go downstairs (quietly) and make a warm cup of coffee. ll have face wash in the downstairs bathroom and wash my face. for me, having a clean face is critical to feel refreshed! ll sit down with my Bible and share quiet time with the Lord. it's my fuel for the rest of the day. ll tackle the most important task you have for the day. whether that's responding to emails, booking a flight, prepping dinner in the crockpot, making the kid's lunches. whatever MUST get done, do that when there are no other distractions. ll if and when there's time, I try to get my workout in first thing in the morning so I don't have that hanging over my head! 

2. Maximize your sleep.

In order to do number 1. you MUST get enough sleep.  that means backwards planning. (something we practice often as helicopter pilots in the army). Backwards planning means setting a goal for a set time or date. i.e. I want to go to bed at 10pm every night and wake up at 5am. That will give me seven hours of sleep. In order to go to bed at 10pm, I need to have dinner ready by 6pm when Blake gets home, have the kids in bed by 8pm, relax with Blake from 8-930, do my bedtime routine and wind down from 930-1000. Then Boom. Sleep. 

3. Get the kiddos on an early bedtime routine.

This is an art.  We all know kiddos are different.  My oldest has a hard time winding down. Our youngest goes to sleep quickly. That requires us to REALLY focus on routine with them.  This also really helps with traveling. The more the kiddos are on a routine, the easier it will be for bedtime.  There's so much out there on bedtime routines, but for us, we typically watch a show as a family about an hour before bedtime and after dinner.  We then limit any screen time within 30 minutes of bedtime so it doesn't affect them going to sleep. We give them one final snack then brush their teeth and just prior to laying them down we sing Amazing Grace, say our prayers and lights out.  Whatever your routine is, stick with it so you know they'll be down at that same time every night. This is CRITICAL for setting the stage for the rest of your night and the next morning! 

4. Use naps wisely.

Nap time can be the BEST time all day to GET STUFF DONE. BUT, it can also be the one time you have a minute to relax.  So this one is a toss up.  Cause guess what? Right now, the girls are down for a nap and this post is being written. If there's something that MUST get done, use nap time for that. I really wanted to stop putting this blog post off, and I wanted to write it while the ideas are fresh, so that's what nap time looks like today. But honestly? some days I just need a recharge. I need another cup of coffee, I need to binge watch Lost in Space, and I just need to chill.  Whatever you MUST get done (work or chill) use nap time for that. 

5. Change up the scenery for the kids to maximize distraction.

This is one I'm learning a lot lately since I've been home! While my girls are ALL about routine, they also get bored quickly.  While I'm an introvert at heart and love cuddling on the couch watching movies, my whole family LOVES the outdoors.  So every week we plan outdoor time. Whether that means going to the park after therapy sessions or simply playing in our backyard, the girls LOVE getting outside.  And right now, the weather is perfect for that! The good thing about getting outside is not only does it ALWAYS present something new (new friends to meet, new bugs to see, new things to learn) but it also tires them out! We try to plan outdoor time right before nap time so it makes them go to sleep easily! To go along with this, we also try to plan our "errand days" out.  This means, Monday and Wednesday are our busy get stuff done days.  Because the girls aren't in school yet, I really don't like leaving the house every day.  Instead, we pack everything we need to do outside the house on Mondays and Wednesdays when we go to therapy.  With Everly's autism diagnosis, this may change soon with MANY more therapies being added, BUT for now, this works. We go to the park, library, post office, grocery store etc. on those days and that way I'm not wasting tons of time on other days. This works wonders for us. 

6. Don't let things pile up.

This means dishes, laundry, mail, toys on the floor, etc. etc. etc. I think almost everyone has that one thing that they just don't like doing. For me, it's dishes. I've definitely gotten better at it, but they're not my best friend.  And while I'm really good at throwing laundry in...I'm really bad at putting laundry away.  My closet typically looks like a tornado with so much clean clothes on the ground because hanging clothes up is death to me. Ha! Since I'm married to a clean freak (yay!) I've learned that these little things don't have to be so bad if I tackle them little by little throughout the day versus after a week (or couple weeks) of letting them pile up! If the kids are playing with toys and they move on to coloring, I pick up their toys while they're coloring.  When the girls are done eating, I immediately either wash their plates or throw them in the dishwasher. When a load of laundry is done, I put it away immediately, or at the very least separate the clothes to put away at a later time.  Again, I am NOT perfect at this, but I've learned that doing those daunting tasks little by little saves so MUCH time in the long run! Little piles are easier than big ones, that's for sure! We also clean up the kitchen and living room every night before we go to bed. For us, there's just nothing as sweet as waking up to a clean house! 

7. Don't let your stairs or car play you, play your stairs and car. 

Gahhhh, does anyone else have catch all stairs? You know, like that catch all drawer in your kitchen, living room or bathroom? We've really tried to work on keeping our stairs clear. Not only for safety reasons, but so the stairs don't play us! When we go upstairs, we take something upstairs. When we come downstairs, we take something downstairs.  You don't have to do it all at once, but little by little take something up and down each time you go up or down the stairs. It truly saves so MUCH time! 

Alsoooo, anyone else feel like it's such a pain to bring stuff in from the car? Why is that? haha! I am the same way, but since I've been staying home and taking the girls with me everywhere now, I realize how much easier it is for the car to get dirty with two little toddlers.  Every time I come in from the car, I always bring everything in with me now! That includes shopping trip bags, diaper bags, trash, starbucks cups, everything. It is so so nice stepping into a clean car! 

8. Do one minute tasks. Period.  

I learned this from my sweet friend Nancy Ray. I think she may have read it in a book somewhere, but regardless, it has been LIFE CHANGING for me!!! If there is something that needs to get done that will only take a minute, DO IT!!! Why is it so hard for us to do those itty bitty tasks?! It is for me anyways.  Now every time I say the words "oh, I'll do that later" I just DO IT. For example, when the girls get up I make them a bowl of cereal, and for whatever reason leave the box of cereal on the counter cause the pantry is just sooooo far away (aka, 5 feet). But now, I put it away because it just takes a second! And man, it feels so good to get those little things done. It only takes a minute, so just do it. Cause if you let 10x 1-minute tasks pile up, then 10 minutes is a lot harder to tackle.   

9. Prioritize your daily tasks list with achievable goals.

Phew, this is probably the hardest thing for me to do. I am a lister through and through. I make lists in my head for EVERYTHING. I mean this blog post is even in a list lol! So for me, making an achievable list is super hard. What I've learned is that just like in making a budget, there's things you want and there's things you need. When you're planning tasks for the day, we have to separate what we want to do vs. what we need to do.  For me, I make my full list i.e. 10 things that I'd like to get done.  Next to 3 of the items, I make a star. Those are the things that MUST get done that day.  That way, if I don't get all 10 things done I still feel accomplished because I was able to do the 3 most important things.  This also means that we have to plan out our days, weeks and months in advance.  If there's a week that looks way too busy, having lists written down will help you move things around to better balance your life.  Making monthly achievable goals is also critical in this step. 

(you can read my "balancing" life blog post here with more on prioritizing)

10. Automate where you can.

Someone once told me TIME IS MONEY. It's so true. We are now more willing to pay others to do things we don't want to do, simply to have more time with our family! There's no shame in that! So, I've been so excited to share how we've automated some aspects of our life!

We just recently started doing grocery pickup which has been AMAZING!!!!! We use Walmart's service and it's been wonderful. On the days that we're out of the house, we plan a grocery pickup on our way home and just scoop up the groceries then! It saves so much time!

You can use a code here to get $10 off your first grocery pickup!

We also automate our diaper deliveries with Honest Company! In 3.5 years, we have never ever once ran out of diapers or baby wipes. It is SO nice to have diapers and wipes delivered straight to our door! 

You can start your monthly subscription here! 

We also do an automatic pest control service! Locally we use Home Team Pest Defense which charges us automatically about $85 a quarter! If you live in an area where there's bugs galore, DO IT! We never have to worry about bugs, and it saves Blake so much time! They send us a text when they're coming out to let us know they'll be in the area, but other than that, they come and go as they please and charge us automatically.  (This could be used for a lawn care service too if that's something that your family doesn't enjoy doing!) 

Lastly, if you're an entrepreneur, automate where able. We're learning this right now, and honestly in the trenches of it. But, it's so important to free up time! 

11. Work out "sitter trade days" with neighbors or friends!

Man oh man oh man has this been an AMAZING thing we've started doing! We are trying to save money where able, given that I am not on active duty anymore, so we've worked out with a few neighbors to do "sitter trade days!" We are all busy in our own ways, and we all need days to just get stuff done without kids! Most times I just go to the coffee shop and work work work while the kiddos are at home with a sitter, and then I in return watch their kids when needed! We try to do three sitter trade days a month! This also allows for the kids to be around other adults as we start to transition to daycare and school over the next couple years! 

12. Find a play place that allows you to work. 

If you can find a play place locally that allows the kids to play and allows you to work, YOU HAVE HIT A JACKPOT! We have a local play gym called "Bravery Kids" and it does just this! I can sit and watch the kids while working on my laptop and it is amazing! I hope your local area has this! 

13. Get a YMCA gym membership. 

Are you wanting to get back in shape but just do NOT have the time to workout at home or at a gym with littles? Well, do you "Y"?! Haha, how corny am I?! Most cities have a YMCA and the memberships are around $30-$60 a month. Roughly. This membership allows you to use all of the amenities.  Most have a swimming pool, sauna, workout equipment and much more and they offer childcare for you! If there's no YMCA, there are many gyms (mostly crossfit) that offer childcare while you workout.  There are also SO MANY mom groups that offer workouts with kiddos! If you google "workout mom groups in my area" you can hopefully find some!  It's a way to get back in shape with the kiddos! Lastly, if all you can do is get outside and go for a walk with those kiddos, then do just that. Most kiddos love walks, and it's just a beautifully healthy thing to do. 

14. Get ready early. 

I always feel like I can get more done when I feel refreshed.  This doesn't mean you have to get glammed up. This means you can just put on gym clothes and throw your hair up.  But whatever you do, just try to wash your face, brush your teeth and change clothes when you get up. 

15. Plan meals ahead of time.

Another one I'm still working on, but I've learned that having a chalkboard in our kitchen hallway that has the meals for the week saves me SO MUCH TIME! I can reference it for the grocery shopping list to make sure I'm not forgetting anything and won't have to make a last minute run for a meal. But it also let's me slowly start prepping stuff on the day of the meal! 

16. Get down with them and get work done.

With your littles that is.  For whatever reason, my kids LOVE when I'm around. haha! jk jk. I know I know. They love their mama! But with that, it can truly be exhausting. I mean really. Hadley is really really in the heat of separation anxiety at 17 months. It's been hard for her to be away from me for even a minute.  But when I get down with her, she's so much calmer.  So I've been working on being more present on the ground at her level, but also getting stuff done. If that means sending a few emails, responding to a few texts or just getting in the quality time that those kiddos need from you, be at their level and watch their spirit change! 

17. Make their breakfast before you go get them. 

Before I go get the girls in the morning, I set out diapers, prep their breakfast and have it all ready.  I've learned that things are just harder to do when the kiddos are around. So being able to do these things by myself allows me to have both hands free (with little screaming) hehe! 

18. Clean at wakeup.

I have LOVED this one so much since I've been home! In our home, our bedrooms get neglected the most.  For me, it's an out of sight out of mind kinda thing. Everyone sees the kitchen and living room, so they get done most! But our bedroom and the girls'? Not so much. So...in the morning, when I go get each of the girls from their room, I stay in there with them for a little and clean their room from the day prior.  I don't even touch it throughout the day, we just clean up together the next morning! They've loved doing this too and it teaches them to help! 

19. Clean the bathroom while giving baths.

Keep in mind, this one is for kiddos that are a little more independent in the tub, but the way our bathroom is setup, I can have perfect sight of the girls (without being too far from them), while they're taking a bath! Our bathroom tends to get neglected too, so it's allowed me to get the girls bathed while also getting the bathroom cleaned! The hubby's LOVED this one. :) 

20. Pack diaper bags and the car the night before.

If you are going somewhere early the next day, or at any time during the day, it is SUCH a time saver to pack bags and the car the night before! I am terrible at forgetting something that the girl's need or that I need to return. If it's something that must go, as soon as you remember it, pack it! You can essentially have everything packed except perishable items and into the car the night before! Anyone with kids knows that it takes an extra 57 hours to leave the house, so anything you can do early is the perfect way to save time...and sanity. :) 

21. Don’t start a next big task until you finish your previous big task.

Example: I *NEED* to watch the next episode of This is Us as soon as the girls go to bed! I’m gonna pour a glass of wine and sit on the couch and relax. BUT, the kitchen needs to be clean because I must wake up to a clean kitchen every single day. So, I don’t get to treat myself to the show until I finish cleaning the kitchen! Same goes for something as simple as coming in to make dinner after grocery shopping with the kids. I won’t start dinner until I go clean out the car with all of their stuff. It’s almost a game I play with myself and allows me to tackle big projects one at a time. We are QUEENS of multitasking, but when they’re major things that need to get done that take time, it’s best to just do them one by one! Another one I do is if I wake up and didn’t clean the kitchen the night prior (which is rare) I tell myself I can’t make coffee until I clean the kitchen. PHEW, you better believe I turn into Nanny Mcphee right that moment! ha!

Something else I love about this one is that it is a PERFECT tool to teach our children! It serves them so well when they get to school, because they learn that they must clean up what they are doing before they can start something else! It’s a very good habit to start young.

22. Clean your kitchen and all of the toys EVERY. SINGLE. NIGHT.

I have started doing this this year, and MAN OH MAN, this is my saving grace! There is truly nothing better to me than waking up to a clean home, and to me the kitchen and the girls toys are always the two messiest things! So after the girls go to bed, Blake and I will clean the kitchen (this includes wiping down counters, doing all dishes, loading or unloading dishwasher and running it if need be, setting out new dishtowels for the next day, and picking up all of the toys around the house). Once you start doing this and making it a routine, then it becomes second nature and it kills you when you wake up to a dirty home! (and then treat yourself to netflix on the couch *reference 21 above).

p.s. the secret to toy cleanup? BASKETS! You can see a lot of our baskets in the #ourhawthornehomeNC hashtag on instagram, and I use them everywhere! I keep toys separated and organized this way and it’s such a good way to teach the girls how to organize items. All their dolls go in one basket, kitchen play food in another, blankets in another and so forth. PLUS they’re so aesthetically pleasing!

23. Get yourself a cordless vacuum.

This one is so important it needed it’s own bullet. Ha!

But you GUYS, seriously…this vacuum that you can find here at my “favorites” blog post is LIFE CHANGING! The fact that I can go grab it at any time to clean up a mess QUICKLY is critical for time saving! I don’t have to worry about cords or bulky vacuums, it’s just the perfect mini life saver. ha! I also loveeee having a bottle of thieves household cleaner on our kitchen counter. I switch out the rag with it every 1-2 days depending on how much it was used. I have this handy to always be able to clean counters, high chairs, tables and what not if there’s a spill and never have to go digging for cleaners. Such a time saver.

24. Clean while you cook.

I am horrible at this. Really. But Blake and I have this agreement that if I cook he cleans the dishes and vice versa. So while I’m cooking, he is taking care of the kiddos and cleaning the dishes that I’m putting in the sink. However, if he’s away for training, I have to do it by myself, so one thing I am really working on is as I finish a pot or mixing bowl or appliance, I clean it right away instead of letting all of the items pile up. Cause then after you make dinner, that full sink of dirty dishes is SO daunting! AMIRIGHT?!

25. Have a weekly and monthly cleaning calendar.

For us, we vacuum all of the carpet floors once a week. We sweep and vacuum our hardwood floors at least every other day. We wipe down all of the counters, door handles, bathroom, sink every day. We do dishwasher runs every day. We run a load of laundry every night. We wash all of our mini kitchen, bathroom and doormats once a week. We wash our family room blankets and pillow covers every 2 weeks. We wash our sheets once a week. We mow our yard and do outdoor work once a week.

Having a calendar that highlights these tasks that MUST get done is game changing. It allows you to get in a routine and routines make habits. When things like this become habitual, you save so much time in the long run.

AND LASTLY...

BONUS TIP: Remember every day is brand new. You set the tone. Joy comes in the morning.

I don't share all these tips and tricks for you to think I have it all together. Honestly, it's quite the opposite. Hence why I'm writing this. For me, writing things down puts them into practice. It's my way of meditating on truth.  So now, let's implement these together and use our time wisely. 

But hey, if the days goes awry quickly and nothing goes as planned...remember...ALWAYS remember, joy comes in the morning. Each day presents you with a fresh start. A new beginning.  Darkness can't stay dark forever.  The sun will always come out again. 

xx, Amy + The Ever Co

Redefining Profit

Owning your own business typically brings one common theme to mind: money. 

So understandably, when you're making a lot of it-it's generally thought that the business is boomin'. And conversely, if you're not, it's generally thought to be hanging on for dear life.  

But I want to throw a concept out that may come as a surprise to some: what if starting, owning and running a "for profit" business wasn't all about the money? What if the dollar signs in our bank accounts weren't our success stories?  We can be the wealthiest business owners, but completely lose our passion and drive in an instant if we aren't careful. And not everyone will agree, but for us-money can't buy our genuine happiness. 

There's so much more. And we choose heart over hustle. 

Profit: to obtain a financial advantage or benefit, especially from an investment.

What if we shifted our culture away from thinking the word profit was directly tied to a financial advantage, and instead that it was tied to a benefit? What if our "profit" was whether or not we were serving the people we are running the business for? What if our "profit" was whether or not our purpose and mission are being fulfilled? Now, don't get me wrong-we want to put a roof over our head, we want to put food on our table and we want to build a happy and healthy upbringing for our girls, but the dollar signs that show up on our monthly financial statement don't define us. 

WE WON'T LET THEM DEFINE US.

What will define us is if we are serving "The Who" and "The Why" of The Ever Co?

The Who: It's about you. Our people. Our tribe. Our community.

The Why: It's about our mission. Our purpose. Our calling. Our legacy. 

We, as small business owners, must get back to the heart over the hustle. 

I think so often as entrepreneurs and creatives, we focus on the what, where and when of our business endeavors instead of the who and the why.  And THAT is what burns us out. We get so wrapped around the logistics of growing our following, of making more money, of getting bigger and better and having more, instead of worrying about how we can serve YOU better and how we can serve our purpose more.  It takes the fun out of small business, and I never EVER want us to get there.  I hear so many stories of entrepreneurs getting burnt out, and we don't want that.  We are in the infancy of Ever Co, and we are setting our priorities on people + passion over financial profit.  

When we take out the unnecessary logistics and marketing pressure of entrepreneurship and instead focus on our passion and purpose, joy fills our office space.  It reminds us that we are serving our given "market" for a reason.  That is, in fact, what initially sparked your interest, right? You saw a gap or a need that you wanted to fulfill.  But here's the kicker: If we are serving our audience well, and if we are serving our purpose well, then the financial profit will come. I truly believe that refocusing our energy on our people and our passion will allow us to grow financially.  But, our priorities must be right for that to happen.  

 We never started our business to get rich. Let's face it; we entered a saturated t-shirt market and threw a cute graphic and our brand on a piece of cloth. Spoiler alert: you probably won't be seeing us on Shark Tank for this! But, we also aren't "just another t-shirt company." It's so much more than that for us.  Just as much as we are a brand, we are also just as much a community.  A community to inspire you to celebrate holidays with those you love most.  A community to inspire you to create traditions right where you are. At home, at work, in your backyard, at your favorite restaurant. Wherever your feet are planted.  A community to inspire you to capture memories that will last forever.

The deeper we get with growing our business, the more I realize how much this same concept applies to my own social media platform @amylouhawthorne.  

I spent five years growing the following I now have.  Yet, for the last year-I've continued to watch the number next to my name go down by the hundreds every single week.  What was once so easy to grow has now become a nightmare for many social media bloggers-especially on Instagram.  The algorithms for platform growth continue to change on the reg, which makes it extremely difficult for bloggers to grow their community. We're competing with actual coded in algorithms that hide our content from our long time followers, and that's just plain discouraging.  To be honest, for most of us it's INCREDIBLY stressful.  I'm in a ton of small pod groups and we talk about it daily. "What do we do?" "What do we not do?" "What did we do wrong?" And it puts SO much pressure on us, as if our lives don't already give us enough! 

But this week something in me shifted.  (Hence this blog post) I got rid of my business profile, and I switched back to a personal profile. I now can't look at the statistics of everything I post.  I now can't watch the numbers fluctuate up and down on my account.  I now can't see how many people my posts are reaching.

Instead, now I'm focused on you.  I'm focused on why I share and who I share for.  

Cause here's the scoop friends:

I get messages every week that say "thank you for saving my marriage." "Thank you for giving my marriage hope and promise for tomorrow." "Thank you for being vulnerable in your own failures to remind me that nobody's perfect." 

I get messages every week that say "you reminded me that I don't have to give up on life when things get rough. You reminded me that putting this knife to my wrist or gun to my head wasn't the answer." 

I get messages every week that say "you lead me to find Christ." "You saved me from a life of destruction by teaching me about our God who loves us so."

I get messages every week that say "my kid doesn't measure up in the eyes of the world either, but you reminded me that they are all unique and beautiful in their own ways. Just as they were chosen for us, we were chosen for them." 

And friends, THIS is why I do this.  Because if I can save one young couple from signing divorce papers and giving up, if I can stop one person from slitting their wrist and ending their life, if I can lead one brother or sister to the goodness of Christ Jesus our Lord, if I can remind one mama that their child's diagnosis doesn't define them as a parent, then that's all that matters.  And that's what I want my legacy to be.

When the day comes that I leave this world earth side to be reunited with my daddy, I want to be remembered for creating a legacy and building a heritage for my daughters to live on and live in.  I want them to be proud to call me mama. I want my husband to be proud to call me his wife.  I want my parents to be proud to call me their daughter.  I want my Soldiers to be proud to call me their leader. I want our Ever Co community to be proud to call me a friend. 

We truly truly love you so. 

xx, Amy

p.s. pin this image below on pinterest or share it on social media to spread the word! We want to change the culture in small business. Help us get back to the heart over the hustle. Help us redefine profit. 

Redifining Profit copy.jpg

Bonus: A few notes about our business plan! 

We just packaged our 500th shirt and shipped our 400th package in just over a month of sales, but we are just about breaking even financially with what we invested into our website with Go Live HQ, our family video with Heart Stone Films and our inventory.  For our business, we wanted a no shipping + no extra fees model and we also wanted to create affordable shirts for your families to wear.  With that, our margins are not through the roof, and we are okay with that! Mark Cubin may be disappointed, but he'll get over it. ;) We love going to check out from a shop and seeing the words "Free Shipping" pop up, so we wanted to implement that in our shop too! 

FINDING BALANCE

Busy day? check.

Not enough hours in the day? check.

Feel like your priorities are all mixed up? check.

Then this one's for you.

Up until recently, I told myself "I just want ten more hours in the day. Only then could I get everything done that I need to!" But the truth is, we would likely still manage our time exactly the same as we habitually do now with even more hours in the day.  We'd still find every excuse in the book to skip out on those things that matter most.  We, as a society, are collectively on the struggle bus when it comes to managing our priorities.  And friend, that's okay. Cause managing priorities and finding balance are hard work. But let me share this with you-a quote that changed my life by Laura Vanderkam:

 "You have fewer than one thousand Saturdays with each child in your care before he or she is grown up." Wait, just one thousand?!? That's like tomorrow! 

Phew, grab me the tissue box. That was all that I needed to hear to take action and get my priorities in check. To find my balance. 

We must shut out the not-so-important and reel in the real-important. 

It's not so much what we prioritize, but more importantly how we balance the priorities we've set. 

My Army Chaplain told me something in December of 2012 that's never left my rolodex of favorite quotes since: "You can't have two number one priorities. If your priorities aren't in order, and if you aren't managing them individually, then your number five will trump your number one and your number two will collide with your number three. Priorities are priorities for a reason. We must manage them as such." 

I was the girl who pulled all nighters EVERY SINGLE TEST in college because I put off studying until the last minute.  I was the young woman who let debt pile up so high that my credit was shot and I thought I was doomed for life.  I was the wife who cared so much more about what others thought about me than my own husband. 

Until I started focusing on balance. Until I started realizing that I HAD to set priorities and take actions to tend to those priorities every single day. It was only then that I graduated with honors, came out of nearly $100,000 of debt and saved my marriage. 

If something is worthy of being a priority in your life, then it is worthy of being tended to.

I call this "tending to": filling up the priority's bucket.  

Think of your priorities like they are buckets.  When you make something a priority, you are consciously telling yourself that this subject is SO important to me that I must take care of it. I must keep it filled with water to survive.  Now don't get me wrong, different seasons of life may call for different amounts of water, but nevertheless-if it's a priority, it needs water. The more priorities you add, the more water you need to spread amongst all of your buckets. Imagine your water is time, energy, love, care, compassion, money, attention, desire, discipline and focus. We likely don't have enough of this to share evenly amongst all of our priority buckets, right? And even if we think we do, we're likely sacrificing in one for another, rather than consciously tending to each bucket alone. 

And this is where we learn to balance. 

I'm so often asked how in the world I manage all of the things that I do. I'm a Christian, always seeking after more truth. I'm a wife, yearning to love my husband more. I'm a mom, desperately wanting to be more present for my girls. I'm an Active Duty Army Officer, ready to accomplish every mission assigned to me with initiative. I'm an entrepreneur, eager to grow and learn and give back. I'm a 31 year old woman, chasing after health and fitness goals postpartum. And, I'm currently in a season of grief-holding on to hope for a better tomorrow. This is me right now. Learning to balance these priorities I've set.

Not necessarily learning what buckets can be less filled than others.  Rather, learning how to fill my buckets with the amount of water they need to survive. 

Here is how I balance my priorities. 

 

The decisions we make and actions we take must consciously meet the needs of our priorities every day.  We must fill up the buckets for the most critical aspects of our lives so they don't run dry.  When certain buckets have more water than others, balance will be lost. We must fill our priority buckets up every day with the amount of water they need to survive. However little. However grand. Give them what they need. 

I encourage you to read "What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast" by Laura Vanderkam. I've learned so many useful tips and tricks to apply to this very subject.  Since reading the book, I've become completely enthralled with the idea of waking up early.  Now, mind you, I'm very used to it having been in the Army for seven years.  But now, it's not a dreaded alarm clock.  Instead, I'm anxious for my alarm to go off at 5 a.m. every morning to start my day reading the Bible and filling my soul with the spiritual fuel needed to survive.  On Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays I go on long runs to train for my marathons.  On Saturday mornings, we get a sitter and Blake joins me so we have 10-15 miles to be together-just us. We go get coffee + breakfast afterwards and just chat.  Already, before 8 or 9 a.m. I've tended to three of my priorities. Faith, Family and Fitness.  Bottom line: make the most of your mornings. Don't waste that precious time. 

Some notes from the book: 

  • Successful people have priorities they want to tackle, or things they like to do with their lives, and early mornings are the time when they have the most control of their schedules.
  • If you wait until the end of the day to do meaningful but not urgent things like exercise, pray, read, ponder how to advance your career or grow your organization, or truly give your family your best, it probably won't happen. If it HAS to happen, then it HAS to happen first.
  • In the morning, after a decent night's sleep, the supply of willpower is fresh. Getting things down to routines and habits takes willpower at first, but in the long run conserves willpower.
  • Successful people turn high-value tasks into morning rituals, conserving their energy for later battles. 
  • The best morning rituals are activities that don't have to happen and certainly don't have to happen at a specific hour. These are activities that require internal motivation. 
  • The best morning rituals are activities that, when practiced regularly, result in long-term benefits. 

TAKE ACTION: 

1. I would absolutely love for you to grab this free printable and create your own balance sheet like mine! Upload it to instagram and share with us! 

2. Start paying attention to how you use your time. There's a spreadsheet you can download here from Laura Vanderkam. 

3. Plan out your weekends for six months! Sound crazy, huh? Create a bucket list with your family or closest friends that gives you things to do, people to see and places to be! You wouldn't believe how much time it saves when you actually plan out your weekends! And how fun is it to make a bucket list.  These don't have to be expensive activities, but make them unique and special. Mostly-live The Ever Co spirit and make MEMORIES that will last forEVER! 

Follow me @amylouhawthorne and @theeverco and share with me if this was a useful blog! I am so excited to keep sharing these free printables and lessons learned with you to use in your growth journey! I'm a big big fan of cheering other people on-so I'm all ears always and have a lot of pom poms waiting for you! Go get em! 

Love and hugs,

Amy

THE GOOD MOOD FIGHT

He's a prideful fighter. He says things he ends up regretting.

I'm an emotional fighter. I take everything personally and focus on him vs. the problem.

Sound familiar?

The point is: we are NOT good fighters. We know this. The prideful fighter and the emotional fighter do not fight well.

Maybe neither of these fighter personalities are you. Honestly, there aren't scientific fighter labels, and if there are, I'm still no scientist. But, you can probably label the kind of fighter you are. Angry, emotional, bitter, prideful, stubborn, close minded. Do any of those sting a little when you read them? Maybe that's your fighter label; maybe that's your spouses. 

If you're reading this, I imagine you want a tiny nudge towards healthier fighting.  

So here's the deal: Blake and I have had to work diligently to figure out how we can healthily fight without making things worse. And yes, if you're asking yourself-is there really such a thing as "good fighters?" 

The answer is yes. There are.

I want to help you learn (with us) how to be better fighters.  Because at the end of the day, no matter how big (finances, sex, children, infertility, jobs-etc) or small (dirty dishes, changing diapers, toilet seats) the fight may be: we all will fight with those we love most at some point in our relationships. And if you ask me, it's not even worth fighting if there's not a resolution at the end, right? Not a compromise, but a resolution. Do you ever finish arguing with your spouse and walk away thinking, well that was completely pointless!  (insert emoji with hand raised here). That's not what we want. We want resolution.

What I've learned from countless hours of marital counseling is this: we are ALL created differently. We think differently, act differently and speak differently. We all have our faults. Different things trigger different emotions in us all, so even if we have all intentions of having a good fight, one small statement can completely derail that train and lead it down the wrong path.  We must remember that no matter how strongly we feel about a topic, your significant other may have just as strong of feelings about the complete opposite. 

BUT, be so very grateful that we weren't created the same. Use those strengths and weaknesses in you and your partner to learn and grow from one another. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you probably won't change that person into the dream man or woman you want them to be.  There will always be something (even if it's ever so small) that we dislike about our partners- and we must do everything we can to shut that desire for change down. Because that is one of the most dangerous desires in a marriage, and I'll be posting about that topic soon. 

So sweet sweet sister, or brother (probably not, huh?)

Here I am getting on my knees in front of you-begging you, pleading with you and asking you to please please please implement these steps in your relationship if you too are bad fighters.  You're here for a reason. Right? You're reading these words for a purpose. Right?Use them, share them, believe them and let me know if they worked! Maybe you learned something that I too can implement, and I'd love to hear! 

This may seem simple. This may seem silly. But, it's a fine art, and given the right attention, can turn a dull painting into a beautiful masterpiece. 

Here is my three step guide to "The Good Mood Fight"

1. If you feel a fight coming on, or if you even remotely accidentally walked into one unintentionally, and either of you are in a bad mood already: RED FLAG. STOP STOP STOP the fight immediately. If that means walking away, changing the subject, tickling the other person, whatever it is. DO NOT CONTINUE PAST GO! It could've been a bad day at work, a hard day with the kids, a rough night-whatever it was that sparked the bad mood, it will trigger unintentional emotion in the fight. Don't even let it begin.  

2. Choose a time (and location) when both you and your partner are in a "good mood." A neutral location that doesn't belong to either of you. So, not the man cave, GUYS, or the craft room, LADIES!  Maybe you're driving home from date night and you just finished watching an amazing movie. Maybe you just finished having a romantic night in. (read between the lines). Maybe you just made hubby or wifey the best dinner they've ever had. This is when you start the "good mood fight." Start it with these words, "honey (or whatever your pet name is), can we talk about something and not get mad at each other but talk about it calmly? I am so happy with how things are right now with us and I think it's a perfect time for both of us to address some things that have been bothering us cause we're in such a good mood!" Sounds cheesy, right? It is. BUT, every time I do this with Blake he laughs hysterically and already goes into the fight knowing, okay Amy isn't trying to attack me on this subject, she really does love me and just wants to talk! 

3. Be ever so cautious with the words you choose during this good mood fight, because the last thing you want to do is turn this into a "bad mood fight." Try not to use words like "you did this" or "you didn't do this", but rather "I feel hurt when X action takes place" or "it bothers me when X happens because I feel X". Put the focus on yourself rather than the other person. Nobody likes to be blamed. Focus on the problem, NOT the person behind the problem. Never use the words "always and never" because no matter how angry we are, it's one of the most dangerous ways to trigger bad emotion in your partner. And whatever you do-listen. Remove any distractions and listen to your love. They want to be heard. 

Oh and one final step: don't be hangry. Eat some stinkin food before you fight. :) 

So there it is. This isn't a science. Marriage is an art.

Blake and I aren't marriage counselors, but we've been at rock bottom.  We were a signature away from signing divorce papers just over five years ago. 

We've learned that marriage is about learning and growing and developing into better spouses for each other.  There's nothing Blake and I love more than to see each other trying to do things differently for each other! We feel respected, and we feel cherished.

I'll always end these blog posts about our marriage with this-if you feel like you've hit the end of the line, if you feel like you've exhausted every single effort in the book-can you message me first? I'll have one simple question to ask you before you call it quits.

And it's worth having the conversation with me about-I promise.

Why? Because it was the one question I asked myself before we signed our divorce papers.

And it was the one question that saved our marriage. 

"Are you ready to spend the rest of your life without this person?"

My answer was no. 

Love, hugs and so much encouragement being sent your way!

Amy + Blake