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2019 Intentions

2019 Intentions // www.LisaSamuel.com

If you’ve been reading here for a while, you’ll already be familiar with my yearly reflections and the setting of intentions for the year ahead. In one form or another, it’s a thoughtful, meditative process I’ve repeated each year for the better part of thirty-five years, since I received my first red leather-bound diary at the age of eight. 

Never has this process been as meaningful as it is now. Since Elie and I have been together, we’ve adopted this practice as a family, sharing our reflections and intentions so we can hold each other accountable, lift each other up, and support each other in our individual and family goals. Taking intentions from our hearts and minds and penning them to paper gives them weight and energy. It makes them real. 

If you’re curious about the process I use, I explained that in last year’s post. I hope it’s helpful to you. It’s been a powerful tool in my life.   

2019 Intentions // www.LisaSamuel.com

2018 Reflection

My intention for 2018 was to move from discovery to action, to pursue only what brings me (us) joy. YES! or not at all.

That feels like an accurate description of 2018, a year in which Theo moved from toddler to little boy and where Elie and I both started to define ourselves as parents and our individual identities and passions outside of parenthood. A shift to ease. We traveled a lot. We prioritized time with family and friends. I remember a lot of laughter in 2018. It was a good year. 

2019 Intentions // www.LisaSamuel.com

Reflecting on 2018

Our marriage continues to be stronger than ever as we grow with each other as individuals and as parents of a remarkable small person. I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating here. Elie and I both had unhealthy and unhappy first marriages, but without those experiences, I’m not sure we would have the marriage we have now. Because of those experiences and the personal growth we both prioritized before we came together, we began our relationship together with high expectations of ourselves and each other. To always choose kindness. To think before you speak. To take time to breathe. To support each other’s passions and desires without forsaking our own. Good habits are as easy to maintain as bad habits, and our habit of kindness remains. We also prioritize time with each other, whether it’s a getaway to Vancouver or just a dinner at home, we take time to check-in and make each other feel important. It doesn’t hurt that I still think Elie is absolutely perfect.

And Theo. The terrible twos did not live up to their name, because despite some (pretty spectacular) tantrums occasionally, which we learned to manage with help from these books, the twos were wonderful. Increasing independence, an explosion of language and the development of a maturity beyond his years, Theo grew this year. 

Our little introvert loves to stay home in his ‘home sweet home,’ as he calls it, but when he’s at gatherings, he can perform. He gets both of those from me, I think. He has an insatiable curiosity, asking questions about everything from why there’s not a door on the tractor in his book to why he can’t see his feet in his shadow. He notices every detail. Theo loves to tell and hear stories and he can spend hours in imaginative play, flying airplanes to Mexico, making up adventures for Curious George or using the belt of my bathroom robe for everything from a fishing pole to a leaf blower. He can find 1001 uses for pompoms and would rather play with a bowl of flour than just about anything. Playdough became fun this year. He has continued to cook with me almost every day, cracking eggs and rolling cookies, helping to hold the knife to slice an apple, seeding a pomegranate. Cooking together has become a great joy for both of us.

Theo and Elie have discovered music together, and it makes my heart happy. Elie will play guitar and Theo will sing, or play his ukulele. They watch music videos and Theo can sing all the words to “Puff the Magic Dragon” and reenacts all the parts of Peter, Paul and Mary. Theo loves to help Elie in all things cars and mechanical and construction, and Elie is Theo’s ultimate authority on facts. Sometimes he’ll ask me a question and then double-check the answer with Elie, which makes me laugh. I love how he adores his Daddy and I still get hourly snuggles. 

Theo also started preschool this year, at Whatcom Hills Waldorf, a magical place with a lilting, rhythmic pattern to the days and where kindness reins. I wasn’t particularly surprised that Theo took several months to become comfortable at school. From birth, he’s always been one to sit and observe for a long time before deciding to join in. We saw it at music class, at gymnastics and at any large gatherings. He’s always been more comfortable around adults than littles his own age. Theo cried at drop-off until right up to the end of the year, and I’m hoping that when he goes back after Christmas break, his excitement at school continues.   

My intention for motherhood last year was to “be a loving, nurturing, playful, and open-minded mama to Theo. Be present. Be patient. Help him to develop his own independence, and give him opportunities to grow.” That intention was my mantra over this past year, and I read several books to help me put it into practice. The loving and nurturing come easy to me, and I will always stop what I’m doing to snuggle on request or read a book or sit and tell stories or to have him cook with me. Luckily, those are all things Theo enjoys as well. 

But, I continue to work on taking time out every day for the pure playful. One of Theo’s favorite questions is “Do you want to play with me?” and sometimes it’s hard to give a simple yes. To stop doing the dishes or folding the laundry or prepping for dinner to take a focused hour to follow his lead. It’s a balancing act, to foster his independent play, but also to have intentional time together. 

I will give myself a gold star for being present. When I am playing with Theo, I am fully engaged, on the floor with him. I made a commitment early on in his life not to look at my phone or have the television on (our television is never background noise) when I’m playing with him, and I’ve stuck by it. I’m not distracted, and he can tell the difference. 

If you’ve read any of my early blog posts, you’ll know that nurturing relationships continues to be something I work on year after year. I keep it a priority, so I don’t fall into my tendency to isolate myself, something I mostly do in times of stress but can even do in times of busyness.

I did a good job this year of connecting with in-town friends, meeting for lunch or walking dates, reaching out for play dates with our kiddos, hosting coffee, brunch or dinner or having dinner at friend’s house. Our weekly calendar was always full, but in a way that felt good and not hectic. Elie really helps with this goal, since his outgoing and extroverted personality makes connection natural. Elie never seems to need to recharge in silence like I do, so I’ll also tell him I need a night (or two or three) at home with just us. We balance each other out. 

I didn’t do as great a job of connecting with out-of-town friends and family. I really struggle with making phone calls these days, because I don’t make calls when I’m with Theo, but I often need naptime to just be silent. I love a totally silent house while I do whatever chores need to be done, and that recharges my batteries for the afternoon. When I had my own business, I talked with my dear friend and business partner, McKenzie, every day. This year, we went months without connecting on the phone. It’s not okay, and this year, I’m committing to doing better.    

2019 Intentions // www.LisaSamuel.com
2019 Intentions // www.LisaSamuel.com

Despite my love of travel, I’m a homebody at heart. And I love spending time making our home a warm, welcoming, nurturing place for us and for friends and family. Last year felt like a year of hosting, with a return to opening our home for frequent dinners, coffee visits, happy hours, real dinner parties and a big Christmas Eve open house. Hosting feeds my soul, so it felt good. 

This year, I stopped feeling guilty for having someone help clean my house and we hired a housekeeper to come once a week for a couple of hours. That time I used to spend cleaning toilets I now spend with Theo. I realize it’s a luxury, and I’m grateful. 

I also made purging and organization a priority, getting rid of all the stuff we don’t use or need and giving everything else its place. We organized the attic, the basement storage, the garage and all closets except one, the one that holds Theo’s baby things. We’ve already loaned out or given away a lot of our baby stuff, but I still need to decide which things I’m going to keep forever. Now that Elie and I have decided not to have another baby (I guess…) then I don’t need to keep them for baby #2. 

I wanted 2018 to be my year of fitness, specifically to gain more strength. At the end of this year, I feel stronger and healthier than I have in the past few years, certainly since before I was pregnant. I committed to regular Barre3 classes, returned to yoga and went to a weekly strength class with Elie along with walking while listening to podcasts. I plan to continue this in 2019. 

I really worked on meal planning in 2018, planning menus ahead of time and prepping ingredients so we always had the makings of a meal. I even shared my prep lists and how to mix-and-match ingredients to make different meals. I worked hard at it until I realized that’s exactly what it felt like—work. Not joy. I finally accepted that meal planning is just not for me. I found I was wasting food, because I wouldn’t want to eat the things I prepped. I love the spontaneity of planning tonight’s meal today, depending on our cravings for that day. I love to end each day in the kitchen, cooking for the people I love and gathering people in our home. It’s what brings me joy. And so 2019 will reflect more of that. 

I wanted to read more in 2018, and thanks to my book club, I read more than I have in years. My favorite book of the year wasEducated. I also fell back in love with nutrition in 2018, binging on podcasts and reading many of the latest books on nutrition and gut health. 

I feel like 2018 wasn’t a great year for spiritual growth, but instead was for spiritual maintenance. I have my own daily prayer practice, and Theo and I say a prayer every night before I tuck him into bed. This year, Theo started asking questions. Who is God? What is God? And I tried to come up with simple answers for him. God is love. God is everywhere. We didn’t attend church regularly (in fact, I think we only went on Easter and Christmas), but Elie and I have continued our daily gratitude practice and have continued to talk about plans for Theo’s spiritual and religious practice. We still don’t have answers.

I didn’t learn anything new this year, not in the way I intended. I listened to lots of podcasts, read lots of books and learned a lot about being a better parent. But I didn’t learn a new skill.

We travelled! We travelled 14 weeks this year, which is exactly one-quarter of the year. And Theo was a superstar traveler, oven better than us. In February, we celebrated Theo’s second birthday in Todos Santos and then in Cabo along with dear friends and Mimi. We spent a week in Palm Springs with family. In May, we went to Japan to celebrate Daniel and Annisa’s wedding and then spent three weeks touring the country. We took a road trip to Lake Chelan with Uncle Oren, Nicole and Hannah. In October, we flew to Toronto to visit family and then on to Israel with Mimi and the Gillis family where we had one of the best trips ever. Elie, Theo and I ended the year with a two-week family retreat in Maui, where Elie and I spent a lot of time reflecting on the year and setting our family intentions for 2019.  I was sorry that we didn’t get to California to see McKenzie and Evan or to Kentucky to see the Lairs and my Granny and family there. Instead of going to Mississippi, my Dad came and spent a week with us, which was wonderful. 

In the community wing of my life, we have continued to support the Family Resource Center of Bellingham Public Schools. Every Thursday, Elie’s furniture delivery drivers from Samuel’s Furniture give their time to the Family Resource Center, delivering and assembling beds to families in need. But, I’m feeling a pull towards more direct service in this next year, especially now that Theo is old enough to start to participate in some types of activities. 

This Christmas, we supported seven different families in our community, helping to provide them with the magic of Christmas. It felt good to personally pick out presents, wrap them in beautiful paper and know that the boy or girl opening that present will feel loved and special. More of that in 2019.

I think I failed miserably at consuming less this year. I did make thoughtful purchases and continued to purchase as much as possible from local, ethical and sustainable businesses. But I didn’t reduce the amount I purchase. 

In my intentions from last year, I had a big section on meaningful work, specifically working on publishing a cookbook. 

Here was my goal list:

  • By the end of January, relaunch my website. Done!
  • Starting in February, post at least three times a week to the blog with a weekly meal plan, one recipe, and one other post. I didn’t publish three times a week, but I did write 31 blog posts in 2018, which was a big improvement. 
  • Partner with Ciao Thyme, including developing the January Cafe menu and partnering on an Incognito Dinner on January 25. Plus at least three other partnerships with Ciao Thyme during the year. I loved developing the café menu and hearing all the feedback from customers. The January dinner and Incognito Dinner were really fun, plus I did one more Return from Israel Incognito.
  • Look for other partnerships for events/styling/dinners. Not done.
  • Attend a two-day food memoir writing course in March. I didn’t realize the workshop was on Easter Sunday, so I canceled. 
  • Join Gather Seattle to meet and learn from other creatives. I re-evaluated this, and decided it wasn’t practical to drive to Seattle so often. But, I did sign up for a two-day Gather retreat that ended up being canceled. 
  • Post five days a week to Instagram with the intention of growing my following to at least 8,000 by the end of the year. I’ve decided to let go of the numbers and just focus on posting when I have something meaningful to say.

As I mentioned earlier, I spent a lot of time in 2018 focused on meal planning, with the idea that my cookbook proposal would surround an idea of meal planning and easy breakfasts, lunches and dinners. I thought the idea sounded good and one that fills a need. But in that process, I learned that cookbook is not me. I love to gather people in our home and around our table and hope they leave feeling nourished in more ways than one. That’s my book.                                                                                                      

I’m happy with 2018, about how I loved my family and friends and myself. 

I almost didn’t post my intentions this year, because I feel like there’s a trend now against goal-setting (at least on Instagram). That it puts too much pressure on us, too many expectations. And I started to feel self-conscious that I lovethe feeling of this fresh slate each year. The looking back and the dreaming forward. But, I’m posting them anyway. For me and those of you who have gotten far enough in this post to read this. Because this must mean you love this time of year, too. Reflection and renewal.   

Also, I don’t feel that heavy weight around setting intentions. It’s not a report card, not something I can pass or fail. Writing these posts are like letters to myself. How did I hope to grow in the last year and how did my path change? I don’t care if I don’t check off every box. That’s not really the intent. The intent is just in moving forward, getting just a little better each year.

I remember a passage from a book I read in high school; the meaning of life is that every generation gets a little better and a little better. You learn from the mistakes of your parents and grandparents and great-grandparents, and while you will make your own transgressions, you won’t repeat those of your ancestors. When you know better, hopefully you do better.

I feel that way about growing older. Every year, I may wander off my path a little, make mistakes and find my way back. My path might change, grow windy, take u-turns. I might stumble up hills, hug the sides of a cliff or wallow in valleys. But I hope I get a little bit better every year. That I don’t repeat the same missteps. Instead, I hope I’m constantly learning and growing, living each year with just a little bit more compassion and grace than the last. That’s why I set intentions each year. 

On to 2019. 

2019 Intentions // www.LisaSamuel.com
2019 Intentions // www.LisaSamuel.com

2019 Intentions

I like having a word of the year, something that embodies how I feel nowabout how I hope to feel throughout this year. My word this year is nourish, for all parts of my life.Nourish my body, nourish my family, nourish my passions, nourish my soul. 

Just like last year, I’m writing intentions for each major area of my life, each of my roles in life. And just like last year, some of these might sound familiar, because they are the same as last year’s. But I keep them here as a reminder of what I’m doing well and to just keep it up. In areas where I’m setting new intentions, I’m writing more details.  


Our marriage is the cornerstone of our family. I will continue to make my marriage to Elie a priority: being present, spending time, practicing kindness, listening, being understanding and accepting of differences, checking in regularly, giving love. 

  • continue regular check-ins
  • weekly date nights
  • supporting Elie in pursuing the activities that bring him joy
  • at least two, two-day getaways for some alone time to focus on us


I will continue to be a loving, nurturing, playful, and open-minded mama to Theo. Be present. Be patient. Help him to develop his own independence and give him opportunities to grow in his own unique way. Support him in the activities and opportunities that bring him joy. More often than not, say ‘Yes!’ to play. 

  • Say ‘Yes!’ to play
  • Swim lessons after he turns three
  • Martial arts, if appropriate
  • Potty training
  • Transition from crib to ‘big boy’ bed
  • Support him in second year of pre-school


I will continue to nurture meaningful relationships with family and friends and let go of relationships that don’t bring joy to our lives. Consider this idea: it’s okay if I’m not loved by everyone. 

  • This Christmas, I decided to write a few letters instead of sending out Christmas cards. They take so long, I only got a few mailed. So, I’m continuing this over the year, with the intention of writing one letter each week to someone in my past or present life, a thank you letter to tell them they have been important in my life. 52 letters in a year to bring joy to me and someone else. 
  • Make time for more phone calls, even if they are brief. I always feel like I must carve out an hour for a call, but sometimes it’s enough to just call and say, “I’ve been thinking about you.”
  • visit my Dad in Mississippi
  • visit my Granny and the Lair’s in Kentucky
  • visit McKenzie and Evan in California


I will continue to maintain our home as a warm, welcoming, nurturing place for friends and family to visit. For it to be a place that creates wonderful childhood memories for Theo. For it to be organized and serene, because that keeps me calm and makes life easier.

  • continue to have an open door to friends and family
  • create a new ‘big boy’ room for Theo
  • finish cleaning out and organizing the few drawers and spaces that are still left to be done from last year
  • paint Theo’s playhouse

Body & Health

2019 will be the year of gut health and sleep! 

Last year, I focused on fitness, and I do feel stronger and more fit than I have in years. I want to continue that focus, but adding in gut health. If you’ve read this blog for a while, you’ve probably heard me mention that I have had digestive problems since I was a child. Over the past seven years, I’ve managed it pretty well with a moderate FODMAP diet, but it hasn’t been enough. I’m hypothyroid and chronically deficient in B12 and iron. This year, I’m working with my naturopath to finally figure it out. I’m 100% committed, including ruling out SIBO and adopting a more restrictive eating plan until my gut health is restored. For those of you who know how much I love bread and pasta, it’s a big deal. 

Additionally, I have been a poor sleeper my entire life, and this year, I’m really putting into practice good sleep hygiene. I have a whole list of things I’m including in my sleep routine, which I will share on the blog shortly.

  • Continue to focus on strength through Barre3, weekly ‘monkey gym’ with Elie, power yoga, walking and playing with Theo
  • work with my naturopath to finally heal my gut
  • practice good sleep hygiene, with the goal of more restorative sleep


Read for both pleasure and learning. 

I am grateful for the continuation of my book club, spurring me to read for pleasure each month and bringing me to the table with a host of incredible women. My neighbors and I are also going to start meeting monthly with an informal book club. Also, at the end of this last year, I fell in love with nutrition again. Nutrition research is a constantly evolving, controversial and creative field, and I love studying again. 

  • Continue book club
  • Join neighborhood book club
  • Finish CEUs for three nutrition books
  • Attend at least one nutrition workshop/conference in functional nutrition


Continue to focus on my spiritual practice and continue to figure out how to develop spiritual practice/traditions/gratitude practice that work for our family. This year, I’m also going to return to my meditation practice. When I was pregnant with Theo, I meditated every single day using the Headspace app, and I found it such a powerful tool during pregnancy and for his birth. I want to bring that practice back into my life.    

  • continue daily prayer and using the prayer list app
  • continue saying prayers nightly with Theo
  • attend a church service at two or three different churches – try them out
  • continuing daily gratitude as a family
  • begin a gratitude journal, each night before bed writing down three gratitudes from the day 
  • return to a daily meditation practice using the Headspace app, even if it’s only 5 minutes

Travel and Play

This year’s travel focuses mostly on visiting family, although some of them live in lovely locations. Also, last year, I made a bucket list of things to do with Theo before he turns 18. We’ve already started checking them off our list, but this summer, we’re going to go camping for the first time at a national park. We also hope to go camping with friends and to take Theo skiing for the first time (not on the same trip).

  • Take Theo skiing and/or sledding for the first time
  • Make a summer bucket list, including camping with friends
  • Travel with family to Phoenix/Scottsdale in February
  • Visit family and friends in Kentucky/Mississippi over spring break
  • Glamping in Yosemite in June
  • Bali in December


Continue to support the Family Resource Center of Bellingham Public Schools, helping to ensure every child in our community has a bed, a warm blanket and a table for their family to gather around, a home in which to make memories. In addition, this year I feel pulled to more direct service, so I will identify an opportunity that speaks to my heart, perhaps teaching cooking classes to kids. Lastly, I want to repeat our Christmas giving again this year, with an advent calendar with acts of service and anonymously adopting families in need to make Christmas magic.  

  • Continue to support Family Resource Center
  • Begin to participate in direct service – cooking classes?
  • Create advent calendar with Elie and Theo with acts of service
  • Adopt families for Christmas


Be a thoughtful, conscious consumer. Try to buy less: reuse, repurpose or recycle whenever possible. 

  • No-buying January. In January, I will not make any purchases for myself, our family or the house, except food.
  • Set up a new system for composting, recycling plastic film and other recyclables.
  • Donate all gently used items to local organizations, including Theo’s baby things. Archive any of Theo’s baby items I want to save forever.
  • Continue to purchase clothing and home items primarily from brands who produce consciously and/or sustainably made goods. 

Meaningful Work

I’m writing my big personal vision here:  I want to publish a cookbook.

  • Write cookbook proposal, to be finished by end of 2019.
  • Begin to look for agent.
  • Meet with friends who have gone through this process.
  • Create an editorial calendar for the blog.
  • Contribute regularly to the blog, at least once a week.
  • Post and engage on Instagram as much as it brings me joy.
  • Teach a few cooking classes?
  • Attend at least one retreat or workshop.
2019 Intentions // www.LisaSamuel.com
2019 Intentions // www.LisaSamuel.com

What are your intentions or goals for 2019? Let me know, and we can cheer each other on. That's what makes this space so special--connection with people we might not ordinarily get to meet and a chance to enrich each others lives. Thank you so much for being here. I so value the relationships I've developed through this space. It brings me joy, and I hope it brings you joy as well. Happy New Year!

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