Posts Categorized: Personal

Stay-at-Home Family Checklist

Whew, these are some crazy times we’re living through with this COVID-19 pandemic. When we told Roxie there was no school for four weeks, she just laughed in her bed in disbelief. Not that it’s at all funny – but it does feel pretty surreal. We are strategizing ways to keep getting positive news to you all (have you seen Benji’s Instagram videos yet?!?) and ways to keep supporting the amazing local businesses in our region.

Benji and I also want to make the best of this time with Roxie, while also trying not to freak her (or ourselves) out too much.

It’s been a little trial and error so far, but we’ve made it through four days of staying at home, all together! And so have you! Hooray! Back-pats all around!

We have found a few things that have made it easier for everyone. I know a lot of people are sharing schedules, but for me, lists work better. I get a little stressed if I fall off schedule – the family checklist allows me the flexibility I need, while still granting the satisfaction of a job (or jobs) done!

We thought we’d share our list in case it sparks some inspiration in your house! Be well, our friends! <3

(Just click the image below for a pdf you can print at home!)


30 Minutes (at least) of exercise daily – this can be inside or outside!

Outside time every day, no matter the weather
I went on a walk in the rain today, and it was refreshing!

Creative or nature of science project
So far, we made a leprechaun trap, planted some seeds, and made a wind sock!

Read
Roxie and I are currently reading the Harry Potter series! Good thing Benji got three of the books and movies from the library!

Dad and Mom work time
Even though we normally work from home, doing so with our kid at home is hard. Plus things are so tumultuous with the world right now, it can be hard to focus. Setting aside specific work times for each parent at home is really important.

Learn something new
On Tuesday of this week, I asked Roxie to write a list of things she wanted to learn about. I said it could be anything – it could even be what she might think inappropriate – and we would see about learning more. Her list included “mustangs from the old times, candles, rubber bands, the Mona Lisa,” and more. And today Benji taught her about feeding and making sourdough!

Declutter one thing or space
It can be just one drawer. Baby steps, people. For me, today, it was our magazine and mail stack.

Clean one thing or space
Again, baby steps. Don’t feel like you have to deep clean the whole house! I cleaned one bathroom today. But nothing makes me feel more sane than clean spaces.

Games or Puzzles
We are playing Five Crowns daily. Today we also did a puzzle. There have been many rounds of “Herd Your Horses” this week too (a 1980s game we bought secondhand at the Depot).

Support your neighbors, community, or world in some way
Buy gift certificates from local businesses. Make a donation to the food pantry. Offer to make a grocery run for an elderly or at-risk neighbor. Put a positive message out into the world via social media or through a cheerful sign in your window. We’re all in this together!

Other fun ideas
From writing letters to FaceTiming friends or relatives to cooking something for the freezer – there are lots of great ways to occupy your time during this period of social distancing.

We’re thinking of you and sending lots of love your way!

XOXO – Aryn

What’s Leadership Iowa?!

Inspire(d)’s Benji Nichols participates in 2019-20 Leadership Iowa Class.

It’s not very often that we get to do interviews with each other, so I (Aryn) jumped at the chance to put Benji Nichols in the hot seat! Honestly, even though we work in the same office, it’s kind of tough to catch up with him – that guy is busy! When he’s not out bringing the world the latest Inspire(d) Magazine, or doing his many varied tasks for our business, he’s been on the road to far-flung Iowa locales, learning about different aspects of our great state.

Why, you may ask?

You might have seen some of Benji’s posts on social media talking about a program he’s doing through 2020, Leadership Iowa! We are super proud he was selected to participate, and wanted to share a little more about its purpose.

Leadership Iowa is “Iowa’s premier statewide issues-awareness program for current and emerging Iowa leaders.” Basically, it’s a like a grad program for civic leadership on a state wide level. The program brings together 40 diverse adult professionals for eight monthly sessions across the state, and provides an in-depth look at different topics –economic development, education, government, agriculture, and more. Leadership Iowa exists to educate, inspire, and grow a network of informed leaders and to encourage their ongoing local and statewide involvement to create a better future for Iowans. The program is a part of the Iowa Association of Business and Industry Foundation, now in it’s 38th year, with over 1,000 alumni across the state and beyond.

Check it out, and make sure to follow along here and on social media for more of Benji’s adventures – you know he’s going to have them!  Inspire(d) Facebook  –  Inspire(d) Instagram

To kick off the series, here’s a quick Q&A between Aryn and Benji!

Aryn: Why Leadership Iowa?

Benji: In March of 2019, I had the opportunity to attend the Iowa Rural Economic Development Summit in Grinnell. While there, I connected with a couple of other Leadership Iowa (LI) Alum, including Jenae Jennison, director of external engagement at Central College in Pella. Through conversations it seemed like the LI experience could be a great fit, and I was nominated to apply for the 2019-20 Class. The program accepts only 40 participants from across the state each year, with a full application process and tuition. It truly focuses on giving participants valuable, professional insights into the issues and opportunities that Iowa faces as a state, and that follows through the entire eight-month course.

In terms of why I really wanted to be a part of the program – I feel like now, more than ever, we all need to keep reaching to find the common ground that makes rural America work. The Midwest is a highly misunderstood, and often overlooked place from a national viewpoint. Decorah, and Northeast Iowa hold those same exact traits on a state level (misunderstood and overlooked). We (Aryn and I) have spent the last 12 years building a company that focuses on the positive in the world, and we believe we can make real influences within that, and would like to be a part of the larger picture in our state and the Midwest. It’s an exciting time to be in the midwest – and opportunity abounds!

Aryn: (YES! Love it!!!) … Is Leadership Iowa a political program?

Benji: No, not as such. The program does bring together statewide leaders from a professional, often grassroots level though, and several notable Iowa politicians are alumni. Being sponsored by the Iowa ABI Foundation, obviously the hope is to help continue strengthening the Association of Business and Industry’s ties across the state, but those cross almost every imaginable sector and part of our State’s economy. The program does tend to find access to several state leaders, which provide amazing small group opportunities to engage.

Aryn: How often do you meet? Are you finding it hard to make the time?

Benji: LI meets for 2-3 days each month for eight months, with essentially an optional month thrown in the mix (January… in Iowa!). We meet all over the state, so yes, it is a pretty big commitment, but also a fantastic way to see locations in the state that one might otherwise not. Our first meeting was in Perry. Talk about a town that is working hard to reinvent themselves not only for visitors, for for future generations, and current business owners. Last month’s meetings were in Iowa Falls, focusing on agriculture in Iowa. Central Iowa is definitely home to big ag, but also to some really innovative ag education programs, as well as the heart of Iowa’s booming wind energy sector – which leads directly into agriculture as most windfarms are located on ag land.
Living in the northeast corner of the state, the sessions can be quite a drive – but our class has members from Waterloo, Cedar Falls, Iowa City, and Cedar Rapids. We work to do some carpooling, and luckily I enjoy driving! Being self-employed adds a real challenge to the equation as well. Many full-time employers often encourage participation by employees, and help fund tuition costs, travel, and time off from work. Luckily Inspire(d) is helping me take on the expense, travel, and time to be a part of the program (thanks Aryn!). In just our first two meetings I feel that the program has been completely worth it. The level of connection with other participants, and our access to explore issues across the state is unparalleled.

Aryn: What’s next?

Benji: We’ve had our first two meetings – orientation in September (Perry, IA), and our session on agriculture in Iowa in October (Iowa Falls, IA). I’m headed to Ft. Dodge next week for our session on education, and look forward to breaking down some of the topics in posts here on the Inspire(d) blog! The program runs through June of 2020 for our class, with opportunities to stay engaged through the alumni network – it’s an amazing group of Iowans, and I’m truly grateful for the chance to be a part of the organization.

Look for another post soon with updates on Benji’s experiences with Leadership Iowa!

Why Positivity?

We here at Inspire(d) like to stick with positive news – it’s what we’re all about, and we think it’s an important thing to do, especially in these days of constant – often negative – news at our fingertips. That stream of all-day-every-day events can bog a person down, and make a good day turn bad.

I want to talk a little about that, and my goals with Inspire(d) Magazine. It comes down to weeds (I want to crush them!) and flowers (I have a crush on them!).

So, yeah: I’ve been spending a lot time out in my gardens lately. Okay, rephrase – I’ve been spending minutes here and minutes there out in my gardens lately (because that’s all I get, generally), and I know one thing for sure: the weeds are here. I do – literally – nothing to cultivate them. In fact, I actively attempt to get rid of them. Some days I’m more successful than others.

My flowers, on the other hand, take cultivation. They take care – water, sun, space – I even talk to them, because, damn, I love those things. They bring me a lot of joy. Even at this time of year, when it’s the end of the season and you think, “I should just give up!” it pays to keep at it.  There’re perennials out there that will bring color and joy for years to come, if you spend some time taking care of them.

Negativity is like those little jerk weeds. It is here, and it will spread with no effort. My goal in this life is to help it not spread. I put my efforts in cultivating the positives in this world so that we can have a happier life.

If I can improve one person’s day, it’s worth it. Frankly, if I can improve my own day, it’s worth it. This is life; it’s all we’ve got.

While we choose to not write about negative things in Inspire(d) in an effort to NOT spread negativity, we also attempt to pull the weeds – we can do this by writing about inspiring people, being active in our community, supporting candidates who support our goals, voting, standing up for issues that matter to us, and speaking up when we see or hear something that isn’t just or kind.

We aren’t sticking our heads in the soil, thinking everything is all good, all the time. Things are tumultuous in the world right now. I have never felt the desire to pack it in and just go more often in my entire life. But I keep coming back to this desire – this need – to cultivate these flowers.

I’m talking about you guys. I’m talking about this community. I’m talking about this world. It brings me so damn much joy. It is filled with light, love, and wonderful people.

I was helping deliver the Summer Inspire(d) Magazine a few weeks ago, and while I drove, I was thinking about some personal problems. I came up with three F words (no, not my favorite F word, don’t worry) that have become a bit of a mantra for me over the past month:

Don’t fixate on the problem. Find solutions. Focus on the positive.

So that’s what I’m doing out here – minutes here, hours there, focusing on the positive, and always looking forward with hope, excited to see what blooms next.

XOXO – Aryn