February Small Goals

I skipped small goals in January. The world was all aflutter with everyone’s new plans and lists of things to do in the new year, and it felt like just too much to add on for the month, too.

But I do like the practice of it, and I like how it helps me frame the months. February feels practically over already (“why’s it so short?” she whined), but I’d like to come up with a few things to focus on. I’m having trouble picking, to tell the truth. There’s so much that I could do, and what feels like so little time this month. So I’ll try to keep it simple.

1. Make the plants beautiful. The former owners of this house left some plants here. They’re lovely, and they’ve fared well so far considering my hit-or-miss abilities as a plant mom. But they’re also in plastic hanging baskets like they came straight from the greenhouse, and replacing their pots with something nicer and gifting them each their own macrame hanger will go a long way in making them look less like ragamuffins.

2. Spend an hour every weekday learning. Document it. I started a GitHub repo where I’ll house all the tutorials or side things I do for learning purposes. It’s just called learning-2017, and inside will be directories of the tutorials I’m working through. Currently, that’s JavaScript30. I’m also wondering if I should add them to CodePen. Is that redundant? It is more exciting to look at. Please weigh in if you have thoughts.

3. Make this cake. I made it once before, and it’s perfect for Valentine’s Day.

4. Make a plan for Chad’s birthday. I’m feeling like we need to do something or go somewhere for Chad’s upcoming 3-0, since we went to Reykjavik for mine. He may just want to staycation and work on his projects all day while I bring him food, though. Either way, we need to start planning now.

5. Get some frames. We now have quite a few prints we’ve collected that are frameless and in storage. And by “in storage,” I really mean gathering dust in corners of rooms that need to be tidied. I’d love to get them hung so I can look at them again and we can finally show them off.

What’s your February look like?


This is Not Normal, But Let’s Take Care of Ourselves

This Is Not Normal Illustration by Sarah Moore

The lovely Sarah Moore illustrated this piece for the Cry Babies Art Show. Shared here with permission.

It’s been a wild few weeks, hasn’t it? [EDIT: Correction. It’s been two weeks. Only two weeks. đź‘€] I’ve been wanting to write and share here, but I wasn’t sure what to say. I’m sad and angry, but I’m also grateful for the responses in places like Philly and Lancaster. I’m proud of and grateful for the amazing sanctuary city I moved from, and I’m reassured that Lancaster was a great choice for our move.

The internet has not been a comforting or healthy place for me to spend too much time, and I want to acknowledge that, while also noting that it’s been key in connecting with others who are working so hard to improve things (shoutout to Tuesdays with Toomey!).

So for today, I thought I’d compile lists of encouraging things that are happening (mainly around Lancaster and the huge numbers of refugees this little city welcomes and has been welcoming for years), resources for how to keep going, and a few self-care tidbits. This list is just as much for myself as it is for anyone else. Maybe I’ll add to it later.

Encouraging things:

I think I’m gonna start publishing a post every Friday detailing a list of good things from the week. We could all use a little more of that these days, yeah?

Resources for resistance:

  • Sarah Kendzior, who studies and writes about authoritarianism and so far has called all of it
  • The FourFiftyOne, a podcast for #theresistance, by Summer Brennan, Jonathan Mann, and Jesse Hirsch
  • Resist Tinyletter is a daily newsletter with an update and an action you can take.
  • 5Calls.org makes it super easy to call your elected officials
  • Fax Zero has made it really easy to fax your senators. This is great for those of us whose dear senators have gone totally missing or just taken all their phones off the hook (ahem, looking at you, Pat Toomey)!

Take care of yourself! This is hard stuff!

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2017 Goals and Plans

Hello, 2017I’ll be the first to admit that, especially after last week, the NYE/New Year’s goal/planning appeal is starting to wear off. I wonder how much of that is due to the rapid consumerist marketing cycle of advertising to the next holiday. I saw Valentine’s Day stuff in stores immediately after Christmas.

But it’s still the beginning of the year, and it’s helpful to acknowledge the things you want to accomplish. I’m mainly doing this for me, as a record of my goals and plans for the year, with the full knowledge that saying I want to do something won’t make it happen, but with the hope that recording it will solidify it in my head a little bit and encourage some level of accountability to myself.

I had a bunch of things I wanted to do in 2016 that didn’t get done (but I still did a lot of great things!). Here are the carryovers from last year, with commentary:

  • Find community — I think I need to find a few communities, really. A group of Galentine’s Day type ladies, local tech ladyfriends, a church, and the type of friends we had at the end of college.
  • 52 CodePens — This was doomed once I got behind and gave up on doing any. I think I’ll halve it and shoot for 26 this year. I can then pleasantly surprise myself if I surpass this.
  • Echo App — I think the idea is still cool. And I need projects to put on GitHub. So I guess I’ll keep it.
  • Blog series — I mainly added this so I’d blog more regularly. That still applies. Maybe I’ll call it an editorial calendar/plan.
  • Make a quilt — I started one and hope to finish in 2017.
  • Etsy shop of found and vintage home goods — Holding off on this one for now. I have too many other things going on, and it’s clear I want to spend my time on other things.
  • Establish a writing practice — This didn’t really happen, I think mainly for scheduling and mental health reasons. Which is unfortunate because that’s when I need it most.
  • Inbox Zero — Yep. I’m so close.

Things I want to add:

  • Write and share a lot of code
  • Write and share a lot of words
  • Make another bra. I took a Bra Making with Madalynne class in December, and it’s such a rewarding project that can be done in an afternoon.
  • Continued work on the house, both large improvements and small ones that make it feel like home.
  • 12 dinner parties — this one scares the crap out of me, but I really want to intentionally try to forge some relationships in our new city.
  • Learn a little every day
  • Continue to be visible
  • Feel hireable and like I can contribute — or, feel like I’m adequately prepared for the next phase of my career, whether it’s freelance or remote employment
  • Find real, meaningful, tangible ways to resist everything that’s wrong with the present administration
  • Do something musical again. Low pressure, but with some structure. Maybe revisit voice lessons?
  • Book a weekend writing retreat
  • Take scheduled digital breaks
  • Feel strong and energetic — food, running, trying a barre class, yoga, lifting
  • Be well and regularly fed
  • Invest and be invested in in Lancaster — Find my people and make time to explore greater Lancaster County. Lancaster City is so wonderful I rarely leave, and I know there are so many hidden gems in this beautiful place outside of the city.
  • Make time for Philly — for friends, fun time, and professional connections. These three are often one in the same for me!
  • Lisa Eats Cheese — site launch and more videos!
  • Look for a local acupuncturist I like
  • Be steeped in tech, creativity/writing, good friends both new and old, and a church/spiritual community.

These don’t feel like particularly measurable goals. For some reason this year I’m gravitating toward broader themes of how I want to feel, mixed in with a few pretty actionable items. There’s a big difference between 12 dinner parties and feeling strong and energetic. But my hope is that a goal like “feel strong and energetic” leads me to do concrete things I’ve wanted to do, like try a barre class, light lifting while watching TV, and consistent meal planning. At the end of the year, I’ll know if I feel that I invested in and was invested in in Lancaster, even though it’s vague. So we’ll see how that goes.

What are your plans? Are you still feeling that New Years goal glow?

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2016 in Bullets

2016 Best Nine! Featured: Pittsburgh, Iceland, Philly, Lancaster, and Terrain

Every year when I sit down to write this post, I think “Next year, I will keep track as I go along so this isn’t so hard!” But then every year I find myself digging through Google Calendar, trying to piece together an overview of what happened. This year’s is a bit delayed, as I was busy waking up in Reykjavik on my birthday last week. So this feels like the real first week of the new year to me.

2016 was one of the more eventful years I’ve had recently, I think. After what felt like a particularly bad year in 2015, when I just really felt like I wasn’t moving forward in any of the ways I wanted to be, I think I was a lot less enthusiastic or optimistic about what I wanted to happen this year, and kept my expectations pretty low. It was still a hard year, but I had a ton of fun surprises.

The biggest fun (and truthfully, sometimes not-so-fun) surprise of all was buying a house in downtown Lancaster! It’s what 2016 is characterized by the most (and seemingly endless sanding and painting), followed by a serious summer travel schedule, mostly due to conferences and Chad flying to the Bay Area to work onsite at his current client’s office.

This is 2016 in bullet points.


Lisa Yoder speaks at Ela Conf

Courtesy Ela Conf

Events where I spoke, taught, or organized:


Google Bikes

Google Bikes!

Conferences I attended (not including those in which I spoke):

  • Eating Words, a food writing conference put on by Edible Philly. It was fun to go to a conference outside of the genre I usually attend.
  • Google i/o, thanks to an incredible travel grant from Google’s Women Techmakers and Girl Develop It
  • Write/Speak/Code — This was undoubtedly the most actionable conference I’ve been to. We basically worked from 9 to 6ish every day, and came away having produced and learned so much. Definitely recommend.
  • Abstractions


Icelandic Sheep

Icelandic sheep in the midnight sun

Places I traveled:

  • Staycation in Philly (Damn Zika! We were supposed to go to Puerto Rico.) plus a few days at Brush Mountain Lodge in Central PA. It was beautiful.
  • Mountain View, CA, for Google i/o, plus an excursion to Santa Cruz and Big Sur! It was so fun to rent a house with my friends and roam around the Google campus on their funny bikes.
  • Chapel Hill/Carrboro for Memorial Day
  • Chicago for Write/Speak/Code
  • Iceland with friends
  • Pittsburgh for Abstractions
  • Philly all the time for a lot of reasons. I spent a lot of time and money on Amtrak. Also, it’s not a bad drive.


Liars' Club book on table at coffee shop

This summer, we spent several Sunday afternoons reading and writing at Square One Coffee.

Books I read:

That’s a longer list than I thought it’d be, and I think I’m still missing some!


Jenny Lewis

Rabbit Fur Coat 10 Year Anniversary

Shows I saw:

  • Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins Rabbit Fur Coat 10 Year Anniversary Show in Philly
  • Waxahatchee at the Chameleon Club
  • Basement show here in Lancaster in a little venue called The Cellar

This was obviously not a stellar year for seeing shows. Too much travel and Lancaster to Philly back and forth, I guess.


Lisa in front of WrdSmith street art

Credit: Chad Ostrowski

Miscellaneous fun stuff:

  • We had a series of movie nights with Philly friends.
  • My super talented friend Kristen invited me to an Instameet at Longwood Gardens for their Orchid Extravaganza. It was beautiful and a perfect way to spend a frigid winter morning.
  • I got to do this fun photoshoot with Maddie, who’s incredibly talented, to help feature her new intimates line.
  • We bought a freaking house and moved from Philly to Lancaster. What. Sometimes this still takes me by surprise. Technically Philly featured excerpts of the blog posts that we wrote about why.
  • I went from my full time job writing code at Urban Outfitters to part time there, and then fully freelance. It’s exciting and scary, and I’m not sure how long I’ll want to do this versus find a remote employer I love. We’ll see. There are a lot of factors to consider. I’m using COBRA for health insurance, and that will run out late next year.
  • Around August/September, I submitted talks to three different conferences’ CFPs. They were all accepted! Which means that I wrote three different talks to give in the space of a month. Not recommended, but a great learning and growing experience for me!
  • I took a handlettering class and started feeling more confident with brush pens!
  • I canned by myself, unsupervised, for the first time in the kitchen in our house.
  • I took a Log Cabin quilting workshop with the Lancaster Modern Quilt Guild! I’ve been wanting to make a quilt forever, and this was a great way to get started with some guidance. Hopefully I can finish it in 2017.
  • Some family from Oregon came to PA for a wedding. I hadn’t seen them in maybe 10 years, and it was so fun to hang out!
  • I finally coded the redesign of my blog and integrated a portfolio. Still tweaks to be made. Always tweaks to be made.
  • I photographed the intimate wedding of a couple of our dearest friends!
  • I went to Grace Bonney’s book tour stop in Philly for In The Company of Women. It was just the thing to look forward to, as it happened a couple days after the election and was such an inspiring and supportive crowd.
  • I learned how to make a bra with Maddie of Madalynne! My lace doesn’t match up at all (I need to pay more attention when cutting), but the bra itself fits and turned out to be super comfy!
  • Above all though, I learned that I can do really, really hard things that I never envisioned myself doing. Without getting into specifics, this has not been fun, and it’s a good reminder that the internet is only everyone’s highlight reel. My life looks pretty spectacular on Instagram, and for the most part, it really is. But few people are advertising the less glamorous parts. Some things aren’t for public consumption. Knowing that you can do really hard things is a hard but incredible fact to learn about yourself, for sure.

It feels like this year was full of miscellany, but I think in this case, the miscellany is life. I’m working through writing and planning some goals for 2017, some of which I’ll share here soon!

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Taking Back NYE

Icelandic cats

Happy 2017 from these Icelandic cats!

Every year, my mom makes some mention of wanting us to not be disappointed at Christmas, to have it meet our expectations.

But for me, Christmas is predictable. There are rituals and traditions that I help create every year. I celebrate with the same people every year, and eat the same food every year. I don’t have a lot of unmet expectations around Christmas, because I know what to expect and I enjoy doing the same things with the same people every year.

But New Year’s Eve is a different type of holiday. I’ve never celebrated the same way or with the same people two years in a row (except maybe in high school?).

I generally start freaking out about what to do for NYE a couple weeks before Christmas. It wasn’t always this early, but after years of not thinking about it until after Christmas and then scrambling to find or create something to do (when I was in my early 20s, this felt super important), I’ve accidentally managed to make it a source of anxiety. This has led to some unpleasant NYE experiences: Being stuck in Penn Station on December 31st with a group of approximately 15 (2009ish) and anxietying myself so hard I wake up nauseated on January 1 and have to leave before brunch (2011, maybe?) come to mind.

And so last year, after spending most of New Year’s Day driving and getting back to Philly super late and exhausted (which I had told Chad was exactly what I did not want to do), I decided I was done with the NYE pressure. If I felt like staying home and eating cheese and going to bed early, I would. If I felt like getting all introspective and starting my Unravelling the Year workbook while the clock struck midnight, I would. If I had the wherewithal to rent a cabin and invite a bunch of friends, I would. (This one hasn’t happened, but I aspire to do this someday!) I would do whatever I wanted and would not be anxious about crowds, or social situations, or spending a socially constructed momentous second with a bunch of strangers, because I wouldn’t force myself to do any of those things.

So what did we decide to do? Well, we’re in a new city, but it’s small and walkable. Maybe we’ll get dinner and wander around until the Red Rose drops and the fireworks start at midnight. Maybe we’ll run into friends or new neighbors and eat pizza eggrolls at the Chinese place. Maybe we’ll wander over to the distillery and see what’s happening.

No pressure. 2015 was hard. 2016 was hard. I need 2017 to start easy. No expectations. Just curious, casual adventure followed by the promise of brunch. I’m thinking ricotta pancakes.

See y’all next year! I’ll be back soon with a 2016 recap, and a new set of goals. Stay safe, friends.