A Lady Goes West year in review for 2021 (personal and professional)

Hello, my friends. I can honestly say I don’t remember a year flying by like 2021 has, and I’m absolutely positive I didn’t say that about 2020. Welcome to my year in review, and we’re going to cover both personal and professional highlights in one today. Buckle up, because (as usual), I have a lot to say.

Before we begin, I want to mention that I went back to read my year in review for 2020 just for perspective. And while I won’t pull out exact excerpts for you, so much of what I shared was a little grim, and I could sit back and remember how I was feeling at the end of 2020. I was beat up. Emotionally and mentally and physically from so many things.

I published that year-in-review post while I was grieving the fresh loss of my dad, grieving a mass layoff via email from a company I gave service to for eight years, grieving the realization that we were leaving a place we’d called home for eight years without the real ability to say goodbye to people, and continuing to fear the global pandemic that was so scary and confusing and had kept me from seeing many of my loved ones for a full year. I was stressed beyond belief. And I hadn’t felt great about so many things in life. But I also did have a few very good things that happened in my business in 2020, and in order to show some comparisons to this year, some of that information will be included in this post.

And for a bit more perspective: I started 2021 living in a nearly empty house in Pleasant Hill, California, packing up our lives for a big move that we were excited about, although pretty unsure about. On January 5, we watched as our movers took all of our stuff, our cars left on transport, and then, we headed to spend the night in a hotel before flying out the next day. That’s the last time I was in the Pacific time zone, and honestly, I don’t know when I’ll be back in it. It was emotionally hard to walk away from what we thought was a really great life. But we knew in our hearts we needed to change some things.

Since that time, we’ve had some hard moments and we’ve had a lot of the change that we wanted and needed. We’re now comfortably settled into a house in Charlotte, we’ve found a community of friends, we’ve got new jobs, and we’ve done a lot of things. We’re literally a world away from where we were this time last year. And for that, I’m grateful. While I can’t cover it all, I’m going to do as much as I can today in this post in our official year in review for 2021 covering personal and professional topics …

A Lady Goes West year in review for 2021 (personal and professional)

A Lady Goes West year in review 2021 (professional and personal)

Personal

Here’s how things went on the personal side in 2021 for me (and for us) …

Family

We’re doing great. Dave, Brady and Rudy and I are in a good place. We’re incredibly happy in our new home, which is a big step up from our digs in California (even though that house was still nice and was also across the street from a Starbucks, which I do miss). We love Charlotte. We love our comfortable surroundings and neighborhood. We spend a lot of time together. We have a great routine down. Because of our current schedules, Dave and I more equally share so many of our parenting and household duties, as we can. It’s at a better balance, and I love that, because it hasn’t always been that way, at all, with me carrying much of the load. Dave is still working from home and will do that for the time being, potentially going into an office a few days a week sometime in early 2022.

Hornets game by A Lady Goes West

But yes, we’ve had some hard moments. The move and transition was rough, during COVID and without really knowing barely anyone or anything in Charlotte when we arrived. There have been some personal and family issues here and there. And of course, we can’t not mention my miscarriage, which was pretty horrific. It’s not something I’m dwelling on daily, but it’s still there. And my thoughts on life post-miscarriage may require their own blog post one day soon. But overall, our personal lives are in a good place, and we love that.

7 Family holiday photos 2021 by A Lady Goes West

Brady is very happy with his preschool, and he just completed his first full “semester” of school, after COVID and our move cutting short his other semesters. He will continue at his current school next year for one more year, before he’s off to kindergarten (now that’s crazy).

Ashley and Brady at the pool by A Lady Goes West

He’s also been taking swimming lessons at Life Time, and he’s made huge progress, after having never really swam before our move to Charlotte. He’s had so many new fun enriching things added to his life since our move (like all the classes he takes at Life Time), and it fills me up to see him grow and see him love our new community, just like we do. (You can see more about Brady in his 4-year update.)

Whitewater Center family pic A Lady Goes West

Friends

We have some great friends. We have new friends. And we have old friends. And we’ve spent time with all of them this year, a lot. It’s been fun meeting new people. And it’s been incredibly fun seeing old friends who we’ve not really been able to spend time with for a while, both due to COVID and due to us living across the country. Brady has some new friends from school and the neighborhood too. 

BCC friend group by A Lady Goes West

Overall, we’re doing so well in this area, and I love the good people we’ve brought into our lives. They are good people. I only allow good people these days. 🙂 

Besties out to dinner in Charlotte by A Lady Goes West

Travel and Visitors

After a full year of no travel in 2020, once we were vaccinated in late spring of 2021, we got out there and saw more of the world, and we also hosted a lot of visitors.

Here’s what we did this year …

  • Hosted my best college friend and matron of honor, Yolanda, in May
  • Hosted my brother, Matthew, and his wife, Stephanie, for Memorial Day in May
  • Went to the Memorial Golf Tournament in Columbus, Ohio to see our best friends, Grant and Bre, in June
  • Went on an adults only vacation in Jamaica with our best friends, Grant and Bre, in July
  • Went to a fun wedding in Orlando in July and caught up with Orlando friends and my family
  • Hosted our California besties, Phil and Kicki, in August
  • Went to The Florida Keys with my family to celebrate my dad and spread his ashes in August
  • Hosted our best friends, Grant and Bre, and their kiddos, for Halloween
  • Hosted my family for a really enjoyable Thanksgiving

My family in Key Largo by A Lady Goes West

In addition to all this, Dave’s cousin and aunt came through to see us. Dave’s sister, Gwena, came to see us and she also cared for Brady while we went to Jamaica, which we will forever be grateful for. My friend from childhood, Kristen, stopped through to see us. And we hosted my sweet mom a bunch of times too.

Ashley at the pool in Montego Bay in Jamaica by A Lady Goes West July 2021

All of this is huge, because we didn’t see hardly any of these people in 2020. We’ve loved reuniting with so many special people in our lives. And because we’re positioned so much closer to so many of them now on the East Coast, I know this will continue.

Before dinner in Montego Bay in Jamaica by A Lady Goes West July 2021

These are all good things, and they are all such a huge improvement from the grimness of 2020. And that pretty much concludes the personal recaps, knowing I will say more on these things in separate posts moving forward. Let’s switch gears …

Professional

Here’s how things went on the professional side in 2021 for me in my various buckets that make up my work and job, including, fitness, Beautycounter and blogging …

Fitness

In 2020, I saw my fitness world turn upside down. I started out the year teaching in-person pre-choreographed classes and loving every minute of it. Then, everything shut down in California on March 14, and never reopened until after I moved away. That meant, during the lockdown in order to teach, I had to totally step out of my comfort zone and transition to teaching live virtual classes from my home on the Motus program via Google, which I was invited to join as a special pilot project. I was challenged by technology, I was challenged by the craziness and real-ness of going live, and I was also challenged by coming up with my own workouts, rather than doing pre-choreographed ones I had done previously. It was fun. It was a lot. And it kept me working in fitness, while the world was going through some major turmoil. And I’m so grateful for the people who invited me to do it.

Last Motus class by A Lady Goes West

Moving forward to this year, I continued to teach for the Motus program via Google through June of 2021, even after the move to Charlotte (even setting up temporary shop in our AirBnB when we first arrived, and that was not my favorite place to film). Over a year of teaching virtually, I became a pro at moving furniture, setting up my soundboard, lighting and shots, and I also became a pro at teaching to the camera and interacting with my live students. But even though it was always fun to do, I was definitely missing some of the in-person magic, that’s for sure. I knew it wasn’t forever. And eventually this year, I decided to step away from it as my in-person teaching responsibilities increased.

Moving on those in-person responsibilities: This year, I set a goal to get hired by Life Time and secure one in-person regular weekly class by the end of 2021 (I had my eye on this particular athletic company for years before moving to Charlotte, and once I knew there would be one in my new town, that goal was clear). Well, I nailed this goal. Not only did I get hired at Life Time, when technically they weren’t hiring or in need of anyone new, but also, I almost immediately got my own class, and right now, I have three regular permanent classes on the schedule, and I’ll be teaching a total of four starting in January 2022.

New job at Life Time in Charlotte by A Lady Goes West

In order to teach at Life Time, I’ve had to go through training for the brand’s signature Life Time programs, which all have standard formats, but are still freestyle — meaning I choose the music and the moves to fit into the suggested sections. While this doesn’t sound like much, it has been an incredible challenge and learning curve for me.

Before my first audition with Life Time, I had to create an entire one-hour Barbell Strength class template with moves put to music, and I had multiple breakdowns during the process telling Dave I wasn’t sure I could do it. But I did it. I passed my audition, I got my first class, then shortly thereafter, I took on a second program, Shred, and then a third, Life Barre. Two of these classes are total labors of love (Barbell Strength and Life Barre are rhythmic and choreographed to the music, whereas Shred is more of a looser framework with timed intervals). I spend so much time trying to find the perfect music. Then, I spend so much time trying to come up with creative, but doable, moves that fit with the music. Then, I spend so much time memorizing it all and getting it ready to deliver to the classes in front of me. It’s a process.

And over the course of the year, I’ve become so much better at this process already. It makes me so happy to be doing it, because I’ve got complete ownership over what I teach and share. It’s mine. I create it. And I love that. And I love that I’ve added these new skills to my repertoire, including finding and coming up with new movement patterns I haven’t always had in my bag of tricks. I’ve been challenged to read the room a little bit more to see how I can make my workouts better for those in front of me, now that I’m in charge of what I’m creating as well, and that’s fun.

The Life Time group of members is a fit one, so they demand excellence, and I’m positive I’ve upped my game this year in the teaching department. (You can see more about What I’ve learned from teaching group fitness for 12 years here.)

What I've learned from teaching group fitness by A Lady Goes West

Truth be told: Without looking at an actual spreadsheet, I’d guess that I spent more of my working time on my “fitness bucket” than I ever have before this year since starting at Life Time. While that’s not where the majority of my income comes from, I get so much joy from it, I don’t regret a single second that I spend. I do expect it to take up a little less of my time moving forward, as I can start to pull from my personal archives in the coming months.

But overall, having Life Time in my life is amazing, and it’s a huge thing for me, because I spend a lot of time there, with teaching, practicing and working. Three cheers for meeting and exceeding my fitness professional goals this year.

Matching Beyond Yoga set by A Lady Goes West

Beautycounter

I’ve been a Beautycounter consultant for a little over three years, and last year, in 2020, I had a lot of growth and went from a team of three to a team of 14, hitting the Director title for the first time and even hosting an in-person and a virtual event that were both so fun. I attribute all the growth I saw in this part of my business last year to a lot of focused work.

A Lady Goes West Advice fourth edition by A Lady Goes West

Then this year, my team only grew by three overall, with a few people stepping away and a few people joining, and I’m ending the year with a team of 17, some of which are my direct recruits and some of which are recruits of my team members. I was able to hit Director a couple of times throughout the course of the year, and I hosted several joint online virtual events through Zoom with my team, which were also a lot of fun.

Like last year, I invested in this part of my business by sending out nice client gifts to my top customers, sending out a lot of samples and doing several giveaways throughout the year. Once again, my postage bill was through the roof.

Beautycounter gifts by A Lady Goes West

But to be totally honest, I didn’t spend as much time on Beautycounter as I had planned, and thus, I fell short of my goal to hit Senior Director, the next milestone of achievement, in 2021. 

However, it’s not a huge deal. I will continue to maintain this part of my business moving forward. I absolutely love the products and use them religiously, I believe in the mission, and I truly enjoy this part of what I do. I love it, not only because the people who switch over to Beautycounter get so excited and share that with me, but also because I have three really good friends on my Beautycounter team, and doing this with them makes it that much more enjoyable. Also, my skin is very happy, and that’s a big benefit too.

The best Beautycounter holiday gifts for 2021 by A Lady Goes West

Blogging

Blogging, blogging, blogging. This past September marked exactly nine years since I published my first post on A Lady Goes West. It was an entirely different site back then, way more personal, short and more of a diary to share with friends and family back in Florida all about our new life in California.

While the blog has grown so much, it has done so at a snail’s pace, let’s be real. It took me three full years to make a dollar, then it took about another couple years to make a real income. Only in the last three years can I say that my full-time income truly comes from this blog. And that’s a real blessing. But it didn’t happen overnight. Like. At. All. But these days, the blog makes up the majority of my income, with Beautycounter and fitness coming in at number two and number three spots, in that order.

Chatting by A Lady Goes West

In 2020, A Lady Goes West had really good growth. I had more viewers, more readers, more followers and more action than ever before. I made more money than I had ever made before — by a long shot. But I also put out a lot of great content on both the blog and on social media and spent more time than ever working on the blog (with all that extra time at home, I guess). I posted more regularly to Instagram and shared more helpful stuff, and I saw an increase there as well. I invested in the back-end more. I had an SEO coach. I had a life coach. I did all the professional development things, and it paid off.

But in 2021 … well … not so much. And most bloggers would NEVER share this, but I’m sharing it, so here we go: I’ve had a slight decrease in blog readership this year, and I’ve actually lost some Instagram followers too. A lot of this I can attribute to moving, because I had a big base of San Francisco followers who likely decided they didn’t care to see what I was doing in a place that they didn’t live once my posts were all about Charlotte. Or maybe nobody had anything else to do in 2020 but support their favorite bloggers, so that’s why I had so much action last year, and that has waned this year as the world has opened back up. Or maybe I lost some people because I haven’t put out as good of content as I used to or I’d like to. This isn’t saying I didn’t care about or love this blog or put so much into this year, because I did. But it wasn’t as much as last year, and that’s all, because I’ve been pulled in so many different directions.

Ask me anything A Lady Goes West advice column number three by A Lady Goes West

Because we moved, and because we actually had a social life again, and because I’ve spent so much time on my fitness bucket, I think some blog-planning time has gone to the wayside. I had a goal to rebrand the blog by the end of this year. And I’ve just kept delaying and delaying. I came up with a new name for the blog even, but just haven’t pulled the trigger. And now I’m not entirely sure if I will even rename it now. What do you guys think?

This blog is my baby, and I love it and will write it forever if I can. And because you are here reading this post, I’m grateful for you. But because I put so much of my life into this blog, you can see how I’ve focused in other areas over the last few months, not as much of my time has been spent truly developing this space, like it deserves to be developed. But I always show up for you here with my two regular posts a week, and I try to add value, while also keeping it really real. I will continue to do that, my friends. If you haven’t loved what you’ve seen, if you want more, or less, or you want to see different content, please let me know. I haven’t done an official survey in a couple years, and I think I’m due for that.

Useful habit tips from Atomic Habits by A Lady Goes West

Suffice to say, at the end of this year, my blogging income will come up short from the windfall of 2020, but it will still be second best year of blogging in all nine years, so I can’t be mad at that.

Some of the things I’ve most enjoyed have been my Ask-me-Anything A Lady Goes West Advice Corner posts, which I started this year. But, some of the things that have been the most therapeutic for me have been the raw stuff, like sharing about my miscarriage. I don’t put every single bit of my life on the internet (that would be crazy, and no one truly does this), but I do put a lot of it out there, and that’s always been a strange thing. But whenever I get personal messages from you guys relating to what I’ve said and finding some comfort in it, it makes it all worthwhile.

Taking care of yourself by A Lady Goes West

I truly hope to bring a little bit more life back into A Lady Goes West for you in 2022, and I hope you like what you see.

Overall, thank you for being part of this blog! More to come on this next year. 🙂

The most popular blog posts of 2021

These were the most popular blog posts of 2021, and not a single one was actually written in 2021. Many were written in 2020, with some way before that. That’s the funny thing about blogging, is that individual pieces of work can live on for so long, while others just vanish with very little traction. These are the posts that the most people from around the world clicked on and read …

  1. 73 questions
  2. The best instructors on the Peloton app
  3. Everything you need to know about the Orangetheory Fitness workout
  4. Review of Les Mills On Demand streaming workout service
  5. Five things no one tells you about postpartum exercise
  6. Everything you need to know about Les Mills workouts and how to get started
  7. My review of the Precision Nutrition level 1 certification program
  8. The five best Beautycounter products for aging skin and fine lines
  9. The NASM CPT Guided Study program and passing the NASM exam
  10. Review of Les Mills GRIT workout class
  11. How to schedule your week of workouts
  12. The best workouts in Les Mills On Demand
  13. How to motivate others to work out
  14. How to modify a BODYPUMP class when you’re pregnant
  15. The creamiest warm almond butter oatmeal breakfast bowl

As you can see, fitness reviews are still my bread and butter. And a lot of older content still brings me a lot of traffic. I’d love to see some new posts created in 2022 pop up on next year’s most popular blog posts list. I better get to work on that. 

My review of Les Mills Smart Tech equipment by A Lady Goes West

Overall thoughts on 2021

It’s hard to sum up a year of so much change in just one blog post, but I’ve done my best here. We’ve had some highs and some lows. But BOY have we come far. We’re so grateful for where we are right now, in almost every aspect.

17 Family holiday photos 2021 by A Lady Goes West

Our lives are not perfect, and there will always be things that come up, but we’re truly in a better place now. As far as my professional endeavors, including this blog, I will continue to show up and try to serve you, and I hope you’ll continue to show up here too.

2021 was a bit of a maintenance year for me in my blogging and Beautycounter businesses, but I hope that 2022 brings another growth mode for both of those. I’ve been amazed and blessed with the addition of Life Time to my professional (and personal) life, and I’ve been so happy to continue doing what I love and calling it a job, both here on the computer and in the group fitness studio too.

Once again, I really can’t complain too much at all. We only get one life, and I’m here doing many of the things I want to be doing in my own one shot. I hope you are too. And if not, it’s never too late to start.

Second edition A Lady Goes West Advice Corner by A Lady Goes West

This post is nearly 4,000 words, so I think we better call it now, my friends.

Thank you so much for being a part of my journey and for making it through this year in review for 2021. Be well, and a very happy holidays to YOU! xoxo 🙂 

Questions of the day

What’s one of the biggest highlights of your 2021?

What was a change you made in 2021?

How long have you been reading A Lady Goes West?

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24 Comments

  1. I think I’ve been a reader of your blog since day 1?! If not day 1, pretty darn close. You are the only blog that I subscribe to, if that means anything.

    Congrats on your growth in several areas this year and congrats on any setbacks too, because those will lead you into new opportunities of growth for 2022.

    I’m grateful to have you as a digital friend and hope to see you in person again eventually.

    Happy almost birthday!!
    And Merry everything to you, Dave, Brady and Rudy! Xoxo

    1. Hi Courtney! You are the sweetest and the best, and I’m forever grateful for your support. I sure hope we see each other IRL one day soon too! And I’m wishing you LOTS of happiness in your life. Have a fabulous week and holiday! 🙂 xoxo

    2. I hope you continue to blog forever! I really enjoyed the ability to ask questions anonymously – and I love how diverse the questions on the Ask-Me-Anything posts are. I have found the number of blogs I follow have decreased because I got tired of following bloggers who just showed the most perfect life. I know it must be hard to open up and share the real stuff, but life is hard and knowing that we are all struggling with things or dealing with hard situations somehow makes things easier. So I am glad you are so down to earth, real and genuine – it’s why you have so many loyal followers ♡ wishing you and your family a very merry Christmas and happy new year!

      1. Hi Shelby! Thank YOU for this sweet comment. I love to hear from you, and I truly appreciate you being a reader for so long. Thanks for being there for the good and the bad. And I WILL continue to share the imperfect, because things are FAR from perfect over here. I hope you have a WONDERFUL rest of your holiday season, my friend! 🙂 xoxo

  2. So happy to have come across your blog a few years back. You are so real and make everyone feel like you genuinely care about us. I will forever remember a time a few years back when I was faced with a very difficult decision and I opened up your post for the day and you had a message that resonated in a a way that iI needed to hear that day resulting in a change that I made which was the best decision ever. I admire your courage and strength and coping with so many changes in you and your family’s life. Thanks for being you and look forward to many more years of you blogging. Appreciate all your tips and insights. The BEST blogger ever. Happy holidays to you and your sweet family!!!

    1. Wow, Wendy! What a wonderful thing to hear — I love to know that something I said made a difference for how you made some decisions in your life. That’s amazing. And props to you for making hard decisions that gave you big benefits. I truly appreciate you being a reader and being around for the journey. THANK YOU! Have a very happy holidays!! 🙂 xoxoxo

  3. I’ve always enjoyed reading your blog! The biggest change for me in 2021 has been going back to work. I’ve been a stay at home mom since 2013. My youngest started kindergarten in the fall and I went back to work in the school system my children attend and I love it. Happy holidays to your family!

    1. Hi Christy! That’s so great you went back to work, and what a big change that is after so many years at home. How cool you get to be in the school system with your kiddos too. Hope you have a wonderful holiday. And thank you SO much for reading the blog. 🙂 xoxoox

  4. I have been reading your blog since 2014 I think. The first post I read was a BodyAttack review that I found via Google 🙂 I like the way you write, you are real and also in some ways I think we are similar.

    The highlight of my 2021 was becoming a mum. It was scary at first because my baby girl was almost 2 months early but luckily she is doing really well.

    Happy holidays to you and your family, enjoy your well earned break. I hope you have a great 2022!

    1. Hi Andrea! You have definitely been around for the long haul — and a lot of people found me from my Les Mills posts — which is awesome. That’s SOOO exciting you became a momma this year, and I’m glad to hear your little lady is doing well after arriving early — that must’ve been very scary. Sending you all the love. And I truly appreciate you being a reader!! 🙂 xoxo

  5. Great reflection! Thank you for sharing:) I’ve been reading since at least several years preRudy. I will admit my blog reading in general has decreased this year and I don’t know why, but I’m coming back to my regular blogs more frequently.

    All the best in 2022!

    1. Hi Jessie! I don’t even remember life before Rudy heheh! Thank you so much for being a reader for so long, I truly appreciate you! Have a wonderful holiday season! 🙂 xoxo

  6. Great post and love that you keep it real and it feels like chatting with a friend. We moved to Charlotte in Aug 2020 and I must’ve been googling something about moms/Charlotte because I found your blog by accident. So glad I did, love your local shout outs too! My biggest change was our move, opening my husband’s business and working there. In 2021 some of the highlights were both boys being in school, sports, after school activities, meeting moms who have become good friend. Even though it still feels like a crazy ride I remember how appreciative I am for it. 🙏 Looking forward to more of your fun posts! Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

    1. Hi Joanna! I love that you’re enjoying your time in Charlotte so far and are finding it super family friendly, because I sure am too — a marked change from where I was in California. I hope you have a wonderful holiday with your fam! Thank YOU for reading! 🙂 xoxox

  7. Hi Ashley, I read every word and you continue to be one of my favorite blogs to read. I think I started reading around the same time I started blogging so maybe 2013? I’ve experienced some of the same challenges as you over the past couple of years and I really enjoyed the personal update. Congrats on everything you’ve accomplished! Wishing you and your family a wonderful Christmas and New Year! xx

    1. Hi Diane! I know we’ve been connected for SO long, and I SO appreciate you. One day I hope we meet in person! Until then, keep being awesome! 🙂 xoxox

      1. Thank you and right back at you. I still owe you a bottle of French bubbly. I remember when I was going to send it to you and then realized everyday people can’t ship wine!

  8. I love your blog! I found it while looking for your pregnancy recaps-I think-ot maybe pregnancy fitness? Either way, I’ve read all your pregnancy and postpartum content that you tagged under those and I appreciated having you as part of my pregnancy journey. Then I read you were moving to Charlotte so I continued reading! I think your blog is great. I love your posting schedule and don’t have any improvements to suggest. You seem very genuine and passionate about the things you write about and I appreciate your honesty about motherhood and cooking! Lol.

    1. Hi Sarah! hahha! Thank you so much for appreciating my honesty about cooking. I feel like I’m the only blogger who doesn’t cook. Nor like to cook. But oh well. And it makes me so happy that my pregnancy and postpartum posts helped you! I truly appreciate you being around and reading! 🙂 xoxo

  9. I think I found your blog years ago when I lived in Berkeley. I’ve since had many moves due to my husbands career and I have really related to you since your move this last year. Your 2020 recap really stuck with me because you were so transparent with your goals. I’m self-employed as a Realtor and I keep you in mind as inspiration for my own goals, they are very specific and measurable which we need. Keep it up and cheers to a happy & successful 2022!

    1. Hi Rochelle! Thank you so much for reading! And yesssss to being specific with your goals, I think that helps so much when it comes to actually reaching for them. I hope you are having a great last week of 2021! 🙂

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