what i learned…

One of my first ever, favorite blogs belonged to Emily P. Freeman, way back in the early days. I still read and follow her, and find such value in this voice she has developed.

For a long time now, she has sat aside space to share what life’s seasons have taught her, issuing the challenge to her readers as well, and occasionally I have. One of the things I am trying to do, this year, is be more intentionally about noticing, breathing, and using this space for such. Reflecting on the winter months of this year seams like a great place to start… Here’s what I’ve learned-

1.} I overcomplicate…

A simple conversation, with a woman whom I respect and value so much, led to the “official” coming together of a group of like-valued women, on a regular basis. While it is mastermind-esque, it is something different too. From the first moment it was clear that this was an important, nurturing and vital space.

For a very long time I’ve dreamed of being a part of something like that, but I have stayed quiet, within that dream. It seemed too big… impossible…not for me. And yet, one silly afternoon conversation became this unboxable thing. While I like to think it hadn’t happened before because life was waiting for us to come together, in that exact moment, I have to admit that I stand in my way a lot. I overcomplicate things, believing they are far bigger than they are… When we get hide inside our thoughts, we miss out…

2.} sometimes over-complication looks like…

Avoidance.

I was playing an odd “dance” with my memoir, for awhile now. I would lose myself in it, for a season, and then when I needed breath I would pull out, and avoid it.

Over and over again.

I am practicing boundaries within my work. Self care through the hard things. Sometimes this is a walk, while other times it may look like losing an afternoon to a shallow book.

3.} I might be a bar person…

My husband is from an alcoholic family, and so our only (shared) experience of people who hang out at bars, stemmed from that. If someone had told me they were a “bar person”, I would instantly picture a falling-down-drunk person, or an intoxicated-fist-fights person. To be honest, I think my imagery may have been heavily influenced by movies and tv too…

But the thing is, there is something really special about finding a spot that feels like yours. I place that is not home, where you can sit with your spouse and just breathe. Take in the live music, maybe dance a little, and enjoy the company of friends.

4.} If you look, you WILL find it…

In my line of work, I have a lot of women who confide in me that they are desperate for a community of women who see them, love them and find value in them. This is an ache I identify with. Much of my adulthood looked just like that…

We are so fortunate to live in an era where there are worldwide, online communities, connecting people with commonalities, 24/7. It is amazing really. I’ve known this, but it wasn’t until this particular season when I really had my eyes opened to the powerhouse of community that we can become a part of, through social media.

5.} Five minutes here, really helps…

I have lived a majority of my adult life procrastinating the more tedious “chores”, in life, pushing it until I had more time… These same columns of tasks would travel, from day to day, on my agenda. Whenever my eyes would land on them, I would feel equal parts shame and guilt. My negative self talk would chime in with words like lazy.

It didn’t seem to matter that there may have been 73 tasks on a particular days list, and I accomplished all but the Tedious Four, that rolled over, yet again. LAZY, I’d think. Lazy? SMH.

Then I began to realize a few minutes today, does make it easier. It sounds so simple, but I just didn’t get it. Its like I’m finally growing up!

6.} it is ok to say “no”…

As I transitioned through December, and into the start of this year, there were a few areas of life that I had to strongly evaluate. Things that I was a part of, that were only leading to overwhelm.

The guilt was HUGE, as I cut those commitments. There were people who were disappointed, but I had to acknowledge that I was allowed to choose things to fill my time that kept me on the path I needed to be on. Maybe, to outsiders, this sounds selfish.

In truth, I needed to be free to invest myself in my biggest priorities. Being spread too thin meant that nothing was getting enough of me.

What did you learn, during this winter? {Also, have you entered to win two Fandango movie tickets? The winner will be chosen tomorrow.)

Kindness…

Today, February 17th, is Random Acts of Kindness Day. While it is so easy to become one of those bandwagon criticizers who bags on things like this, I wanted to take a minute to talk about some quick facts, and then share a list of some of my favorite RAK ideas…

There is a variety of people, out in the world, who say that performing Random Acts of Kindness is SELFISH, if you’re doing it for attention or to make yourself feel good.

This is a fine line to balance. On one hand, you have the TikTok contributors, who video themselves helping others (often in really unrealistic or large ways), and I do morally have a problem with this. It feels gross. If you’re handing a homeless person $400 while filming them, and using the dialogue “I saw this guy on the street so I’m giving him FOUR HUNDRED DOLLARS and it will change his life! Here you go buddy, it’s yours. You can take it!” It is belittling, exploitive AND not at all generous. You look like a *insert a hundred different expletives here*, and you need to stop. Period.

On the other hand, if you have a photo of your kid and the fire chief posing with the plate of cookies you baked, on Instagram, that’s amazing. Sharing the kindness we have isn’t necessarily looking for attention when our hope is that it could inspire others to spread kindness too. We need to talk about our generosity, and let it spread like wildfire. It comes down to intent…

Now… to quickly address the selfish because it makes you feel good debate:

Everything makes us feel something. EVERYTHING. Every single day we should aspire to feel good. To feel good about the things we’ve done, the choices we’ve made, etc. How we feel impacts our actions, and our direct treatment of others. How we feel can have a LONG REACHING IMPACT, far beyond our feelings. Ripple effects are REAL.

There is no crime in feeling good about something…

While it is my sincere hope that we strive for true kindness every day, I’m going to focus on TODAY. Below is a list of some of my favorite RAK ideas. (And, if you receive my monthly email then you already know that my podcast, the Collective Podcast, has deemed the 20th day of every month, this year, as an Acts of Kindness day. Small gestures really can change the world…)

  • A donation to amazing organizations, fighting the good fight. (like Rescue Freedom, fighting in the trenches agains human trafficking)
  • Leaving children’s books in hospital waiting rooms.
  • taping baggies of coins to hospital vending machines.
  • full-filling wishlist items for underprivileged classrooms.
  • donating time at shelters, throughout the year, instead of just the Thanksgiving/Christmas holiday season.
  • covering someone’s drive-thru order behind you.
  • purchasing a gift card, when you dine out, and handing it to someone entering the restaurant, as you leave.
  • buying a meal for homeless people.
  • better yet, sharing a meal with them and listening to their story.
  • sending pizza, or donuts to night shift first responders.
  • leaving beverages and treats, in a cooler, for delivery drivers OR
  • a note to ring for warm beverages, (or local coffee place gift cards)
  • mowing an elderly or disabled persons lawn. (or cleaning gutters, etc.)
  • picking up litter.
  • keeping random gas and coffee gift cards in your car, for when those “needs” arise.
  • used book donations to nursing homes and senior centers.
  • donating used clothing and housewares to women’s shelters and programs helping women rebuild their lives.
  • expanding your view of the world by hearing others stories. knowledge develops empathy and empathy paves the path for kindness 100% of the time. (The Collective Podcast EXISTS for this reason)
  • Adopting a foster family, through organizations like this.

There are SO MANY other ways to give… I’d love to hear yours!

(Just a reminder, you can listen to the Collective Podcast here. Please consider joining our Patreon community here.)

today’s good thing…

Happy Monday!

Today is February 10th, which happens to (oddly enough) be National Umbrella Day. If you’ve been around me long, you know that this girl LOVES all things umbrella. Today was made for me!

The other thing I love, (honestly, more than umbrellas) is the joy that I have in engaging and being a part of this beautiful community of women that has blossomed out of the Collective Podcast. I consider myself so blessed, every single day! Just last night, I fell asleep thanking God for this gift of knowing these AMAZING women. My life is honestly better, because of them.

I am really passionate about supporting others. If you are on my email list then you certainly got an earful, on this topic, in February’s note. (eyeful? earful? Whatever…) The bottom line, in case you missed it, (and why? You really should sign up, you’re missing out!) is that we should be supporting our artists and creatives. The internet is filled with content, like blog posts, photos, inspiration, podcast episodes, videos, etc, of these people who pour pieces of themselves into this content FOR FREE, simply because it is in their blood.

In our blood.

In MY blood.

It takes actual hard work to put these things together, and since they are passion projects, there is no paycheck sitting there, come friday.

Moral of the story, support your creatives! We all NEED beautiful things around us, and we will definitely see a lot more value in our investment if we offer it to them, over the big box, corporate greed. Just a few reminders, and some suggestions…

Here is a link to the Collective Patreon.

Here is the link to Buy Me a Coffee.

These are both ways to support me, without it costing you much.

Listening the podcast will not cost you anything but time, well spent, and it helps TREMENDOUSLY! Subscribing, rating and sharing it is so helpful! We all know women who can benefit from the stories, experiences and community of others…

I also have an Amazon storefront, and JUST added three fun shops for spring and Lit lovers…

Beyond me though, there is the Personal ShopHER Directory of women who own small artisan businesses. Have some shopping to do? Continue looking there first!

These are all AWESOME ways to help support me as I write and continue to move forward, connecting with and empowering women within the Collective community- sure. But, we all know creatives- from indie authors, to painters, photographers to musicians. Dream along with them, and help them create big! Each and every person, in this world, needs a team of strong believers supporting them and helping them out! As we watch the news and feel overwhelmed with the sadness around us- this is one practical and easy way we can make a huge impact for change.

never too old…

I have, for a long time now, been inspired by the people who challenge us to reflect back on our growths and progress. The very act leads me to more intentional choices. For a long time I’ve followed along as Emily P. Freeman has blogged these things, and once or twice I may have even half heartedly played along.

The truth is, that at the start of every month (and every season) I determine that I am going to create a place for inspired reflection, within this space. And every single month there is something that happens, which makes me release myself from that plan.

Every single month.

So, throughout January I was adamant with personal notes (in my planner) that I would NOT let this fall to the wayside again. And then, as January wrapped up, what happened? I was hit with a blinding aura followed by a cluster migraine that dominated my brain for the better part of five days… As I reentered life and began to take note of the work I needed to make up, the glaring realization of yet another month failed, smacked me right in my side.

Maybe it is February fourth.

Maybe it feels too late, like what’s the point now?

If that’s true, ok. I’m here anyway…

In January I learned-

  • I cannot hold any element of my reality to an unrealistic ‘one size fits all’ standard.
  • How absolutely valuable and motivating it is to have a trusted group of women who I know will offer me honest feedback, speak truth to/over me and inspire me.
  • Oddly, a lot about sugar.
  • How my illness has affected so many parts of my life, most unexpectedly being my tastebuds. Every single day, dietarily, is like a trip to the Craps table in Vegas…
  • That bouncing/dancing/exercising on a rebounder is maybe the most fun way to burn calories EVER. (then you add in all of the amazing benefits it offers the body, immune system, etc.) win/win!

In her email Emily asked three thought provoking questions, for reflection…

What was my most life-giving YES this month? I would have to say it belongs to an opportunity that I can’t publicly share just yet, but it will be amazing and I can’t wait until I can!

What was my most life-giving NO this month? Ohh… I had been leading a small group for a few local women whom I have grown to cherish. While I really value them, and loved our time together, I came to a point work wise where SOMETHING had to go. It was a good thing, but hard too.

What is one thing I want to leave behind, moving into February? Looking for reasons to bundle up with Netflix. I know, it was cold and grey out. I had flare attacks. I get it. But also, a lot of those times I could have actually slept/rested, or picked up a book. Netflix has become too easy. I don’t want to leave down times like that, behind me. Just the ALWAYS resorting to that choice…

On that Note- What I watched and enjoyed:

Anne with an E season 3

Younger

Jojo Rabbit

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

What I read:

The Ten Thousand Doors of January (beautifully written but, in the end, not my style of book.)

The F*cK It Diet (still reading this… but it is BRILLIANT and necessary!)

Real Life Changing Discoveries:

My Rebounder (this isn’t my first rebounder experience. This thing is THE BEST rebounder we’ve ever seen though. At least for under $100)

Dog Hair Roller (If you have pets… this may be your best purchase. CHANGED OUR LIVES!)

Things I did and LOVED:

  • sent handwritten letters every week.
  • kept my Christmas cards hung up all month. My husband was annoyed, but they brought me so much joy! (they came down 2/1 because I love my marriage)
  • continued listening to the Catlick podcast. (HOOKED!)
  • Coffee dates with my husband. We’ve had some RICH time together in our local coffee spots.
  • Time out, quiet Sundays.

Did you salvage any January growth/amazement/accomplishments/discoveries? If so, I’d love to know!

Magic wrapped joy…

Anyone who truly knows me can attest to the fact that i LOVE gifts. Long before anyone was publishing books about Love Languages, I was enamored by the mystery of a wrapped present. I loved the magic of giving them, even when I clearly knew what was inside. Emotionally, I engaged in the unveiling of the secrets, with the recipient. I am even an absolute fan girl of the empty wrapped gifts meant only to adorn hotel lobbies in December. I don’t know why.

I was just sharing a story, with a friend, about one Christmas when I was a little girl. My grandmother would put her wrapped gifts out weeks before Christmas and I loved looking at each one. While I obviously had a vested interest in the packages with my name on them, I held a pretty committed intrigue to each gift, regardless of who it belonged to. On this particular Christmas, my grandmother had a wrapped gift for me, in the shape of an octagon. It was roughly ten inches long, and octagonal around. I was enchanted. Every empty moment spent at her home, that season, became filled with me sitting cross-legged beneath her tree, that gift in my hands. What WAS it? What could it possibly be? I would rack my brain imagining everything I knew, shaped even remotely similar. I concluded it had to be a candle. A really large, octagon shaped pillar candle. The disappointment of receiving a candle for Christmas was real, but also much smaller than the satisfaction I would obviously feel, come Christmas Eve, when I unwrapped it and had been right.

If gift guessing had been an Olympic sport, I would have gone out for it EVERY SINGLE YEAR… (I also would have been disqualified in ’85 for tearing 2″ pieces off of the back of every present beneath my mom’s tree- the equivalent to “doping”, in this event)

Christmas Eve finally came. Our tamales were eaten, merriment was high and, as the youngest, my time came to begin the unwrapping festivities. I’m sure you will be surprised to learn that the amazing mystery gift was not a candle. In fact, it was two Barbie boxes taped together. (because Barbie boxes used to not be square) It was absolutely GENIUS and while I give my grandmother full credit for being the family Einstein of gift wrapping, she inspired my creative gift wrapping beast to emerge… (Yes, I DID learn it from watching her! Thanks, ’80’s, for the commercial sentiment that is applicable to so many things!)

So yeah, now that it’s a legit “love language”, it is safe to say that gifts are mine. As I’ve matured, my gift giving has too. i LOVE it. It is my absolute favorite thing, of all times. (EVER!!!) If I had the money and corporate sponsorships of Oprah, everyone would be getting presents, all of the time. I keep running gift lists for everyone in my life, from friends to family. I have a ridiculous number of loved ones reach out to me for guidance and direction year round. (I wouldn’t say I’m a gift expert, but I will say I am pretty ok at it.)

I’m not Oprah though. I’m not Ellen. I don’t have awesome companies giving me things to give to people I like. I have me. I have my starving artist budget. The plus side to this shiny (and yet equally dull) coin is that this means I am far more intentional about the gifts I do give. The less than fun flip side is that I don’t get to give a fraction of what I would like. (If you were hoping that this silly post might end with presents galore, it won’t. I’m sorry- but I do promise imaginary puppies for everyone!!!)

Take my husband, for instance. Gifts are NOT his love language. They are not something he cares too much about. He could never again give a gift to anyone and be absolutely capable of both sleeping at night, and seeing his reflection in the mirror… (I know, it sounds like I’m describing a MONSTER, but I’m not. Chw is a really great guy, he’s just a little flawed when it comes to presents. I have learned to accept him…) He also, hasn’t been the best gift receiver. Personally I feel that it may be my purpose, on this earth, to one day create a course helping weak receivers not shatter the hearts of the generous givers they love- because this is REAL. If you’ve never known such hell, count your lucky stars… Because when you pour all of your love (and thought and time, and therefore self) into the perfect gift, for it to end up shoved in a drawer or never worn/used- it kills… You just can’t please some people… (by no fault of their own, of course. They just don’t care. And are damaged. They may crush souls for breakfast, but I’m not here to judge. Whatever.) Even with this reality, I love him, so I continue to torture myself and therefore, for him, I have three gift lists…

There’s the:

  • ridiculously boring stuff he actually wants that, in my opinion, make for really crappy gifts. (a tire gauge? really? Nothing says Merry Christmas, you are the love of my life like a tire gauge- am I right?)
  • awesome gift ideas that he should love, yet fit within my crazy small budget.
  • the ten million dollar list of things that i KNOW would make him blissfully happy, (Apocalypse Tesla? YES! Your own Japanese Steakhouse, on call, in your own kitchen? DONE!) but that I also know I will never get to give him, and that’s ok… It’s still fun to dream, and the dreams that really make me happiest are the ones when I imagine I get to give really wonderful gifts to the people I love…

Take my podcast, for instance. Every single guest I talk to, I think of the perfect gift for them. I can’t buy it for them, but I deeply wish that I could in an overwhelmingly powerful way, send them a creatively packaged present, after we chat, so that they could hold how much I value, respect and appreciate them, within the palm of their hands.

Perhaps loving via gifts, is less of a gift itself… I don’t know. I am a tortured, writer soul, i am no expert. What I do know is that Christmas is around the corner and so many of us go above and beyond (heart wise, time wise, stress wise, and financially) and it isn’t healthy. This season that we are approaching is the most depression filled, suicidal season within the average calendar year. While there are many factors at play here- finances and the expectations around our capabilities concerning our money/spending/gifts/travel are huge. It doesn’t have to be that way. I have something coming, that can help… If you aren’t on my email list- sign up to stay in the loop because next Friday a few great things are happening. Relevant and timely things… (Just keep in mind, I’m not Oprah!)

Back to that Octagon Christmas… While I remember the amazement I felt, discovering what the package was- I couldn’t begin to recall which Barbie’s they were. I can’t tell you anything else I unwrapped, that year. I have literally zero recollection of what Santa brought Christmas morning. I am forty-three years old, and do you know what I DO remember? The beauty and the magic of that gift. The mystery, and the weeks of wondering, which led me to absolute joy.

The moral of this story: The JOY is in the giving. (the second, somewhat deeper moral: If there’s no joy in the process- it’s not right and you need to stop.)