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loved it! (29th edition)

Did anyone else have a hard time gaining momentum for 2015?  I stopped in my tracks when I read the following words from Ann Voskamp, “I’m not ready for a new year and moving forward. I want a do-over on the last year.” That’s exactly what I was feeling. As I watched others forge ahead enthusiastically with new goals, I found myself pouting about my 2014 failures– things I’d put my heart into and gave an honest try.  If I was suppose to identify a significant accomplishment from the last year before I could move onto the next, then I just could not be ready for a new year.  Thankfully, Ann’s reflections about falling forward gently helped me recognize the learning experiences of 2014 and opened my heart to hope for 2015.

Even if you, like me, weren’t ready to start a new project on Jan 1, it’s not too late to add a creative habit to your daily routine.  Consider these two gems–

Susan Keller’s video project “1 Second Every Day” for a year  

The Artful Parent’s daily sketchbook

Are you wearing snow boots or flip flops this winter?  A recent move to Iowa has my family experiencing the coldest weather we’ve ever known. But isn’t the snow spectacular?  I love seeing clean, white winter scenes like Janice Hobbins’ stunning photo above.  @_xojanice is one of my favorite IG accounts to follow as it’s a treat to view the beautiful way Janice sees the world around her.  

While winter brings beauty, it also brings challenges to many.  I appreciate the survival strategies for winter shared by Modern Mrs. Darcy and encourage anyone suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder or depression to seek help from a professional. 

To make your January a little brighter, I recommend this gorgeous, inspirational calendar by Tiffany Kelly.  

And to make your January a little cozier, you might like to try Our Best Bites’ recipe for chicken soup with me.

This article was written by Clair.

 

 

 

 

Creating and Living in Imperfect Moments

Sark quote about living life at New Mexico’s Tinkertown

Six weeks before the new year I was diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer. A tiny 4 mm speck of disease was all set and ready to mess with my life. The doctor recommended surgery (scheduled January 2nd) to remove the whole thyroid. Additional tests showed the cancer had not spread to lymph nodes in my neck. This news meant I might avoid a radioactive iodine treatment that would require isolation from all human beings for at least 3 days. This type of cancer is a “good” cancer in that it wouldn’t likely require chemo. It’s a “bad” cancer because I would no longer have a vital part of my endocrine system and would be on medication for the rest of my life. In spite of all the facts, knowing that I would be cancer free, I still had 6 weeks to fret about what I saw as the worse possible outcome: dying on the operating table only 2 days into the new year. 

However, in the midst of my albeit overly paranoid doomed disposition, I didn’t make any preparations for what I believed would definitely be the death of me. I didn’t write dozens of letters to my children for the years I wouldn’t be there. I didn’t wrap up loose ends. I didn’t check off items on my bucket list. I didn’t even get a pedicure so I could go out with clean feet… yes, this is where my mind went.

Prior to all this health news I had decided to really make each day count during the holidays. I wanted to make sure that this year the days didn’t just fade away, uneventful. I wanted memories, bonding, growth, and most importantly, meaningful moments with my family. As they say, it’s funny how life works out. I started out just wanting to have a great month and in spite of my little cancer/death/paranoid anxiety scare, December was going to be more than that. I was going to learn something new.

Begin Always with a Goal in Mind

Like so many, I wanted December to be filled with the most awesome, fantastic, over the top experiences. Surprises that would fuel the magic and creativity in my children’s minds! I scribbled out a few to-do lists but just couldn’t nail down a firm plan. So I turned to trusty ol’ Pinterest. What is Pinterest for if not a place to cultivate a massive to-do list.  I went through old boards and new pins, hunting down what I felt might help my family have fun together. I pinned holiday recipes, DIY teacher gifts, outfit ideas for our photos… you know, typical pinning behavior. I also hunted down pins that were specific to the traditions we’ve already established, like our peppermint chip cookies we bake every year. Having my board of inspiration helped me really see what it was I wanted that month. It was an overwhelming list to say the least. But, on the other hand,  having a clear goal in mind and knowing what it might look like was crucial.

Planning it Out

I spent some time with my inspiration board. I weeded out the pins I thought I “should” do or might be just too far out there to make happen. The best pins were penciled in on my calendar. I didn’t want my schedule or plan to be so rigid that I made everyone else miserable. If I planned to make a certain treat sometime during the week then the recipe items went on that week’s grocery list. When kids were bored or we needed some bonding time, I’d pull everything out and we’d get cooking. The week we made teacher gifts we used little bits of spare time here and there to complete our project instead of blocking out a whole chunk of time. Doing so certainly helped those with low attention spans and spread the crafty time out.  In the end, going in with a plan and remembering things don’t always go the way we want, helped calm chaos every time.

Documenting Our Days

Of course with all this effort I wanted to remember what went down in December of 2014. Like so many parents before me, I took a ton of pictures. Though I’ve been doing this for almost 2 decades as a mom, I chose to only use my phone, Instagram, and a cool little company called Chatbooks. The only thing I perfectly timed was starting my new Chatbook on the first Instagram post of the month. Each book in their subscription plan contains 60 pages and only cost $6. I took pictures of every meaningful activity, party, decoration, and special time together. In a few days I will have that awesome little book for my kids to flip through whenever they wax nostalgic for Christmas… proof that at least one month of my life I was an awesome mom.

Thoughts on Perfection

The photos in my book are not going to be properly exposed, non-grainy, and perfectly composed. That wasn’t the point. My decision to do it the way I did was convenience. I didn’t want to spend extra time and effort on setting up the perfect shot, dragging around a heavy DSLR, and designing the most exquisite album. I wanted to be able to pull out my phone at a moments notice and take the picture. The moments weren’t even perfect. Our gingerbread stood up great for building houses, but it tasted like seasoned cardboard! We attended a Bethlehem inspired Christmas party in semi-realistic garb and the youngest chose an over-sized green sweater with a a huge cowl. Even our Christmas cards were thrown together at the last minute and when one after one all of the kids got sick and only half the cards actually made it to the post office, I didn’t sweat it. I had already spent so much of my life striving for perfection. I didn’t want to neglect sick kiddos for the sake of timely holiday cards. I didn’t want ruin or devalue one single moment because it wasn’t perfect enough. I cut myself slack as a mother, as a human being, and reminded myself that the moments themselves were more important than their perfection.

Meaningful Moments

Yes, my paranoia that this might be my last Christmas had some affect on the overall outcome of my efforts. I wanted so desperately to really enjoy the month with my family. And we did. From the movie nights to the soiled laundry, the 5 minute snowstorm that didn’t stick to the re-wrapping of the presents the kitten clawed at, we enjoyed our time together. Perhaps I was just a little more patient. Letting go of perfection certainly helped. Having a clear goal in mind truly made it work. When I woke up from surgery two days into 2015, I suppose I wasn’t really surprised. I’ve always worried the worst might happen. It’s been 6 days since then. I’ve spent a lot of time lying around recovering, barely enough energy to move from room to room. I feel anxious to get my new year started. I want to make plans and memories with my family. I’m daydreaming of weekly treks outdoors away from our screens. I making lists of things I want to teach my children. Perfect or not. With and without fear (though hopefully with less.) Even now, spending most of the day with my feet up and my head properly cushioned, I focus on the moment I am living in. I definitely learned a valuable lesson. I learned how I want to live.

What about you? What have you learned in your journey about how to live?

This article was written by Monique.

8 ways to a happier life.

 

There’s a well known phrase that goes “You are what you eat”.  I think the phrase should be changed to “You are what you think”.  Whatever you want to call it:  optimism, positivity, looking on the bright side, glass half-full…if you fill your mind and your life with things that make you happy, you will change your world.

                   The mind is everything. What you think you become.   ~Buddha

There are things that you can do on a daily, weekly, monthly or yearly basis that can make your life more joyful and peaceful and filled with less stress. If you can do 3-5 of these things every day it will make it easier to get through the day with a positive attitude. Some of these are activities or concrete things you can hold in your hand, while the others are more of an attitude or way of thinking and looking at things. Doing these can help you to live a happier life and can make the tough days easier to get through. Just begin.

                    Change your thoughts and you will change your world.

You probably won’t find anything new or earth-shattering here, but they really can change the way you feel and think. The key is to always look for the silver lining in any situation. Also look for the magic in your life. Sometimes it’s hidden and you have to look really hard to find it.  Sometimes it goes by so fast that if you blink you might miss it.  Sometimes you have a take a detour in order to find it.  And sometimes you just have to ask for it to appear.

                                If you want to be happy, be.~Leo Tolstoy

Here are 8 categories that include a variety of things that you can do to feel happier:

Do Something:

Write a letter. Keep a daily journal. Compose a blog post. Start a book. Write a love note. .

Grow flowers, vegetables, herbs or fruits.     

Watch a comedy in the movies or on tv. Go see a play or a concert or a sporting event.

Collect shells,stamps,or rocks shaped like hearts(it doesn’t matter what it is,as long as it brings you joy).            

Create anything. Make art. Bake a pie. Knit a scarf. Put together a mood or inspiration board.

Plan a vacation, a party, an event. Make lists. Look for inspiration on Pinterest.

Join a club. Belong to a church. Sign up for a dinner group. Be a part of something.

Document and record your life. Capture the moment. Do something with your photos.          

Enjoy Something:

Read something every day. It can be fiction or non-fiction, or a book or magazine. Just read something!  .

Cook or bake something with a family member or friend. It doesn’t matter what, the fun is in the making.

Animals will put a smile on your face! If you don’t have a pet you can volunteer at a shelter or visit the zoo.

Nature is amazing. Watch the sun rise. Take pictures of the sky. Notice the change of seasons.

Listen to music. Music can lift your mood like nothing else.  

Favorite smells. Scents are wonderful things. They can relax you or they can lift you up.

Give Something:

Give back. Help others by donating your time and/or talents to a good cause.

Surprise someone with a gift or card…or give them a call to let them know that you’re thinking about them.

Permission to let it go. Sometimes there’s nothing that feels better then a good cry to let your feelings out.

Forgiveness.

Get Something:

Organized. It’s amazing what getting rid of the clutter can do for your life. Simplify your life when you can.

Moving. Exercise. Walk, bike, swim, do yoga or run…just get moving.

A good night’s sleep. This is one of those things that is  “easier said than done”, but is so important.

Reward yourself.  Give yourself a treat after you’ve accomplished something.

Feel Something:

A sense of wonder. Look at things as though you’re seeing them for the first time. Be curious.

Touch someone.  Give a hug…hold hands…get a backrub from a loved one

Gratitude. Appreciate the little things in life.  Be thankful and celebrate the ordinary moments.

The sun on your face. It warms your soul.

Nurture Something:

Family & friends.

Pets.

Plants.

Yourself. Meditate or daydream. Take a hot bath. Eat healthy meals. Take naps. It’s ok to say no to things.

Keep Something:

Routines & habits. Find comfort in your daily rituals and habits.

Traditions. Keep your old family traditions alive or make new traditions with your family.

Dreaming. Set goals. Aim high.

Calm.  I know this is another thing that’s easier said than done…but panicking never helps.  Be prepared.

Go Somewhere:

Say yes to new adventures. Take a risk. Learn something new. Challenge yourself. Shake things up.

Discover someplace you haven’t been before. Find a park or museum…go bowling or ice skating.

Window shopping (yes, window shopping)!  Visit stores with the intention of just looking & being inspired.

Take a ride…in a car, on a bike, a bus, a train or a plane.

Find your happy place.  Know the places and things that make you happy.  Is it the beach, is it at home? Is it when you’re by yourself or with others?  Is it reading or photography?  

What makes you happy?  Let us know in the comments here, or by commenting on our Instagram photo today, and I’ll select one random person to win a free print of their choosing from my etsy shop.

 

This article was written by Dawn Smith.