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The Pressure to be Happy for the Holidays

The Pressure to be Happy for the Holidays

Dec 9, 2015

For every song on the radio filled with cheer and jingling bells, there’s another filled with loneliness and longing.  It’s good to know I’m not alone… Starting in the weeks leading up to Halloween, the calendar fills up with every seasonal activity imaginable. We are constantly reminded how “precious” this time is with our children, and urged to create Pintrest worthy family traditions. Pressure builds to make sure the family experiences ALL the joy of the season: decorations, shopping, tree lighting, Christmas concerts, school shows, baking, visiting with family, crafts, on and on. We push ourselves to accomplish all of our “normal” activities AND the additional activities of the season, and do it all while grinning wildly from ear to ear—lest we be called a humbug.  For some of us, it feels a little like moving through molasses.  Every activity requires twice as much energy (and leaves a lingering sticky residue). A while back, I wrote about authentic happiness. Not everyone’s happiness looks the same.  TV seduces us into thinking true happiness is a bubbling and bursting, a new-car-with-huge-red-ribbon kind of glee.  Some people have a happiness quotient that is more of a simmer, save for those actual lotto-winning moments, and it is much more quiet. Like our bodies, happiness comes in all shapes and sizes.  We think something is wrong when we don’t feel what we think we should feel.  We tell other people to, “SMILE!!”, as if that is the only way to walk around in the world.  There is a difference between being unhappy and not-as-happy. Make this distinction in your solitude.  Appreciate the moments you have when your child says something magical about the season, when a great friend is in town for a visit, when your favorite movie comes on TV. It’s also perfectly reasonable to appreciate the quiet of the season: the glow of the lights when your house has turned down for the night, the warm smell of baking, the tears shed over people who have passed. We don’t give ourselves, or each other, enough opportunity to express an emotion other than jubilation this time of year.  There is room for reflection, remembrance, and reverence.  It is the pressure...

Finding Gratitude In The Dark

Finding Gratitude In The Dark

Dec 4, 2015

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” –Melody Beattie Most of us have heard about the benefits of gratitude. It can boost your immune system and decrease stress, according to Elizabeth Heubeck from WebMD. We know that practicing gratitude leads to a happier life and the feelings of abundance. What happens, though, when we can’t find gratitude? When we are trapped in darkness, how can we find a spark of thankfulness? Tune into one. small. thing. That’s it really. The practice begins in finding an appreciation for one small thing. Then the next. Then the next thing after that. Psychology Today posted a great article from Toni Bernhard, J.D. about moving forward when we find our gratitude “in short supply.” She says, “Instead of trying to talk myself into big gratitude—a lecture that is always packed with judgmental “shoulds” and “oughts”—I decided to think small.” Bernhard shares this example: Thinking big: “I should be grateful every single day that I live in a nice house with my own backyard.” Thinking small: “That’s a pretty little bird in the yard.” By thinking small, we tune into the TRUE feeling behind the sentiment. We can say we are grateful for the roof over our head because we feel we should. Our intellect reminds us of the atrocities of the world, and how we should feel grateful it is not happening to us. But sometimes that is too big for us to tap into. We can think it but not actually feel it. In those circumstances, reach out for something you can feel. For me, it starts with my children. I can immediately tap into honest feeling when it involves my girls. The practice of gratitude has to start somewhere. As with all things, the skill becomes stronger with practice over time. Seek the first, little thing you can find to be grateful for, and really feel the gratitude...

Shop Small This Week

Shop Small This Week

Nov 24, 2015

Here’s the thing: People work really hard to follow their dreams, create a business, and carve out a life for themselves. Let’s support that. Sure, mega-chain-marts are cheaper. But there is no substitute for handmade quality and originality. Have to shop for someone who “has everything?” Get them something unique from a small business, local craftsman, or artist. It is sure to be a hit! Support a friend by purchasing gift-cards for their services, and gift it to others. Pay it forward. Supporting the small businesses in your community, and the businesses of your friends, will score you some big karma points for the next time you need support in your corner. We could all use a hand. Don’t know where to begin? Try Facebook. Chances are, you’ve seen a friend recommend a local shop or business, or promote their own. Scroll back through and check out their websites. Make it a point to support a few of them while you shop this season. Here are some fabulous places I recommend. I guarantee you are supporting real people, real craftsman, real artists. RadLabs Know anyone that loves cool leggings? How about filling up some blank wall space or spicing up your couch with some new pillows? You have got to check out RadLabs on Society6. ABOUT THE ART: “Artists Katie Helms and Veronica Fannin create collaborative artist’s books. This image is a small detail taken from mixed media books made over several years of working together with many other artists. Steeped in love, ritual, and friendship & reaching toward center, these two friends offer to you a glimpse into their larger network of partnership.” The print I’m crazy about: Titled “I Don’t Hide Anymore,” this print has got my name written all over it!   Mama Sews Best It’s not jut the name that is adorable. You have to check out these handmade, cleverly creative, gifts. From matching kid/doll accessories to custom keepsakes, you are sure to find something you like. The item I’m crazy about: These Memory Bears are made from a loved one’s old clothing and offer comfort in all seasons. This tender tribute is especially wonderful for someone who is facing...

5 Ways to Give Yourself Permission

5 Ways to Give Yourself Permission

Sep 29, 2015

We find ways to justify all kinds of detrimental behavior. We can find excuses for all our bad habits, half of which are unconscious. But why is it so hard for some of us to allow ourselves happiness, freedom, passion? Why do we make excuses for poor relationships and unrewarding careers? Embrace the Fear Fear is responsible for much of our thinking. I have made too many decisions in its influence and I’m sure you have too. You don’t think so? It is easily disguised. Maybe you thought, “The timing isn’t right for me to leave this job. I’ll wait until _____.” Or maybe you thought, “I’m too busy to look for a new _____.” Perhaps fear even felt like comfort. People will tell you to move past the fear. That’s never worked for me. I just couldn’t let go of those feelings. What I have been able to successfully do at many points, and am encouraging you to do here, is embrace the fear. Hold the fear and move on anyway. Use the fear and turn it into excitement or, at least, allow it to remind you to keep moving. Who wants to sit around in fear? You want to move fast enough that you don’t quite feel it anymore. Dump the dead weight you are with. the one who makes you feel terrible, that holds you back. Afraid to be lonely? Well…make a plan to join a social club. Use the fear to spur you into finding opportunities to meet people whose company you’d enjoy.  Afraid of loosing your job if you start looking for a new one? Use the fear to help you organize yourself and move quickly. Make a plan to send out resumes and be smart about your search. Don’t allow the fear of loosing a job you hate keep you in the job you hate! Remember You Are Not Psychic Our imaginations can get the best of us. We can project (fear) into the future and hallucinate all kinds of scenarios to talk us out of following our passion. Have you ever had a fake conversation with someone that turned into an argument? Have you ever felt terrible (racing pulse, upset...

How To Entertain Kids When You’re Sick

How To Entertain Kids When You’re Sick

Aug 27, 2015

Spring brings lots of beautiful flowers, green grass, and ALLERGIES! When the little ones are sick, late nights and early mornings make life tough. But what happens when Mom or Dad is down for the count? We’ve already had a round of couching and sore throats at our house, which reminded me to share this article I wrote for BuzzFeed, about 20 ways you can entertain kids when you feel like you. can’t. even.   The article lists a bunch of great ideas to help keep kids busy, but here are a few extra pointers to keep in mind when you are down for the count: 1. PRE-PLAN I hope the all-caps indicates the importance of this one! Gather a few items reserved specifically for sick days, and half of the work is done for you. You may recall packing a “hospital bag” or “home birth kit” before baby came. This is important too. Grab a box or bin and fill it with age appropriate supplies. Some ideas for older kids include, new coloring books and crayons (sure you’ve got old crayons, but new crayons are the best), exciting Playdoh colors in neon or sparkle, fun activites from the dollar store kid isle. Little ones are a bit harder, so make a few busy bags in advance. This site shares 15 ideas that are easy to put together–from lacing cards to sensory bottles. Age aside, all kids love new things. Make a little grab bag of small new toys. Pull one out in these kinds of emergency situations, and hopefully you can get an hour or two of peace. When the kids get too many toys for a holiday or their birthday, I like to put a few away (they never remember) and pull those out when needed. 2. Hire a cleaning service. Look, when the main caretaker is out of it, kids will take advantage of everything they can. For me, that means my house is going to be a mess. This stresses me out. Sometimes, for the sake of sanity, we have to spend a couple dollars. It seems indulgent at first, but you cannot put a price on sanity. You might even...

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