Hello Friend: Give the World a Smile

Smiles, contain so much power. They can light up a room, they can make us feel all warm and cozy inside. When I say smile, I mean real ones, the kind that lights you up from your eyes and your heart. I mean a whole hearted smile, the kinds that lights up your eyes and permeates through your whole body. Smiles can begin friendships and make others feel welcome.

Smile at Yourself

Every time you see your reflection, give yourself a big and bright smile. Let’s face it, we see our reflection a lot throughout the day. Most commonly in mirrors but also in windows and other types of reflective surfaces. What I am recommending is that anytime you see yourself in any reflection, mirror or otherwise, give yourself a big warming smile. This approach is sure to brighten a bad day and overtime bring you to a higher state of self-love.

Smile at Others

Smile at strangers on the street! If you are feeling particularly welcoming say ‘hello.’ Don’t be attached to the outcome, you won’t always get a hello in response. Sometimes it may be more of a puzzled and bewildered look than anything else. At some point in our culture we have slowly begun to drift apart and be so disconnected that we don’t even give others the simplest of salutations, hi, hello, hey there! Maybe the simplest warm gesture of a smile will make a huge positive change that person’s day.

Be Wise Beyond your Age

I once passed a group of adults and on one of the man’s shoulders sat a young girl. When I smiled and said hello to the group the only response I received was from the little girl who gave me a wonderful hello. As the distance grew between us as we passed I don’t know what the group said to the small girl, maybe who I was or how we knew one another. The only thing I could hear was the girl saying loudly “She’s my neighbor.” The whole group broke out in laughter at how adorable and childish her response was. But for me it brought an even bigger smile to my face and a warmth in my heart.

That little girl was so right! Aren’t we all neighbors, all inhabitants of this wonderful world and shouldn’t we treat each other as such? We don’t have to be best friends with everyone but we can treat each other with a common curtesy and general kindness of a smile and maybe even a Hello!

There are more than enough to go around

Think abundance mentality here people! Another great thing about a smile or a simple “hello” is that both of these things are entirely free! Talk about budget friendly here people. I am not even asking you to give up a ton of your time either, this hardly takes any time at all!

Do I think this is going to solve all the world’s problems? Unfortunately no, but once I started doing this for myself I noticed I am far less judgmental of seeing my reflection. I am not worrying about a hair being out of place or this or that being wrong about my face, I just smile and take it all in. This life is too short to do anything but smile at ourselves. We can’t always control how other people treat us but we can 100% be in charge of how we treat ourselves.

Who wouldn’t smile after finding a giant rooster?

As a society I do not feel that we smile enough so SMILE a lot and often, the world needs more of them! What small changes like smiling more have made the biggest impacts in your life?

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Be Grateful: Count Your Blessings

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving friends! Regardless of your stance on this holiday, there is one takeaway I believe everyone can benefit from. Being Thankful! Take some time this holiday to literally count your blessings. You could write them out as a list, you could journal about them, you could even go around the room saying them out loud.

I am grateful for my family coming over tomorrow. I am grateful for the food we are going to eat. I am grateful for the fact that none of us have to work tomorrow and can be together. I am grateful for electricity and heat. I am grateful for technology that allows me to have this blog and community.

Samson is thankful for fuzzy blankets and pillows.

This post is purposefully short, I want you to take time to enjoy your life and whatever it is you have to be grateful for. What are you grateful for my friends?

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Going Overboard: Too Much of a Good Thing

Picture it, you find yourself with a shiny new blank, it doesn’t matter what it is but it is brand spanking new. Even if it is used, you are elated because it’s what you have been looking for and to you its new. After a few days you may find yourself lusting for that wave of joy you had when you first got your new shiny thing. Maybe it was a water bottle, or a mug, or shoes, or clothes, kitchenware, home décor, whatever it was you want to feel that excitement and joy again. So you find yourself searching for more, clearly if one brought you that much joy then having another will be even better.

How Much is Enough?

Does this viscous cycle sound familiar? Maybe it is not even buying a repeat item, maybe it’s just that rush of having something new. How often do we find ourselves finding a lot of joy when we get something and then ending up with multiples because we are trying to recreate and grow that original joy in an exponential fashion? You end up with so many of the same thing that you do not even take good care of them. Or you have so many that you don’t even remember how many you have, where they are, where you left them, etc. What we often find however is that once we obtain the second of whatever that first thing was we don’t end up having as much joy as we had with the first. The amount of joy that we get from the 3rd and 4th and so on is even more diminished. Where will I store all of these? How will I take care of all of them? Why do we constantly find ourselves keeping up with the proverbial “Jones’s”? Are you currently saying to yourself “but it comes in a new color and I do not have THAT color, style, whatever” and starting to think that sounds ridiculous? We often have so many of the same thing that if one were to go missing we would not even notice.

Who are we kidding here? Clearly you can’t use more than one of that shiny new thing at one time so why do you need six of them? In some cases it makes sense, for example having a few coffee mugs so that when you have guests over for tea everyone has a mug so you aren’t wasting disposable cups. But how realistic is it to have say, twenty coffee mugs? Maybe you have giant parties and use this many all the time but I would surmise that for the general public, this is not the case. If for arguments sake you do end up having six guests but only four coffee mugs for your tea party should you go out and buy two more? Do you have anything else that may be able to serve that function but wouldn’t be typically considered for that application? A mason jar perhaps? Or just a different glass and maybe a coozie of some kind to insulate the beverage? What about hosting the party in such a fashion that everyone brings their favorite mug to your tea party? Let’s think outside the box!

Give Yourself a Breather

How often do we pause before a purchase? When I ask this question, I do not mean a short pause, I mean physically leaving the store and making this decision after allowing for space between you and the item. I often find myself much less enamored with a product after I have left the store. Seldom do I find myself in true, dire need of the thing. Given enough time I can usually come up with an alternative to the purchase or not need anything at all.

If you are over the hustle and bustle of overwhelming stuff, you are not alone. When shopping or even if someone is offering up hand-me-downs, you can ask yourself a few questions first before saying yes:

Do I already own this item?
Do I need another one if I already own one?
Does something else I already own serve this same purpose?
If the item is free, would I be willing to pay full price for it?
Where will I store this item or keep it in my house?
Am I willing to get rid of something else to make room for this item?
Why did I go to the store in the first place?
Is the short term joy I will feel from this purchase worth it?
Do I have larger financial goals I am trying to meet?
Will I regret this purchase?

You are in control, I give you permission to say NO and walk away.

This adventure has inherently made me more creative. I may not own a teapot but I still have several ways to make tea! Ultimately, you need to decide what brings you joy in your life and then only surrounding yourself with those things. After a while I feel that you, like me, will find that most of those things are not in fact “things” at all.

A few of my favorite “things”

Where do you find yourself in the stuff cycle? How have you begun to break free, say no to stuff, and live with less?

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Rethink Presents: A Year Round Gift Guide

These are in no particular order and if I come up with more ideas or people share theirs with me I will add to this list! Please give yourself a minute to rethink WHY you give gifts in the first place. Do not give gifts out of guilt or in anticipation of reciprocation. Give with an open heart and non-attachment to the outcome.

Do It Yourself. Got some skills? Make your family or friends their gifts this year. It can be as simple as baking cookies or an Epsom salt bath soak. If you do not have skills, don’t worry, this is the perfect time to learn! Practicing a lot helps which is great if there are a lot of people on your list this year. You could even make your own cards and write personalized handwritten notes in them to send out. Personally there is something borderline miraculous about receiving snail mail.

Support a Local Artist. Around the holidays there are tons of events where local artists are able to showcase their awesome wares. These unique, often one-of-a-kind finds make perfect gifts.

Support a Small Local Business. You may find yourself lucky enough to have small local businesses showcasing their own work or even other local artists’ work which is another great place to find gifts. I am not the biggest supporter of gift cards but it can be a wonderful way to support a small local business! I am also not opposed to supporting larger global businesses with a great vision. Companies that make sure that their supplies are coming from sustainable sourcing and paying their workers a living wage are some ideas of things to look for.

Support a Charity. There are lots of options here. You can show support by giving your time, giving your money or even giving them items they need.

Experiences. This can look like so many things. Tickets to a show, a zoo or museum membership. Going on a hike or a scavenger hunt. Do a project or make a craft together. Send someone the dry ingredients and fun toppings for a pizza cookie, make a kit for a hot chocolate bar or a movie night or pasta night, or an ice cream sundae night. Once I mailed a “snow day kit” to my husband’s niece and nephew. It included things like spray bottles and food coloring to graffiti the snow, along with hot chocolate and soup to warm up after. When my husband and I moved to Tennessee we bought ourselves memberships to a local brewery for our first Christmas. It gave us events to go to and we have made a ton of wonderful friends.

The gift that keeps on giving, beer that is! Our membership mugs!

Good Deeds. Gosh there are so many options, get creative! Mow the grass, shovel snow, rake leaves, bring the mail, pick up litter, go grocery shopping for them, babysit, do some laundry.

Visit. This should be obvious but I am afraid it is not. Think about all of the people in your life and think about those you care about the most. Are you spending the majority of your time that you spend with others with the people you care about the most? If not, why not? This took me awhile to grasp and is not that easy to follow through with at first. Your time is valuable, do the things that you enjoy the most with it, and that means spending as much time as you can with the people you love the most in your life.

Food. This can be DIY or it could be inviting someone to partake in dinner or even your holiday meal. It could even be making dinner for someone in your life that has a lot going on or even stocking their freezer with ready to go meals. Everyone eats and there is more food insecurity than we care to believe. A healthy meal or the community surrounding a meal is a wonderful gift.

Love Gifts. Stop giving gifts just because the commercial holiday season said to. Give gifts when they are needed or when they will be treasured the most. It is not about the cost or size of the gift, it is about the act of giving.

Re-think your gift giving ways! What gifts do you love giving the most?

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The Holidays: Small Stuff, Big Heart

Does the thought of the upcoming holidays give you pause? The thought of all of the activities, presents, and food stress you out? You are not alone! The financial burden alone is overwhelming. I am here to tell you that if you are open to it, you can tweak your holidays and make them even more special.

This is a case where I think the saying “less is more” comes in really handy. If you are half-heartedly trying to accomplish everything, it is not going to be very enjoyable. If you pick and choose the things that mean the most to you and your family, but do them with your whole-heart, it will be much more enjoyable and rewarding.

To our dogs, the stuffed animals they get around the holidays are the best fun ever!

How to have the holidays your way:

Make a list of all of the things you LOVE about the holidays. Have your family do this too. Maybe what you love is baking cookies, or making your signature gravy. It just wouldn’t be the holidays without watching your favorite holiday movie or reading your favorite holiday stories. Do you love giving presents or opening presents?  This is going to sound simple but I love just having family together for the holidays with no agenda. Sit, relax, talk, and eat. All the best things in the world right there.

Make a list of all of the things you HATE about the holidays. Again, have your family do this too. Is wrapping tons of presents the bane of your existence? You hate baking yet every year seem to find yourself in the middle of a cookie exchange? The thought of buying someone one more thing drives you bananas but if you could get them an experience you already know they would love, would mean the world to both of you. I personally hate giving gifts in the traditional sense. I prefer to give experiences, something I made myself, something I bought from a local artist, or nothing at all. Taking this unnecessary pressure off of the holidays has taken away a ton of my holiday stress.

Compare all the lists. What you and your family love vs hate may surprise you. Something you may hate may be your family’s number one thing! You all may agree on several “hates” and are able to cut those out entirely. Figure out what each person’s favorites are and try to do more of that and less of the rest. It is also your decision how far out you take this philosophy. Maybe it is only for immediate family or maybe it extends out further and further. Part of having a wonderful holiday season is starting the conversation about what people even love about them in the first place!

Start new holiday traditions and maybe get rid of some of the old. Since we are already re-evaluating the holidays, are there any new traditions you would like to add in? Or even some that need thrown out? Maybe the food you always have for the holidays half of the group does not even like, why not try a new menu option? A great tradition my family loves is playing lots of board games!

My Favorite Holiday Tradition: The Mouse Countdown Calendar

In my experiences with shaking the holidays up a bit, it has not always been easy. What we fail to remember is that things are always changing and the holidays are nothing like how they were when I was a child, yet so many things are the same. Everyone is always evolving and that alone is a challenge, especially with the nostalgia associated with the holiday season.

You know what hasn’t changed my friends? The time we spend together as a family. This alone means way more than all of the expensive stuff, even the expensive food! As long as we have something to munch on and each other it has always been fine. If you are breaking your sanity and your bank to keep up with the proverbial “Jones’s” just STOP. The holidays do not have to be a five star gourmet experience to be a success. Was everyone together, were we having fun? PERFECT! Also, please do not let the arbitrarily set calendar dates define your holidays. We live far away from my husband’s family so sometimes our holidays aren’t even close to their designated dates, but they mean just as much.

Whatever you do friends, do it with a big heart and lots of love! What have you changed in your holiday traditions to make them happier and healthier?

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