Personal Note

My most valued possession is my family. Even if you are living in a box somewhere, and you have the love and support of your family, you will always be wealthy. Love really is all you need. From love, great things will emerge. From your thoughts, you can create greatness.

This is what I need to remind myself of everyday to be the best person that I can be. Live your life with gratitude. Be thankful for all that you have everyday, even if it is your eyes to see or your ears to hear or your feet to walk or your hands to create. Understand your place in this Universe; how infinitesimally small you are, but how huge a contribution your Spirit is. Don't wear blinders to the world around you, you're not the only one here. Be kind, considerate, don't be judgemental, love others, and yourself. Know that you are perfect inside; that you are love.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

A True Christmas Spirit...A Tribute To My Sister

We can exchange many wonderful things with each other: trinkets, clothes, jewelry, sweets...but I want to gift something to someone special that I can't wrap in pretty paper and punctuate with a bow.

Sure, I bought some of those things for this person, but I need to recognize the much-too-often unrecognized kindness, generosity, and big heart of one of the most important people in my life. She has been with me for 39 years, often when no one else was. I fall in love with her more and more each day and cherish her now, more than ever.

My sissy.

That's what I grew up calling her. That's what she always called me. It's a "thing."

My Christmas wish this year is for her to be recognized as the fantastic person that she is. How can I relay to all of you (and her) what I see in her? I guess I'll just have to shine a light on what I see her doing, that no one really knows about. Just in the last few months this is what I have seen her do:

I'll start back in July when we went to Florida for our Dream Vacation.

She paid for me to go. Sure, I paid for additional expenses, but she paid for the trip; airfare, hotel, rental car, and everything. Then, when we got to JAX, we had a most wonderful young man named Jabari who helped us with our bags and rental car. Tip him? Of course. $50? That's my sister. She was so impressed with him, as was I. He was just such a kind soul. That's what she does. That's who she is. By the way, she made sure the rental car employee called for Jabari so he could help us when we got to the airport to leave for home. Yep...that meant another tip.

At the start of the new school year, she finally told me that she donated money to the school to purchase several computers for the kids who couldn't afford them. Our school moved from textbooks to laptop computers and large backpacks for them. This at a cost of almost $100 per student. I was going to go to our local paper about this but, I am ashamed to say, I got too busy. The school principal was surprised to get this donation for this purpose. She said no one had done this before. No one! When I found this out, I was in disbelief! This gave my sister a great idea. She told her daughter and me that each year we should have a fundraiser with a bake sale, craft sale, car wash and the like to raise money for this purpose. Now THAT I will be sure to go to the paper about.

The other day we were going into Hobby Lobby in Fairview Heights and there was a young male bell ringer for the Salvation Army opening the door for us. He was so nice. Not that "I have to be nice because I am representing something" kind of nice, but an authentic "Merry Christmas, you have a blessed day, Ladies" kind of nice. I reached into my purse for my wallet. He said I could just do it when I came out, if I wanted to (give a donation). I put in my $2, but my sister said she would give hers when we came out. We went into the store and she turned to me and said, "Would it be stupid to give him a $20? Just for him?" I said, Of course not!!! I love when you do things like that! It's money you would probably end up spending on something useless at one point, anyway."

So, we turned right around and went straight back to the exit. She wanted to do it right then, in case he was gone when we came back out. She approached the door, he opened it and she took his hand. He was a bit confused, until she folded that $20 into his hand and told him, "This is for you, just for you." He thanked her with a "God bless you and Merry Christmas..." but was a little taken aback. We turned and went back into the store, me doing a "clappy dance" and my sister's eyes all welled up with emotion. I acted like I didn't notice, I didn't want to embarrass her, but I did. I noticed. She touches me.

We won't know if he really kept it or put it into the bucket, but it was intended to make his own holiday a bit brighter. When we left, he was, indeed, gone. Completely gone. I don't know the circumstances behind how one becomes a bell ringer for the Salvation Army, whether it be volunteer work, community service, a paid position. But this man's soul touched our souls. And every little bit of kindness in this world helps.

It helped him and I hope that he passed it on. It helped her, as she struggles much in her life and these moments for her help chisel away at any walls she may have. As for me? My faith grows more and more each day when I witness these miracles. They are miracles. And seeing the reality of them renews me in ways that keeps me working towards my hope that this world will someday change and my goal to be a part of it.

One last thing. Last night after working her shift as a nurse, she came and got me and we went on a little late night "Santa Claus-ing." I had puled a name from the Angel Tree (the trees that stand in stores such as Wal-Mart with a colored piece of paper with an angel on it and a wish list for a child in need) with the intentions of shopping for this little 7 year old girl for Christmas. It got late, time got away from me, and the only time I had to make this wish come true was last night. She had been all in from the start, but, like I said, the holidays are busy and stressful for all of us and time just slipped away. Even though we had almost run out of time, she committed to go with me after work last night to shop for this little girl. You should have seen her. We found so many cute things--it was ALL my sister. She knows how to shop for the most perfect gifts. I found a few things, but she is the master! We would have been there all night and bought her absolutely everything on her little list if she had her way. (PS. Our Pop helped out, too, to be sure this child had a great Christmas!)

Noah and I delivered all of her toys and clothes and shoes and girly things this morning to Angel Headquarters. We felt like real-life Elves! That's the best Christmas ever!

As for Pammie...

I love you more than you can know. I am so proud of the changes you have made, and will continue to make. You are a beautiful person with a beautiful heart.

I will cherish you forever...

Your Sister,


Monday, December 22, 2014

Today Was A Big Day For Me...

I had a pretty exciting day today. Do you remember a few posts back when I wrote about going to Chicago and the Hay House "Movers and Shakers: Speak, Write, Promote" workshop? I met a lovely lady named Jaime Pfeffer , who spoke with me and invited me on to her radio show, "Uplift", and that day finally came today!

Here is the link to today's show: Uplift: Do You Have A Grief Strategy

If you have some time and would like to listen to my interview, I would greatly appreciate it! Scroll on down and leave a comment on the site, too, and let us know what you thought.

Thanks so much for being here and reading and sharing in my little bit of the blogosphere. I so appreciate you all.

Remember to stop by for links and updates to everything I'm up to!

Have a great week...


Thursday, December 18, 2014

Do You Need To Change The Station In Your Head?

I was driving somewhere the other day and had the holiday/Christmas music on in the car. I am a self professed Yule-tide nerd. A softy in every way. It all happens the day after Thanksgiving, earlier if I could get away with it (like the day after Halloween) but I like to remember Thanksgiving and keep things decorated for Autumn. It's just a shame that the Christmas/Hanukkah/Yule holiday season only gets roughly one month. Almost not near enough time for all the songs, colors, decorations, smells, movies...well, you get the point.

I was raised with Christmas being a big deal in my house. Mom loved it as much as Halloween (and that was a pretty big deal, too) and always went all out for it. That's where I get it from. I'm so glad I have Noah, he understands and loves it all as much as I do, and climbs up on that roof every year to cover the house in lights, not to mention the inside decorating he does, too. We don't really get caught up on labels, we just do what feel right to us and what makes us happy!

Anyway, I was driving somewhere and was really needing to concentrate on getting there and the music was playing, something soothing and nice, probably White Christmas by Bing Crosby or The Christmas Song by Nat King Cole or even something by the Carpenters. Then, a more rambunctious song jumped from the radio's speakers and shocked me. I wasn't quite ready for that, and was very much needing to concentrate on what I was doing and couldn't with the song that was so raucously playing. I became agitated and frustrated and had to change the station to a more soothing and relaxing tune.

After I got to where I was going, I got thinking about how I needed to quiet the outside noise so that I could sooth myself and concentrate and started to think about how that compared so much to how I need to sometimes do that for the internal noise, as well.

Most of you know all about the power of positive thinking and the calming result of meditation, but how often do you actually practice it?

Me? Not nearly as much as I should. Not. Nearly. I get so busy that I forget that there are wonderful opportunities at my disposal whenever I should need them, just waiting to be utilized.

How busy do you get? Do you often have so many things on your mind that it makes it difficult for you to organize it all? Does all that "noise" in your head get in the way of your peace? I know mine does, which is why it is so important to remember that we have everything we need at our disposal.

We so often look outward for the answers we seek: peace, love, joy...we might very well search forever looking outside of ourselves. One of the hardest things I had to learn on this journey was that everything I needed was right inside me all along. I just could not wrap my head around what on earth that meant. Thank goodness I found the forums and books and "teachers" I needed, when I needed them, to help me with this. When I was ready, I was open, and the answers came. But I had to quiet myself, first. I had to calm the noise and listen. 

When I changed the station in my head to a more calm and soothing one, I was able to concentrate on finding those things I was searching for, right inside me. I learned that I could attain peace with myself, that I didn't need to rely on outside influences or happenings to make me happy. It wasn't up to anyone else but me to bring the peace I sought. My choices, my behaviors and my thoughts were what brought the peace.

Likewise with love and is really up to you. Learning to love yourself is a huge step for some. We often don't feel worthy of anyone else's love, let alone our own, but without self love, how can we ever give or receive outside love? And I also learned that I could give myself all the joy I was longing for. The biggest part of that was that I made the decision to do it. I put aside my ego, begrudgingly, I assure you, and I started making decisions to be consciously aware of my thoughts and judgments. That's a big one: being aware of your thoughts AND judgments, for when you are judging someone you become increasingly unconscious until it's a habit that becomes as second nature as breathing. You not only rob yourself of joy at this point, you rob them, too.

I quieted that noise, changed the station, and just made it a point to concentrate on where I was going in my head--in my thoughts. It helped me to find that which I thought I could only find outside, but was within me all along.

That is a true blessing.

I will share more on this later this week as well as how to find peace during this busy season full of materialistic expectations when you may not be able to fulfill them. We could all use a shift of reasoning during the holiday season; a remembrance of what it should be about and how to find more peace among the stress.

Thank you for being here today and reading, I so appreciate it.

Have a great week!


Friday, December 5, 2014

8 Great Tips To Get You Through The Holidays (With Your Sanity Intact!)

Christmas carols playing overhead in the grocery store and on the radio, tree lots popping up everywhere, holiday favorites on television...

Oh, yes, it's that time again.

Are you ready?

It came up on us quick. I mean, I was just in Florida for summer vacation, for goodness sake! How can this be?!

But it's here, and there's nothing we can do about it, except maybe enjoy it to it's fullest. Whatever your traditions are, there must be something that you do this time of year to celebrate the season. No matter what that something is, it has the sure potential to become overwhelming. As I write this, it's already the 3rd of December, and I feel I'm running behind already. We did take advantage of the unseasonably warm weekend, putting our renovations on hold to decorate the outside of the house, icicle lights and all (a promise my husband has kept for all these years). But skipped buying the tree just yet. Now, I'm nervous that we're waiting too long. We were just at the "Home Improvement Store" on the 1st and there were scarcely any trees there (we like a fir tree which are not grown around us) so we asked if there were going to be any more deliveries. The employee told us there would be...later that day.

We decided it was a bit too early to get one just yet, ours always tend to dry out in our house, but now I am rethinking that strategy a bit. I think getting one closer to the time it was cut and shipped is better. So I convinced Noah to take me back either Thursday or Friday. I don't want a dried out tree. Besides, I want to get it up and in some water to just sit for a day or two to see if the new kitty is going to leave it alone or not. Let's hope so...

Then I feel pressured to get the decorations out and try to make my house feel like a festive holiday home. But we have so much else to get done, namely the bathroom that is sans drywall and down to the insulation and bare studs in some places. The old shower has to come out, plumbing re-routed, drywall on the ceiling and walls, and replace the tub/shower. Then put in new flooring, a new vanity (that we have yet to pick out) and the new toilet (ditto with the picking out). Oh...and put up new wainscot and paint the bathroom. Good thing it's a smaller bathroom.

There's still so much to finish in the kitchen, too, how will I ever get it all done enough to enjoy the holidays? I fear I might start to feel overwhelmed in such a way that I miss out on the enjoyment of the season and the peace it is supposed to bring.

But, that's just it. What exactly do you need to do in order to feel like you can enjoy the holidays? What needs to be accomplished for you to feel like you're not going to get so overwhelmed by your "to-do" lists that you wake up one morning and the holidays are over and you seem to have missed it? How in the world are you going to even find time to make a list to figure out what should and shouldn't be on your LIST?!

Take a breath. And another. We'll get through this. It's all about simple prioritizing and getting rid of what you don't need. For instance, I absolutely must figure out how much decorating I really should do to keep things simple for me while we still intend to finish the much needed repairs in our home. I usually go all out for the season, and want nothing more than to have had the house done so that I could have everything "just so" and decorate to my little hearts desire, but it's just not gonna happen this year. But, I can do my best and still feel festive while staying in control and not getting overwhelmed. 

I came up with this list to help keep me focused and on track and remember to slow down and enjoy the holidays this year, no matter what.

1. Realize you can't do it all...

You need to learn to cut yourself some slack. You may feel you need to be (and I'm sure you are) Superman/Superwoman, but you don't need to be. No one is, no matter how they appear to everyone else. We all have our limits, and there isn't anyone more special than the next. Just focus on the meaning behind your actions and do your best, and your good intentions will shine through.

2. Learn to let go...

All those expectations we have about ourselves, the holidays, (every situation we think we need to control), are usually pretty unrealistic. And almost ALWAYS in our own heads. No one else has these expectations of us, but us. I know this for a fact. I used to put so much pressure on myself to get so much done over the holidays that I take a weeks vacation right before Christmas to get it all done: making gifts, crafts, wrapping, shipping gifts, baking, etc. It wore me out and ruined my own enjoyment of the holidays. Did everyone expect and request all that of me? No. (read that {.} as "PERIOD"). I expected it of myself. I continuously piled more and more onto myself until I was so exhausted that I couldn't wait for it all to be over. How fun. :/  So, let go of what isn't necessary, bringing me to number 3.

3. Prioritize...

Make a schedule, then narrow it down to what is an absolute must and then go over it again. To make it easy, use a "pros and cons" list format. The list can include things like cleaning, shopping, wrapping, baking, card signing/mailing, crafting, decorating, etc. Here are some examples:
                                 * who to shop for/what to buy vs what to make and for whom
                                 *  what to clean/which rooms/what days
                                 *  how to divvy up your wrapping schedule
                                 *  what to bake and what can be bought
                                 *  who to send cards to or making vs store bought and when to mail
                                 *  which crafts do you really want to make (cuz you don't have to make them all)
                                 *  just how much decorating do you need? (see # 2!)

Here is a link to my Pinterest board (don't worry, it's small) where you can find great tips for scheduling yourself throughout the holidays to get it all done, feel accomplished (and organized!) and stay relaxed so you can enjoy it for yourself, too!

4. Budget...

Minding the budgeting of your money in addition to your time is very important to keeping stress levels low. If you give yourself guidelines, and stick to them, you can easily stay on track. It's worth the "trouble" and you can get more bang for your buck, giving you more opportunity to give to everyone on your list. You can use this link provided above for these tips, too!

5. Delegate...

 Divide chores up among your family members, especially when preparing for a party or event (like a visit from in-laws). When you find a cleaning and decorating/preparing schedule you like from the Pins above, you can make your own schedules up of who-does-what around the house to help. And definitely enlist help with the wrapping, baking, shipping, etc. Make a chore chart and expect everyone to stick to it.

6. Stop with the guilt, already...

If you find yourself overwhelmed and feeling like you can't possibly do it all--stop. If you can't get all the handmade gifts done to perfection, buy something; it's the though that counts. If you can't bake up a dozen or so special made-from-scratch treats, only make one special thing to give out and buy the rest, just dress them in pretty packaging (or don't, because you may not have time!). If you can't attend all of your friend's or relative's kids' pageants or chorals, sweetly decline and move on. You are just one person, even with the delegating, stop feeling like you have to do it ALL! You don't.

7. Relax and take time for yourself...

You are supposed to be enjoying yourself. Remember, this is your holiday, too. Find time each day (what!?) to take a moment for yourself. It can be quick, like a couple sun salutations, or two hours long, like watching your favorite holiday movie. You can take a hot bath, drink some cocoa while gazing at the hard work you did on your tree or meditate upon the meaning of your 4th lit menorah candle. Browse Pinterest while sipping a hot chai tea and then actually do one of the holiday crafts you've been wanting to try. Heck, put on some Christmas music and dance in the kitchen! The idea is to give to yourself as much as you are giving to everyone else this time of year.

8. Have pure intentions...

All your goodness shines through if you act with pure intentions, so no matter what you are able to accomplish; do it well and the love behind it shines through. It doesn't matter if you are able to give a little or a lot to charity, your friends, your family, etc. this year. If you do it with loving kindness, that pure intention will shine through, and that's all that really matters.

I hope this helps you to have a more relaxing and peace filled holiday season this year. You can start with #7, you know...go on and check out some great tips and fun holiday crafts on Pinterest and get that budget going!

Have a great weekend!

As always, thanks for reading.