Sunday, November 11, 2012

25 People To Thank in November

Buy this thank you banner here.
I love November. I love gratitude. Here is a list of 25 people I want to thank this month. Join with me! It would be fun to do one each day until Thanksgiving. I recommend writing thank you notes, calling on the phone, sending a meaningful email, or giving a little gift to show gratitude. Ready, set, go thank someone!

1- God. Try and dedicate some prayers simply to being grateful instead of asking for things. All good things come from God, so there is no shortage of things to thank Him for!

2- Your parents. I need to make up for all my growing up years when I didn't say thank you enough. Not to mention thanking my mom for growing me and carrying me in her uterus (I have new appreciation for that now that I am a mom). I have my parents to thank for me being the person I am today.

3. Your spouse/significant other. Make a list for him or her of why you are grateful for them. Leave it where they will discover it at school or work, or coming home at night.
So thankful for this hard working husband of mine.
4. Your kids. If you don't have your own kids, find nieces, nephews, cousins, or neighbor kids to thank. Children have something to teach us all. My kids are very young, so I write my thanks and special notes to them in journal that I will give to them when they are older. Every child needs to hear that an adult appreciates them and that they make a difference in our grown up world.
So thankful for these two energetic kiddos. And as you can see, they are both thankful for sticks. 

5. Your friends. You know, those friends, the ones you can really be yourself around? Think about how much they put up with! They definitely need to be thanked.
I have some kick-butt girl friends!
BFFs. No joke. 
So, now we are done with the obvious people. I mean, the first 5 are kind of a given, right? 
Let's dig a little deeper. 

6- A politician or local leader. Is there someone in politics that you admire? Someone who works for a cause you believe in? Why not tell them? Write a letter or an email. If you're not big into politics, is there someone in your community who has influenced and blessed your community? Tell them!

7- A Church leader (local or worldwide). So many Church members give their lives in service and never hear appreciation. Of course, they don't do it for the appreciation of man, but it is always nice to hear!

8- A Church leader from your past. I had incredible leaders in my young womens program (youth group) growing up. And I was kind of a twit when I was growing up. So they probably don't know how they have blessed my life. I bet they'll be shocked to hear from me!

9- A teacher from your past. The internet has made it easy to find people and thank them. Did you have a professor, coach or teacher who really helped you? Send them a quick email to encourage them. Teaching is hard work!

10- A local police or fire station. Try taking these folks some cookies, donating to them, or having your children draw them pictures.
Printable coloring page here
11- Veterans. Veterans Day is on the 11th. Try to think ahead and send cards to people you know who have served/are serving in the military. I like to think that by sending a card, the person knows you don't just think of them on the holiday, but really care about them. Or make a phone call and tell them how much you appreciate it (phone calls seem to be fewer and far between in this digital age).

12- Extended family- Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, all need some love too. I was blessed to have lots of great aunts and great uncles (both literally and figuratively) that have had huge impact on my life.

13-A place you love. Yes, thank a place. You could take out a small ad space in your local newspaper or online forum to thank your town. For us, we have a local park that we love and has served us well all summer. We will be writing thank you notes to our local Parks and Recreation Department (maybe someone like Leslie Knope will read it and it will make her day!) and thanking them for providing the beautiful places that we play.
My kiddo at his 2nd birthday playing soccer with friends at our favorite park.
14- Your mail carrier. Leave  a little note or token of your appreciation waiting in the mailbox for them when they arrive.  

15- Next door neighbors. Whether we like it or not, our neighbors have a front seat to the comings and goings of our life. Best to be on their good side and find things to like about them. Plus, who are  we going to borrow a cup of sugar from when we need one, and who else will let us in when we lock our keys in our house? 

16- A business. Do you have a business that you frequent where they treat you especially well? I know a man at the copy center of my Staples who is always so helpful, and I have a regular cashier at my grocery store who is so good with my kids. Buy a cashier a candy bar or slip or give them a sincere thank you! Or, find the manager to report all around good customer service. 

17- Someone who blesses a family member.  I have some family members with challenges, so I am more grateful than I can express when someone reaches out to love my family members. To me, that is the ultimate sign that someone loves me- that they bless my family members.  Is there someone looking out for your adult children far away, or someone giving your child a little extra support?

18- Co-workers. I know, they can rough sometimes, but I am sure there are a few things you can appreciate about your co-workers, right? I think a little acknowledgment in the office can go a long way to improve the morale at work. Take in some treats to share or leave post-it notes with a 'thank you' on a co-workers door or computer.

19- Someone who has passed on. Sometimes, when people pass away, we begin to realize the importance that they had in our lives, and we didn't always get to tell them. Visit a grave or write a letter to those you love that have passed on. I believe they will hear us.

20- A health care professional. Doctors, nurses, dentists, midwifes, chiropractors, etc.  They can literally hold our lives in their hands! My kids see the most amazing Physician's Assistant. Next time we go into the office, I will be sure and tell her how thankful I am!

21- A person who shares their talents.  Do you have an artist you love? Someone who shares their music and voice with your church congregation or community? Someone who helps you fix your house? We have a friend who just fixed our busted computer free of charge with his amazing technical talent! A HUGE thank you for that!

22- A kind stranger. I am always impressed by the kind things that strangers do for me. Especially recently, when my two year old throws fits in public, a lot of people have tried to help. Sometimes there are kind people who talk with me and say nice things at the grocery store. Men hold doors or help with heavy loads. I even had a receptionist at my doctor's office who helped juggle other appointments to get me in even though I had gotten the time wrong and shown up an hour and a half late.  I love keeping little business cards that say thank you in my purse and handing them out when the situation arises. 
I kept seeing free business card offers from and wondered what I could do with those. So, I designed some kindness cards with my favorite quote. If I'm rushed, I just hand them the card, but the back is blank so I can write a personalized message if needed.  Design your own kindness cards here.

23-An older person- Just like we learn a lot from children, I think we can learn a lot from our Elders. My grandpa has often expressed feelings of being forgotten by society or becoming obsolete. Let us strive to make sure they don't feel this way by calling or writing or serving them to express our thanks for their examples.

Dancing with my Grandpa at my wedding while Stephen dances with his mom. 
24- Someone who gave you something you love. Nearly everything in my house is a hand-me-down or a gift from someone else. Each day I use things that remind me of the kindness of other people. For example, I have a pair of special soup bowls that my friend  (shout out to Jen Atkinson!!) gave me for a wedding shower that I love. I'm sure I told her thanks at the time, but it would be so fun to remind her how thankful I am for her generosity. Also, my second son used all the clothes I got from baby showers from my first son. Each time my baby wore an outfit, I remembered who it was from and their kindness (for example, Aleatha made me an awesome sleepsack from recycled fabric that I cherished with each of my boys). Also, my mom handstiched a quilt for me that is packed with symbolism, blood, sweat, and tears. I need to remind her again how thankful I am for that each time I see it. I could go on forever with this one, because like I said, everything in my house reminds me of the generosity of others (crib and finger puppets from the Merrills, striped socks and earrings from Nortons, and on and on and on...)

25- Your body.  I have new gratitude for my body with all the health issues I have experienced this last year. My body is not perfect. I am carrying around an extra 20 pounds with me right now and some on-going health issues that I would love to get rid of. But, my body has gotten me this far and has brought me my two beautiful children. During these holidays, we tend to forget about self-care. Thank your body. Take time to feed it nourishing foods. Stretch. Rest. Breathe, and be thankful for your heart, mind and soul.

So, who have I missed in my list? Who are you thanking this Novemeber? What things do you do in your family to express gratitude? 

Friday, August 10, 2012

What I've been reading

While I have taken a little break from writing on my blog, I haven't taken a break from reading your blogs! I hope to get back on the posting wagon soon, but in the meantime, check out some great posts I have read recently, and let me know what you have been reading that you love. (The hyperlink of their name will take you to the homepage, and the link of the post or topic will take you straight to the post I am talking about.)

I first heard about The Tutu Project on a clip from the Today Show. A man takes pictures of himself in a pink tutu. Sounds funny? He does this to raise money for breast cancer patients (of which his wife was one), and hopes to bring joy to others. My favorite part is that the images are particularly vulnerable and are very emotional.

I really enjoy TheBloggess (hilariously inappropriate) and she led me to . The writer of likethevodka married a Russian man (a very patient man, nonetheless), and she writes about their adventures. If you are in for a laugh, check out this post about eating bear.

On a much more serious note, the article "Why Women Still Can't Have It All" by Anne-Marie Slaughter is fabulous. It is long- but worth the time to sit down and read. Ms. Slaughter left her high profile government job for a less demanding job at Princeton. The article is not about whether women should stay home or go to work, but rather about how we can change society to be more accepting of allowing women a balance that they desire in work and family life. Read it! (And I would love to know what you think!)

I've been checking in regularly with The Happiness Project. It has some simple and great ideas for maximizing happiness, and I especially like her Secrets of Adulthood, especially since I am now finding out that they are indeed true.

On the religious note, I was really impressed by this sacrament talk posted at EmpoweringLDSWomen. It is all about Dogmatism and Pragmatism in the Gospel and finding the right balance, and loving the other side.

The above blogs are all by people that I don't know (and wish I did!), but I actually spend most of my time reading blogs by people I am lucky enough to know. Here are a few that have really interested me.

My friend Jeanette (who has always been my blogging hero) said a small goodbye to her blog-or at least goodbye to the demands of a money-making-post-all-the-time-always-trying-to-be-interesting-blog and now focusing on doing it for fun. She makes a lot of great points about how blogs can sometimes be less than we hope they are in her bloggy farewell.

I have been struggling with my own weight-loss/self-image issues since having my second child and I have two friends who have posted thoughts that have really helped me. First, my high school friend April wrote about having a post-baby body and viewing her different body as wiser. That perspective really helped me. (She also wrote an awesome post about her and husband getting out of a lot of debt here.) I have watched my friend Azylynn as she has gone through her "weight loss/regain/lose again (ongoing) struggle." I have talked with her about, but I was impressed that she was brave enough to post about it. But it seems to me that when someone writes a post that places them in a vulnerable place, it really connects with others. I am so glad she shared her journey!

My friends Matt and Holli have to be one of the greatest couples in the world, and their blog completely reflects that! I love that they both write on their blog- so you get both perspectives and two different writing voices. They write about cooking, thrifting adventures (kindred spirit!), and parenting. I have really been enjoying their "Summer of Ice Cream" series where they make their own ice cream in unique flavors. I think I wanted to lick the screen to try their Bacon Ice Cream.  

Oh, and this is a video, but I am in love with Rebecca Loebe and her music, and she has a new album coming out in September. Here is a video premiere of one of her new songs that I listen to a ridiculous amount of time each day. If feel so kindred to her. Her new song is fabulous- go give it a listen.

So, what have you been reading on the interwebs lately?

Monday, January 2, 2012

Thank You Notes

I love a good thank you note. 

I love writing them, and I love getting them. Growing up, we spent the Sunday after each holiday and birthday writing thank you notes.  When I got married, I was shocked to find out that my husband's family didn't have that tradition. How did he ever get thank you notes written?

The best part about thank you notes is that it not only makes the recipient feel good, but I love taking the time to ruminate on my feelings of gratitude. It certainly helps me remember how blessed I am.

I am in no way perfect at thank you notes. I even had small stack of thank you notes from my wedding that never got sent and it haunts me to this day (seriously, if you are reading this and you didn't get one- I am so sorry!). But, in my many years of writing thank you notes under the tutelage of my mother, I have picked up a few tricks and tips I would like to share, in case you are interested in picking up this wonderful habit.
Picture Source
1. First of all, ANY form of thank you is better than none at all. If a note can't be sent, send a text, call, facebook message, anything! I have learned not to give a gift expecting a thank you note back, but if I don't hear back at all after giving something, I worry that it got lost in the mail, or that it was broken, etc. To save worry, make sure and tell the giver their kindness was received.
2. Second, thank you notes are not just for weddings and baby showers. In fact, they don't have to be just for gifts at all! How nice would it be to receive a thank you note for a conversation you had with a friend, an act of service you gave, a treat you shared, a talk you gave in church, giving a lesson that inspired someone, or giving excellent customer service? A thank you note can be written for nearly anything. 
3. I have template of sorts that I use to be quick, efficient, and yet personal when I write. Here is the basic idea that I follow. It is not an exact science, but I try include all of the following-
  • Begin with a personal salutation (Dear Jane, To the Smith family, Dearest beloved, etc.).
  • Give some sort of greeting (Hello, how are you, happy new year/spring/any holiday or time of year).    
  • Begin to express gratitude for the purpose you are writing- (Thank you so much for the  lovely toaster, thank you for having us over to dinner, I am so grateful that you took the time to visit, etc.)
  • Then be specific- What did you like about the toaster/dinner/time? Are you using it for anything special? Do you especially enjoy one aspect of it? How do you plan on using it in the future? What emotions did it evoke? (I really enjoyed the conversation at the dinner table, the main course was simply divine, I felt really loved when I received your gift, we can't wait to use the toaster in our new home to make toasted bagels).
  • After that,  express feelings about the person to whom you are writing. It can be simple, formal, intimate, or casual.  (I feel so grateful that you took the time to think of us, I am so blessed to have your friendship in my life, you are such a hard worker, I am impressed by your graciousness and generosity, You amaze me!, and so forth). 
  • End with well wishes for the recipient. ( I hope all is well with you and your family, have a wonderful summer, we hope to visit with you soon)
  • Sign your name, and voila! A great thank you note.
 It doesn't take long at all, and I really enjoy taking the time to be grateful. I try and carry some thank you notes with me in my purse so I can write them whenever I have a minute or two to spare- in the doctor's office, waiting in line, etc.

So, what do you think? Do you have a way you write thank you notes? Do you do something else instead? How do you express your gratitude?

Sunday, January 1, 2012


I almost didn't set resolutions this year, because of an article I read recently about not setting goals. (It is really interesting, I highly recommend it).  But the new year came around, and I couldn't help but wonder what I was going to do this year to make it the best yet. And all my goals seem to revolve around one main resolution:

Live life more intentionally. 

I don't want to let life just happen. I want to choose and create and be present in 2012. I learned a lot in 2011, but a lot of it just sort of happened- it slipped by and rolled along without me being the writer and creator of my own life. And that's ok. But this year I would like to change that. I want to wake up and do something each day- even if it is something simple- that I have consciously chosen to do. 

Here are some of my smaller resolutions that fit under my larger goal:

Anytime I am craving a sweet treat, make it myself instead of buying something.
Instead of waking up when my child does, wake up a few minutes before to stretch, pray, ponder, and make the bed.
Try one new recipe (again, simple ones) each week.
Have real dates with my husband (sorry Anna, Netflix and popcorn can't be the date every week).
Spend time playing (really playing) with Zeb each day.
Plan (and do!) activities and outings that would make Zeb happy.
Create things. Simple things. Meaningful things.
Be a home maker by making and creating the space I want. (I want to work off this calendar for cleaning and decluttering, it has simple suggestions each day that are do-able for even me.)
Be aware of my body and be healthy.

So, what about you? Do you set a long list of resolutions each year and refer back to them? Do you set them and then toss them after a few weeks? Or do you not worry about resolutions at all? 

If you write about your resolutions, leave a link so I can check them out!

Happy 2012!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Christmas Wisdom From My Mother

I don't know if you knew this, but I have an absolutely incredible mother. She sent our family an email earlier this week that really inspired me, and I wanted to share part of it with all of you:

Hi Family,

Although we are all excited for  Christmas, I have also sensed some stress out there.  No one is in a place where their Christmas can be driven by what they can afford to buy for others.  I remember those years when I wasn't sure if we were going to make it through.  They were stressful, but now are some of the sweetest memories for me.  I was thinking of how to help you get more out of the Christmas season and I have come up with the ideas below.  None of them cost a lot of money or a lot of time.  But, they will increase the Christmas spirit in your heart and make the holidays meaningful.  Choose one or two to do a week.  Choose some to do on your own, some to do with your spouse or as a family. Sit down with this note for family home evening tonight and commit to doing some of these activities.  The season will go by quickly.  Capture the magic by doing the things that really matter.  

Love Mom and Dad

PS:  We will look forward to hearing about your experiences.

1.  Start the season by reading the Christmas story first.
2.  Make a favorite dessert and take it to a neighbor.
3.  When you go to the store purchase a five dollar gift card.  Then give it to the cashier.
4.  Say a prayer for a friend or family member in need.  Pray for them every day this month.
5.  Write a note to an elderly person.  They enjoy having something they can read over and over.
6.  Gather all the carts in the grocery store parking lot and put them away.
7.  Compile a list of favorite quotes for someone to open when they are discouraged.  Wrap it up and give it to them to save for the right moment.
8.  Give someone a small appreciation a teacher, a librarian, the dentist, the post man etc.
9.  Let someone in line before you at the store.
10. Take a hot drink and sandwich to a Salvation Army Bell Ringer.  A pair of warm socks would be nice too.
11. Call friends or family members you have lost touch with.
12. Give an extra tip to someone who helps you, or write a note to their manager about how you appreciated their good work.
13.  Visit the Humane Society and spend time with the animals.
14. Compile a CD of Christmas music or happy music to hand out to others that seem to need a lift.
15. Offer to wrap presents for a mother in the neighborhood who has several children.  If you wrap them the kids won't see.
16. Cook a meal for a busy mother.  They can get pretty frazzled this time of year.
17. Just spend an evening singing or listening to Christmas carols and basking in Christmas lights.  (You can buy a string of them at All a Dollar)
18. Ask a cashier what their favorite candy bar is and buy it for them.
19. Pray to begin forgiving someone.  Keep praying until you can.  Let them know you are working on it.
20. Be a secret friend to the most obnoxious, least deserving person you can find.  Make it a real challenge.  Pray for charity that you might actually want to interact with them.
21.  Give up your emails for one day.  Talk to each person personally instead of texting or emailing them.
22.  Take a night walk and ponder the night the Savior was born.
23. Take treats to someone who will not get the holidays off---police, fire, hospital.
24.  Visit a nursing home and actually visit with someone and give them treats.  Ask them to tell you about their Christmases.
25.  Read Christmas stories to a child and make a birthday cake for Jesus.
26.  Pray for extra patience and then ponder on it and maintain it all day.  If you can't do it the first day...keep trying.
27.  Take time to help someone else prepare and do the work of having the family over for Christmas.
28.  Take time to quietly ponder what Christmas means to you and why.  Write it down.
29.  Read the entire Book of Mormon again in December.
30.  Clean or cook for might even be for your spouse.

Those are my mother's suggestions. As a family we have done and planned to do many of them. I have truly felt the spirit of Christmas more in my life because of doing these things.

So, I extend the challenge to you. What are you doing to encourage the true meaning of Christmas in your life? I would love to hear what you do to celebrate Christmas and keep Christ's spirit of service alive. If you blog about it, feel free to leave a link in the comments!

Friday, November 25, 2011

It's Okay Friday

This idea was taken from my friend Ayzlynn, who writes one of these every Friday. The idea is sort of a "confessions" type, but also is a good reminder that we are okay just the way we are. So here we go.

It's okay....

... that I don't blog for six months and then decide to post something.

... that I got very emotional while watching The Hunger Games trailer.

... that my favorite pregnancy food has been frozen Hostess chocolate cupcakes. Gross most of the time, but I could eat them non-stop right now.

... that Stephen suggested the new baby could sleep under the stairs so he would grow up to be the next Harry Potter and I actually considered it for a second.

... that I cried after getting an unexpected bill in the mail.

... that I am a bit sad that all my Christmas shopping is done. Next year I need to leave a little bit for the actual time in between Thanksgiving and Christmas so it doesn't seem so anti-climatic.

... that I am finally taking down the window decals I had up for Halloween. (In my defense, they were pumpkins and spiders- that could seem Thanksgiving-y, right?)

...that I have decided my little family needs more Thanksgiving traditions next year. I mean, eating a big meal is great and all, but I need to think up something a little more than that.

...that I worked really hard to make a special dish for the Thanksgiving meal, and everyone was more interested in turkey, mashed potatoes and stuffing that they didn't even want to try what I had brought, so I had a whole pan left.

... that I plan on eating above mentioned whole pan even if I have to do it myself.

... that I am more excited to visit my family on Christmas than I can express!

I really like the idea of "It's Okay Friday," and hope you do too. Stay tuned for an overhaul of the blog, and a post about WHY I was gone from the interwebs for six months. Remember that no matter what- you are okay!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

15 Second Rule

My husband and I recently watched Shrek 3. At the end of the movie, Shrek has three little ogres:

Shrek and Fiona have their hands full, and at the end of a hard day, they are finally alone. Shrek looks at Fiona and says (somewhat suggesitvely), "Well, what shall we do now?", and then the screen cuts to the Shrek and Fiona passed out in bed, fully clothed on top of the covers, completely exhausted. My husband and I cracked up laughing. Why? Because it seemed all too familiar

Having a child certainly changes a marriage. Even without kids, after a while a relationship can become comfortable and less exciting. If you haven't seen this (super cheesy, but great) remake of Taylor Swift's "Love Story" by comedienne Anita Renfroe, it describes how "real life" things happen even in the middle of our fairy tales, and that romance is ever-evolving.
I think that physical affection is an important part of a strong marriage, and we don't give it the importance it deserves. We had a friend who mentioned the 15 second challenge, and we've decided to adopt it at our house. The challenge is simple:
Kiss for at least 15 consecutive seconds every day. 
Sound easy? It made me realize that my husband and I still kiss- but they seem to be just little "pecks" in coming and going. And that 15 seconds is a pretty long time, but it is worth it to keep the magic alive, right? No matter how long a couple is together, or how many kids and/or stressors they have in life- I think this is a great way to set aside a small amount of time just devoted to a sincere expression of affection.

What about you? How do you keep the romance even in the midst of life's crazyness?