a letter to my 16-year-old self

Dear 16-year-old Dallas,

Hi there. It’s me—well, you, from the future. Thirteen years in the future, to be exact. I just wanted to pop in and tell you that everything is going to be okay. I know you’re having a hard time right now. Two of your best friends have quite suddenly ditched you, and you’re feeling unmoored and wondering how everything could have unraveled so quickly. It wasn’t one big fight, but a lot of little things that drew the three of you apart—or, rather, that separated you from the two of them. I know that right now you feel confused and hurt and angry. School used to be filled with laughter and inside jokes, and now suddenly the social logistics of each day is a puzzle without an answer key. Where to sit at lunch? Who to talk to at cross-country practice? You’ve cried more over the loss of these two friends than you’ve ever cried over a boy. I know you are tempted to just turn your back and write them off forever. I know it’s hard to see this now, but listen to me: they’re not bad people. They do care about you, and your friendship with them was real. All those memories you shared together are not fake. It was good, until it wasn’t. High school is messy and confusing and full of changes, and the three of you are in different places, wanting different things. And that’s okay. It’s okay that you have no interest in going to parties and drinking—no matter if that means you aren’t “cool.” Even though this is painful, it is better for you to let go of your friendship with them now, rather than stick around and feel bad about yourself all the time, or turn into someone you don’t want to be.

Listen to me: in six years, you will go to the wedding of one of these friends, and all the angst and hurt you are writing about in your journal right now? It will all seem like a long time ago, I promise. It will seem like a novel you read about someone else. The other friend will get married around the same time you do {yes, you are in fact going to get married—I’ll get to that in a minute} and you will genuinely wish her well. You will wish both of these girls the utmost happiness.

I know you are feeling supremely uncool and unsure of yourself. Your self-confidence has taken a beating, and you feel so awkward all the time. But let me tell you something important, something true: you did nothing wrong and there is nothing wrong with you. You don’t need to be concerned about what the other kids at school think of you. {Besides, the other kids at school aren’t thinking bad things about you—that’s all in your head. The other kids, even the popular crowd, respect your straight-lacedness. Just wait and see what nice things they write in your senior yearbook.} Take a deep breath and lean into the parts of yourself that feel the most true and real and YOU. Those are the best parts of yourself. Those are the parts to cultivate, to nourish, to nurture. When you find sprouts of self-consciousness and comparison and shame? Yank those roots out of your soil. Don’t waste any time watering those weeds.

Want to know a secret? Want to know the silver lining to this painful period of time? When these two friends ditch you, it will open up your life for other friends to come in. You will become closer with people who love and accept you exactly as you are. Remember how close you and Erica were in middle school? Reach out to her again now. She is kind and steady and she truly cares about you. She is a lifelong friend. One day, she will be a bridesmaid in your wedding. Be grateful for her and soak up these everyday moments with her. Stay home from a school dance and have an old-fashioned sleepover with her instead. You never have much fun at those school dances, even though you try. You go because you feel like you’re supposed to go. But I’m giving you permission, right now, to stop doing things because of the opinions of other people. If you want to stay in on a Friday night and eat popcorn and watch Robin Hood: Men in Tights with Erica, do it. Do it with no regrets.

I want you to know that you are enough exactly as you are. Mom and Dad know what they are talking about. When they tell you that you are beautiful and kind and strong and worthy, when they tell you that you have no idea how loved you are, when they tell you that one day in the not-too-distant future you will indeed meet a boy who appreciates you for exactly the person you are—listen to them. They are right.

Sixteen-year-old Dallas, you don’t need to change anything about yourself. Your nose is not too big. Your hair is not frizzy. You are not—repeat after me—you are not the least bit overweight, and you never need to feel even the slightest twinge of guilt for eating two or three of Mom’s chocolate-chip cookies, still warm from the oven.  She makes the best cookies, doesn’t she? Thirteen years from now, her cookies will still be the best you’ve ever tasted.

And okay, I’m getting to it, I’m getting to it. You’ve probably skimmed the rest of this letter, eager to get to this part. The part about getting married one day. Right now, I know it feels like you’re never going to meet a boy who like-likes you, much less loves you. Right now, you haven’t even had your first kiss. All of your ideas about love are based on Sarah Dessen books, your weekly TV obsession The O.C., and your favorite rom-com Serendipity. Here’s what I want to tell you about love: it’s bigger and better, more complex and yet more simple, more consuming and yet more ordinary, than you imagine it to be. Love is going to break you apart and put you back together again, stronger and braver and more content in your own individual, lovely wholeness. Love is going to take you by surprise and take your breath away.

Right now you alternate between despair that you are never ever going to get your first kiss, and a desire to plan out every detail of your one-day, future relationship. But, dear one, love isn’t something you can map out. It’s not a short story you can revise and revise again. It’s not a physics problem you can solve. It will sweep into your heart without warning, announcing itself to you boldly, and even though you might feel a little bit scared or unready, you will not be able to ignore it. When love is right, it will continue to grow and grow inside of you, and you won’t have to make excuses for it, and you won’t have to twist yourself to fit into what doesn’t fit. The right love will become a part of you, like your breath, in and out, in and out, and like your breath it will give you life in little moments every single day, with you hardly even realizing it. Right now you think that love means grand gestures and passionate kissing in the rain, but real love is in the ordinary, everyday moments that connect you to another person. When you feel seen and understood and accepted and cared for, little by little, day by day. If you really want an example of the love that is waiting for you in the future, look at Mom and Dad. You will get married on their wedding anniversary, and they are the best blueprint out there for a beautiful, sturdy, lasting love.

To be honest, 16-year-old Dallas, your first kiss won’t come for another couple of years, and it isn’t going to be all that spectacular. But your first kiss with the guy who will become your
husband? Woah. It will be worth the wait, worth all the mess and tears and lonely nights and uncertainty it took to find him. Here’s what I can tell you about your husband: he is amazingly kind, and generous, and thoughtful, and compassionate. He makes you laugh every day, and he is a wonderful listener, and he supports you with all of his heart. He is so handsome, and he tells you that you are beautiful, and he loves every detail about you. {For the record, he thinks you have a great nose.} He is better than any of the loves you imagined for yourself before you met him. He is better than you could have dreamed.

I know, despite your heartbreak and pain, you do realize how fortunate you are, and you’re grateful for what you have right now. You’re grateful for your parents, and for Greg, and for Erica, and for your teachers and your Gramps and your books and your writing. Lean into that gratitude. Lean into those things that fill you up. Savor them. As Mr. Enfield, the drama teacher, will tell you next year before the curtain rises on the final production of the play you wrote {get excited—it’s going to be an awesome experience!}, life is ephemeral. It is always changing, and even those things that feel permanent about your life right now are fleeting. So soak it in, every day. Even the hard days. Be confident in the person you are now and the person you are becoming. Don’t get lost in self-doubt or worry. You have no idea how much you are going to grow, and stretch, and shine, and love, and explore, and how big and wide and incredible the world is. You have no idea of the wonders waiting in your future, in this life you are building. Trust in me, your 29-year-old-self. And trust in yourself, as you are here, now, at sixteen. Everything you need is already there, inside of you.

Love,
Your Future Self

p.s. Give Gar as many scratches and loves and doggy biscuits as you can. He’s a really great dog, isn’t he?

Your turn {if you want}:

  • Write a letter to your sixteen-year-old self. What advice would you give?
  • Write a letter from your sixteen-year-old self to your self today. What would that previous version of yourself want you to remember?
  • Sign up for The Letter Project to write a letter to a real girl or woman who could use a little extra encouragement. Your words can make a real difference in someone’s life!

fabulous friday #42

Happy Friday, friends! Hope you’re having a good one!

It’s a typical Friday for me… this morning I headed to one of my fave yoga classes, now I’m getting some work done on the computer, and later this afternoon I’m tutoring a few great kiddos.

We have been getting LOTS of rain here the past couple days… they say it’s one of the biggest storms we’ve had here in five years! Fortunately we are all safe and sound here. If it’s stormy and bad-weathered where you are, please be safe!

Here are 5 things I’m loving right now:

1. The Lucy Hale song “Mistletoe.” It’s been bopping around in my head off and on since I heard her sing it on the “CMA Country Christmas” TV program, and this week I finally went and ordered it on iTunes. Love it!

2. This interesting and thorough article Allyn sent me with tips for staying calm and managing stress {especially useful in this often-stressful holiday season}: https://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20140805002649-50578967-how-successful-people-stay-calm

3. Speaking of the holidays, here are two socially impactful, beautiful gift ideas if you are doing some holiday shopping:

4. I’ve been craving veggies — carrots, celery, bell peppers, kale — even more than usual lately. For example: last night, I sliced up half a bell pepper as part of my dinner, and ended up going back to the fridge and polishing off the rest of the pepper later that night as a snack! I’ve never craved bell pepper before, but there you have it! I believe our bodies tell us what they need, so I’ve been riding the veg-tastic train all week. This is an interesting NPR article about how what you eat affects your mood: http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2014/07/14/329529110/food-mood-connection-how-you-eat-can-amp-up-or-tamp-down-stress?

5. This quinoa veggie salad from Costco. Tomatoes, cucumber, bell pepper, lentils, beans, quinoa — healthy, light and filling. It’s made a great quick lunch on a couple days this week when time got away from me and I was a little rushed to get out the door.

quinoa salad

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone! I’m gonna leave you with this beautiful John Gardner quote my brother sent me:

greg quote

Questions of the day:

  • What are you loving right now?
  • What are your plans for the weekend?

fabulous friday #30

Happy Friday, friends! What wonderful things are you up to today?

Here are 5 things I’m loving right now:

1. Being home with my sweet parents {who are celebrating their 32nd wedding anniversary next week!} and of course Mr. Mur-dog! He is so stinkin’ cute, even in his cone/Elizabethan collar. Poor guy should be getting it off soon, fingers crossed!

murray conehead

2. This quote from Carolyn Hax:

“Even those of us who learn from our mistakes will also repeat some. This business of being human is basically a jalopy ride over potholes, which is why it’s so important to ride with the best people you know, wherever possible, and to make sure you take note of any particularly beautiful scenery.”

3. I can’t get enough of strawberries with vanilla Greek yogurt. To me, this tastes exactly like strawberries with whipped cream — BUT it’s even better because it’s healthy for you! I’ve been having this for dessert all week. And since it’s actually good for you, you could even have it for breakfast! 🙂

strawberries and yogurt

4. This beautiful and evocative short story written by my friend, Rebecca McKanna: “A Chain of Tiny Disasters” in Narrative Magazine.

5. First USC football game tomorrow! I am all decked out and ready to cheer on my team! #gotrojans #fighton

go trojans

Questions of the morning:

  • What are you loving right now?
  • What are your plans for the weekend?

a year of Wooden: week 22

A new week means a new year of Wooden challenge! Since we are now into the month of June {can you believe it??} we are on to a new focus for this challenge, which also comes from Coach Wooden’s 7 Point Creed: Give thanks for your blessings every day.

a year of wooden

  • January: Drink deeply from good books.
  • February: Make friendship a fine art.
  • March: Help others.
  • April: Build a shelter against a rainy day (financially).
  • May: Be true to yourself.
  • June: Give thanks for your blessings every day.

But before we move onto June, a quick moment of reflection on last week’s question, relating to May’s challenge to “Be true to yourself.” If you were to reach back and give advice to your 10-year-old self, what would you say? Looking into the future, what advice do you think your 90-year-old self might give your current self?

For advice I would give to my 10-year-old self, I wrote: Hold onto your curiosity, creativity, passion and kindness — they are your greatest gifts. Also, don’t feel self-conscious about your nose. It is perfect exactly as it is.

If my 90-year-old self were to give advice to my current self, it might be something like this: Don’t doubt yourself. Don’t worry about the opinions and criticisms of other people. Savor the small moments. Cherish the relationships you are blessed with. Time with the people you love is infinitely important than the work you get done: always remember that.

who you are as a person quote

For the month of June, we’ll be working on cultivating gratitude. This week’s challenge is to start a gratitude jar or gratitude journal: every night before you go to bed, write down at least one good thing that happened that day, something or someone you are grateful for. {Here’s a post I wrote earlier this year about starting a gratitude jar.}

Hope you are having a masterpiece Monday! And a very special welcome home to my brother — can’t wait to see you Wednesday, buddy!

gb hong kong

a year of Wooden: week 21

Hi, friends! Does today feel like Monday for anyone else after the long weekend? I’m going to be a day off all week, I bet! Before I head into this week’s year of Wooden challenge, I want to wish my amazing dad a very happy birthday!! He is one of the most thoughtful, generous, creative, encouraging, hilarious, fun, sweet and supportive people I have ever met, and I thank my lucky stars every day for the privilege of being his daughter. I love you, Dad! Can’t wait to celebrate with you when I’m home next week! ❤

me and daddy

Speaking of birthdays, thanks in advance for your kind words and support of my birthday kindness chain! Your stories of kind acts have already made my birthday {coming up on Thursday!} very special indeed.

a year of wooden

  • January: Drink deeply from good books.
  • February: Make friendship a fine art.
  • March: Help others.
  • April: Build a shelter against a rainy day (financially).
  • May: Be true to yourself.

For the month of May, we’ll be focusing on the very first item of Coach Wooden’s 7-Point Creed: “Be true to yourself.” Each week, I’ll be posting a question for you to reflect on, perhaps through journaling or meditation. The goal is that by the end of May, you’ll have a clear idea of what it means to be your happiest, most authentic self so that you can work on being true to that self.

Last week, the question to reflect upon was: What in your life makes you feel most alive, vibrant, connected and strong?

I wrote mostly about the many positive people and relationships I am blessed to have in my life, those people who lift me up and give me encouragement on the inevitable tough days when I doubt myself or get knocked down. Other things that make me feel most alive, vibrant, connected and strong: volunteer work, my church community, yoga class, writing, reading, teaching, and the wonderful blogging community — yes, that means all of you! 🙂

This week, here are your questions to consider: If you were to reach back and give advice to your 10-year-old self, what would you say? Looking into the future, what advice do you think your 90-year-old self might give your current self?


–from Brad Paisley’s song “Letter to Me”

year of kindness challenge: week 41

year of kindness button

Hi everyone! Hope your week is going well. My dear Erica left this morning to head back home … we had the best visit! I can’t believe how fast time flew by while she was here. Tomorrow I’ll upload some pictures from our amazing day in the city yesterday, but here is a sneak peak:

sea lions

Sea lions hanging out in the sunshine off Pier 39! They were playing and barking like crazy. What a bunch of goofballs! They reminded me of Mr. Murbur and brought the biggest smile to my face!

I also snapped a pic of this wise quote, which I spotted on a bag in a shop window, because I think it is so true:

kindness saying

Here’s an article I came across via Lindsay at The Lean Green Bean — it’s a short read on kindness and the benefits of giving: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mequilibrium/benefits-of-giving_b_3818016.html

This past week’s kindness challenge was to return someone else’s cart to the front of the grocery store the next time you go shopping. I returned carts in the parking lots of Safeway and CVS. It only took an extra two minutes of my time, but it made me feel very helpful.

The Week 41 Kindness Challenge is inspired by the above Huffington Post article, and is to advocate for someone, particularly someone younger or newer or just starting out on their career path. Reach out to a new colleague or intern. Make a phone call or send an email on someone’s behalf. Introduce two people who might be able to learn from or help each other. Send an email praising someone to their boss. Take the time to give feedback or advice to someone who could learn from you. Be a mentor or a sounding board.

As always, blog about your experiences and include your links in the comments section below, or feel free to send me an email at dallaswoodburn AT gmail DOT com.

Now I’m off to do some writing in the sunshine. What has been a highlight of your week so far?

❤ Dallas

———————————

year of kindness archives:
week 1 challenge: donate items to those in need
week 2 challenge: leave quarters & note at laundry machine
week 3 challenge: write & send a kind handwritten note
week 4 challenge: give hot chocolate to someone outside in the cold
week 5 challenge: do something kind for a neighbor
week 6 challenge: deliver valentines to a nursing home
week 7 challenge: donate to a food pantry
week 8 challenge: donate toiletries to a shelter
week 9 challenge: post a kind note in a public place
week 10 challenge: do something kind for a child
week 11 challenge: thank someone in a genuine & meaningful way
week 12 challenge: deliver baked goods to a fire station
week 13 challenge: give someone flowers
week 14 challenge: donate books
week 15 challenge: reach out and spend time with people
week 16 challenge: smile at everyone you meet
week 17 challenge: pick up litter/trash
week 18 challenge: write a kind note to a mom figure in your life
week 19 challenge: leave an extra-generous tip
week 20 challenge: donate blood/join bone marrow registry
week 21 challenge: visit a cemetery and pay respect
week 22 challenge: practice a little patience
week 23 challenge: call 3 loved ones on the phone
week 24 challenge: do something kind for a senior citizen
week 25 challenge: pay for someone’s public transportation
week 26 challenge: volunteer at a food pantry or soup kitchen
week 27 challenge: send a care package to someone in the military
week 28 challenge: give at least one compliment every day
week 29 challenge: do a favor for someone else
week 30 challenge: scatter lucky pennies around a playground
week 31 challenge: mail an empowering postcard
week 32 challenge: plant something
week 33 challenge: donate school supplies
week 34 challenge: give a sandwich to a homeless person
week 35 challenge: compliment a salesperson to their manager
week 36 challenge: leave positive feedback
week 37 challenge: do a household kindness
week 38 challenge: let someone go ahead of you in line
week 39 challenge: write a kind note to a former teacher
week 40 challenge: return shopping carts

how to avoid regrets

I recently read an article about the top 5 deathbed regrets that I found through Danica’s wonderful blog It’s Progression.

Here are the questions the article left me with:

  • How can I let go of the expectations of others, and live a life true to myself and my own dreams?
  • How can I create a life of meaning and purpose?
  • How can I build better relationships with friends and family?
  • How can I design my life so that I’m happy and flourishing?
  • How can I express my authentic self more fully?

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and journaling on these questions lately. For me, a key realization has been shifting my thoughts from what I should be DOING in order to live a happy life, to how I should be FEELING in order to live a happy life — in other words, what feelings combine to make up my “happy.” The feelings that keep coming up for me are: feeling loved, feeling helpful, feeling connected, and feeling inspired.

So now, I’m trying to organize what I DO and how I spend my time into activities and goals that most manifest those feelings that make me happy. Writing makes me feel inspired. Spending time with family and friends make me feel loved. Reading makes me feel connected. Volunteering at the food pantry makes me feel helpful. And so on …

I’ve also often heard the advice, “You are more likely to regret what you DON’T do than what you do.” This advice inspires me to try new things and not let fear keep me from going after what I want. On the other hand, however, I need to remind myself not to take this advice to the extreme; if I say “yes” to every opportunity that comes my way, I’ll be left feeling burned-out and stressed. Also, once I make a decision not to do something, I don’t want to look back and wonder what had happened if I had taken a different path. You can’t go back and change the past, so I don’t want to waste any time wishing or regretting what’s already done!

On a related note, I absolutely loved the latest issue of Real Simple magazine — there is a feature article titled “Live Long and Prosper” that features advice from eight centurions. Check it out!

My favorite was this advice from Justina Sotomayor {pictured below} on how to live a long, healthy life: “Be lovable. I’ve lived a long life because there are so many people who love me.”

advice justina

This advice from Haruo Ito is lovely in its simplicity: “Sleep well, try not to worry, and enjoy good dreams.”

advice ito

So, those are my thoughts of the moments on avoiding regret and trying to live the fullest, happiest life possible. What do you think? What is the best life advice you’ve ever received?

Review of “The Happiness Project” by Gretchen Rubin

Today was a glorious 50-degree day here in Indiana, and a Friday to boot! I celebrated by stopping by a frozen yogurt shop for a midafternoon snack. They still had the holiday flavors out and I perhaps gorged myself on a little too much of the gingerbread fro-yo {I am a sucker for anything gingerbread flavored, as evidenced by this photo of my happy gingerbread chai latte face} and needless to say, I am now in a little bit of a fro-yo sugar coma. I will persevere onward…

So, you may remember that this book was on my to-read list back in November as part of the book club hosted by blogging phenom Julie at PB Fingers.

the-happiness-project

You may also have noticed that finishing the book was crossed off my to-do list a while ago and that I mentioned one of the book’s principles {“Do good, feel good”} in my post about taking cards & cookies to the nursing home for the holidays.

To be honest, I think I kind of blurred together that post and the book in my mind, and thought I had already posted a review of The Happiness Project on here … until I went to look for the post last night and couldn’t find it. Whoops!

Better late than never, right? 😉

The Happiness Project takes us through a year-long quest of writer Gretchen Rubin to become happier and more grateful for her life and her blessings. She focuses on a specific area of her life for each month, such as feeling more energetic, being a better parent, and improving her relationship with her husband. Her aim is to continue the lessons from each month into the next month {picture a snowball accumulating more and more power as it rolls forward} so that by the end of the year she is attempting to put all of her lessons into practice. I really liked how she set up the project, and the book, in this organized, easy-to-follow way. I am using this strategy to tackle my own goals for this year: I have broken them up into different categories and am focusing on one main category per month, which will hopefully make it less overwhelming to stay on track and get things done.

Rubin writes in an accessible way, almost like a friend chatting to you over coffee. I also liked how she interspersed quotes, examples, and scientific & psychological research she had done throughout the book. It is clear she dove full-heartedly into her happiness project and I think that is a big part of what makes her story so inspiring and invigorating. This book is part of what motivated me to start my own year of kindness challenge!

year of kindness button

I was moved by Rubin’s “Splendid Truths” about Happiness {you can read the entire list on her blog here} especially her Second Splendid Truth:

“One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy;
One of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.”

Reading this statement made me feel joyfully understood. This would be my First Splendid Truth; this is my key to happiness. I make myself happy by making other people happy. And I try to brighten other people’s days with my own happiness. I remember a mantra I came up with in elementary school: “Why be sad when you could be happy?” It still rings true, for me, in most situations.

Something else that I found useful from this book was the appendix, which is filled with handouts and resources for people interested in starting their own happiness projects. Rubin wrote that one of the most motivating things for her was to track her progress with daily charts, and as I am someone also motivated by checking things off lists, I devised my own goal list for the week to keep me motivated on those routine goals that could easily fall by the wayside.

All in all, I think The Happiness Project is a motivating and inspiring book to read while also asking yourself, “What does my own Happiness Project look like?”

Have any of you read The Happiness Project? What did you think of it? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

** For January, the PB Fingers book club pick is The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton.

** I’ll also be reading and reviewing 7: an experimental mutiny against excess by Jen Hatmaker if anyone wants to join me! I’d be happy to post links to your book reviews, too!

7 by jen hatmaker

Have a great weekend! I am planning a night in watching Men in Black III {which I still can’t believe I managed to miss in theaters… I’ve been wanting to see it for.ev.er!}

Hope your night is filled with fun and relaxation and perhaps even a little Friday fro-yo! 😉

xo,
Dallas

marvelous monday: find happiness through freewriting

Where did the summer go?? I just can’t believe it’s already August. The fall semester starts up for me again in just two weeks. It seems like I can close my eyes and it is the beginning of summer again, when the fireflies were just starting to appear and a long path of sunny days stretched out before me. What happened?? Where did it all go?

Do you ever get those same feelings? It floors me how quickly time passes! Sometimes it feels like time is a river rushing past me so fast and I’m sitting there in a little boat, struggling to get a grip on the oars, not even enjoying the beautiful scenery flowing past. It makes me feel overwhelmed and frustrated, like I’m wasting or not appreciating enough the most precious commodity we all are gifted with: time.

I am also guilty of something I’ve come to think of in myself as productivititus: trying to fit waaaaaay to much into my daily to-do list, and then feeling like a failure when I don’t accomplish everything I’ve set out to do. This is not a good habit because I don’t want my summer, or my life, to be nothing but a giant to-do list of tasks I’m checking off. As my idol John Wooden often said, the most important words in the English language are love and balance. Work is important, but so is time for play! Balance, balance, balance is so crucial.

Something that is helpful to me when I am feeling off-balance, especially by the incredibly fast-flowing river of time, is to go to a  quiet corner of the room and spend a few minutes freewriting.

I always use freewriting in the creative writing courses I teach to help students break through writer’s block. However, I think freewriting is something that can benefit everyone! It is such a great tool for not just writing, but also your mental health, sense of empowerment, and overall happiness.

Here’s how freewriting works: set a timer for a certain amount of time — I’ve found 8 minutes works well because it’s not too long or too short — and start writing. The only rule is that you cannot stop until the timer dings! It is a tool to keep you from self-editing or second-guessing or worrying that what you are writing is not “good” enough. Instead, just let the writing pour out of you. You will find yourself tapping into your subconscious, which can help you unlock all sorts of dreams and ideas and even solve problems that are nagging you. For me, freewriting is a way to re-find my center of balance. It unclutters my mind and makes me feel at peace.

You don’t need a fancy journal or expensive pen to freewrite. All you need is a blank piece of paper — even scrap paper works! Some people like to freewrite on the computer, which is certainly all right. I personally enjoy using a pen and paper because it makes the writing feel more open and less intimidating somehow — more unharnessed. Something that is just for me.

Here are some freewriting topics I’ve been using lately as jumping-off points:

– My favorite memory I made this summer was …
– Three things I am grateful for in this moment are …
– I will wring out every last drop of fun from my last couple weeks of summer by …

I’ll be sharing more freewriting topics as the year goes on … I’ve even created a new “freewriting” category that you can see in the list of categories to the right.

What are your plans for these final weeks of summer? Does anyone else use freewriting as a way to alleviate stress and find balance? Any other tips or suggestions for slowing down the pace of life and savoring the time we are blessed with?

Best wishes for a marvelous week!
-Dallas

tips for selling things on craigslist

When I first moved to Indiana for graduate school, all I brought with me was what I could fit in my Ford Taurus — mostly clothes, books, small kitchen items, and pictures/special trinkets/mementos. Which means … almost all of my furniture I bought on Craigslist. I had not used Craigslist much before, but I decided to give it a shot because 1) I was on a tight budget; and 2) I try to be as eco-friendly as possible — I love the idea of buying something that might otherwise end up in a landfill and giving it a new home.

All in all, I have been so happy with my purchases! Since then, I have even sold a couple things on Craigslist myself and helped Mike sell some things he no longer needs or uses.

In my experience, often the best first step to organization is getting rid of stuff! Is there any unneeded, unused stuff cluttering up your life? One of my favorite quotes is by Henry David Thoreau: “Simplify, simplify!” He continued, “As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler; solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness weakness.”

Go through your closets, kitchen, dresser, etc. and see if there is anything you no longer need or want. Have you used it or worn it in the past three or four months? If the answer is no, maybe it’s time to let it go! And if the item is in good condition, you might be able to make a little money by putting it up on Craigslist.

Now, the cons to Craigslist is it does take a little time to get things posted up there. If your items are not very expensive or in-demand, it might be more worthwhile to donate them to Goodwill instead of spending time putting them up on Craiglist. That said {especially as a grad student on a tight budget} every little bit helps!

Here are some tips from my double-perspective: a savvy Craigslist scourer in the days when I was first furnishing my apartment, and a busy sometimes-Craigslist seller of items I no longer need.

How to Use Craigslist to Simplify your Surroundings & Make a Little Extra Moohlah:

1. Include a photo of the item you are selling! When I was looking for furniture for my apartment, I pretty much only contacted people who posted photos of the item. I wanted to be able to “see” what was being sold before I decided if I was going to drive out and look at it in person!

2. Make your title straight and to the point. What are you selling and for how much? Titles that are too long or have a ton of capital letters and exclamation marks scream desperation, which can attract people who want to bargain you down to the bare bones. On the other hand, as a Craigslist buyer wary of being scammed, long titles that seemed too “sales-pitch-y” often turned me off; they made me feel like the seller was trying to pull one over on me. Let your item speak for itself.

3. Use proper grammar, spelling and punctuation. If you come across professionally {even in relatively informal settings like Craigslist} people will see you as more trustworthy and reliable. And people want to do business with trustworthy, reliable people!

4. Don’t list your items for too much. Don’t expect to get back what you paid for the item. Think garage-sale prices. Think about how great it will feel to get this item out from cluttering up your space. When I sell items, I often take my first-thought price and knock it down by $5 or $10. I would much rather sell the item for $5 less than I originally thought and get it out of my house and at least get something for it, rather than ask $5 more for it and not sell it at all. At the same time, however…

5. Don’t list your items for too little. Expect people to bargain down a little with you. If you list your item for $10, and that is as absolutely as low as you are willing to go, people will likely want to only pay $5 for it. But if you had listed it for $15 originally, someone might be happy bargaining you down to $10. If you list your item for a certain price and it doesn’t sell for a week or two, you can always knock the price down. I think it’s better to start too high and bargain down than it is to start too low, because if you’re too low you’re stuck there.

6. Show you have done your research. I think the most successful Craigslist post I did was when I sold an ice-cream maker that Mike had never even used. It was still in its original box, just collecting dust in his closet. Before I posted an ad on Craigslist, I went onto Amazon and found how much it was selling for there. Then, I was able to reference this in my post: I listed the original price, the reduced price Amazon was selling it for, and the further-reduced price Mike was asking for it. I received an email within a couple hours and the next day a super nice lady came by and bought it to use with her kids. She paid the price we asked, no questions, and I could tell she was thrilled about it. She got a great deal, Mike got a great deal — everybody wins!

Hope those tips help you make the most out of Craigslist — and organize your space and make some extra moohlah in the process! I would love to hear what other tips you would add. Does anyone have a great success story, or lessons learned, about selling or buying items on sites like Craigslist?

Have a great day!
-Dallas