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!

7 things I would tell my wedding-planning self

It’s been a little more than six months since our wedding, and feel like I am finally coming up for air on the other side. Maybe it’s that I’m finally finished ordering prints for our wedding album. Or maybe it’s that I just needed a bit of time to process everything before I could reflect on it all. We got married in September, and after returning from our honeymoon I promptly started a new teaching job AND my editing work for college app season cranked up three notches. Then it was the busy pace of the holidays: our first holiday season as a married couple, balancing two families. The past couple months I’ve been focusing on my word for the year — FOUNDATION — establishing routines and care practices that I hope will nourish me throughout 2017 and beyond.

And now, as I sit here with my steaming mug of tea and a refreshed mind, I feel called to revisit my wedding-planning journey and reflect.

I know this might sound like a cliche, but our wedding truly was the best day of my life. I’m so grateful for all the time and effort we put into planning our special day. During the process, reading blogs and articles with advice was enormously helpful. I hope my thoughts might be helpful to others! So, without further ado…

Here are 7 things I would tell my past self, in the midst of wedding-planning craziness:

1. Savor the anticipation and the beautiful messiness.

In the last few weeks before our wedding, life was a whirlwind of tasks, questions, and to-do lists. I would wake up in the middle of the night to scribble notes to myself that were only sometimes legible in the morning: song for recessional? cupcake labels? check with minister about kiss timing. My brain was flooded with details and planning and more details. I felt constantly abuzz with nervous energy, my stomach a flurry of butterflies.

At the same time, I had never felt more ready for anything in my life.

I could not wait to marry my sweetheart and officially join our lives together. Yet, I would remind myself to savor this precious anticipatory time, too. I would stand in the middle of our one-bedroom apartment, crammed with wedding gifts and decorations and half-completed craft projects, and smile a pure, giddy, little-kid smile. There is joy to be found here, now, in this glorious mess and in this perfectly imperfect moment. There is something delicate and beautiful in the final days before you hold hands and leap together into the unknown.

2. Stay true to your vision and your vibe as a couple.

Allyn and I are a pretty relaxed couple. We wanted our wedding to feel down-to-earth, homey, and full of love. At the same time, we also wanted to have a “big wedding” with all of our friends and family enjoying a sit-down meal and dancing together. Within the first few weeks of getting engaged and talking about ideas, we had a solid vision for what we wanted. And, looking back at the end, the wedding we actually experienced was very true to that vision!

However, the thing about planning a wedding is that everyone wants to hear what your plans are… and everyone has their own opinions on those plans. Throughout the process, different people {who all loved us and meant well} offered their own ideas, advice and concerns about our plans. Perhaps the best example was our decision not to hire a DJ and instead play dance music from a playlist we created ourselves. Not only were we aiming to save money by not hiring a DJ, we also liked the idea of being able to control the songs that were played during the reception. Some people — people who love us and wanted our wedding to be great — were skeptical of this idea. I can’t even tell you how many times my grandma said that no one would be dancing and that we needed a DJ to “keep the party going.”

Allyn and I listened to these concerns, but we ultimately stayed true to our desires for our wedding. And it all turned out perfectly! I loved every single song that played; I loved the memories that sprung up with various songs; I loved that we had someone who knew us {our friend Justin} as our MC instead of a random DJ who said the same cheesy lines at every wedding. Moreover, guests were raving about the dance playlist. The dance floor was hoppin’ the entire night, right up until we had to leave. I’m so glad we stayed true to our vision and our vibe as a couple, in this aspect and all aspects of our wedding.

3. Be creative.

We wanted our wedding to reflect our personalities and our story as a couple. Allyn and I didn’t have a huge wedding budget, so I took it as a fun challenge to make as many of our decorations as possible. Often, I repurposed items, like making a garland out of wedding and bridal shower cards we had received, and hand-drying rose petals from a bouquet I’d received. We tried to keep things simple and streamlined whenever possible: for example, we planted mini succulents in 4oz mason jars that tripled as place cards for our guests, extra greenery for the tables, and wedding favors. {Six months later, the succulents are thriving — we still receive photos from friends and family of their now-huge succulents!} We also scored some great like-new items on Craigslist for our cocktail hour decorations, gift table and centerpieces. Instead of having table numbers, we named each table a place that we had traveled to together, and decorated the tables with framed photos of us at that place.

I really loved the idea of having a “photo booth area” with props that guests could use to take photos, but renting a professional photo booth was out of our price range. So we thought outside the box and created our own diy photo booth. We rented a pipe-and-drape to create a background, gathered together fun props, and made a sign with instructions for guests. It was such a fun part of the reception, and I’m so glad that we didn’t give up on the idea when professional photo booths were prohibitively expensive for us.

During and after our wedding, so many people commented that our wedding just felt like “Allyn and Dallas.” That, to me, was the best compliment!

4. Don’t get trapped in the prison of perfection.

In these days of Pinterest and Instagram and a million wedding websites, inspiration and advice abound. Which, on the one hand, is a gift. Want to diy your own centerpieces? Google it and you’ll be golden! But, on the other hand, this avalanche of information can totally distract you from what really matters. It is so easy to get caught up in the gorgeous photos and glamorous decor shots. It is so easy to fall down the rabbit hole of wanting every.single.tiny.aspect of your wedding to be “perfect.” It is so easy to fixate on the details of the day that, in the grand scheme, aren’t really that important.

What is important is that you are pledging to travel through life, in the good times and the bad, in sickness and in health, with another person. That promise is where the beauty and the magic of the day resides. All the other stuff is just icing on the cake.

5. Ask for help.

I love being the helper. I love feeling strong and independent, capable of doing things on my own. Sometimes I can be a bit of a control queen. Typically, I would much rather just do something myself than ask someone else to do it for me. I never want to be a bother or put someone else out.

Maybe you’re like me. If so, this piece of advice is really important for you to hear. Repeat after me: ASK. FOR. HELP.

Others want to help you. Sometimes they just don’t know what you need or how to begin. It is up to YOU to reach out and tell them how they can help you.

A funny thing happened in the week leading up to my wedding. As the oldest grandchild on my mother’s side of the family, this was the first wedding we had celebrated in a long time, and it became a family reunion of sorts. I was thrilled that many of my second cousins and relatives traveled out to California to attend. But this also meant that, in some ways, the event seemed bigger than me and Allyn — it sort of took on a life of its own. Relatives were flying in from all over the place and staying with family in the area. Everyone’s plates were full.

My mom came up a few days early to help me with last-minute things while Allyn was at work. Since Allyn and I live in a small apartment, she was staying with my aunt about 45 minutes away. The first day she arrived, I drove out there to pick her up and bring her back to my apartment, and then at the end of the day I drove her back there and had dinner with everyone before driving home. Ordinarily I wouldn’t have minded, and it was nice to have some quiet car time with my mom — but, you guys, I was STRESSED. I felt like time was spiraling away from me and I still had a ton of stuff I needed to do. And a 45-minute drive each way adds up when you’re doing it four times a day!

I remember crumpling at the kitchen table when I arrived back home to our wedding-overloaded apartment, crying to Allyn about how I felt so exhausted and I had to get up early in the morning to pick up my mom the next morning, and I still had so much to do to get ready for our wedding. “Why don’t you call your mom and see if she can borrow a car?” he asked. “Or if someone could drop her off? That would save you a lot of driving time.”

His words made a ton of sense — but at first, I hesitated. I didn’t want to seem like a demanding “Bridezilla.” It felt hard to ask for help, to admit that I was stressed out and overwhelmed. I didn’t want to cause a hassle for anyone. But, eventually I wiped my tears and called my mom, and admitted to her how I was feeling. She was completely understanding and apologized for not realizing how much driving it was for me. It wasn’t that she, or any of my other relatives, had intended to put any extra burden on my shoulders in the days leading up to my wedding, when I was already firing on all cylinders. It was simply that they hadn’t thought about it. Once I asked for help, they were easily able to make arrangements. My grandpap, who was already driving in the direction of my apartment the next morning to pick up my cousin from the airport, simply dropped my mom off on the way. Which allowed me to sleep in a little bit, face the day more calmly, and saved me an hour and a half of driving through morning traffic.

Don’t expect people to read your mind or magically know what you need. Tell them. Ask them. I promise, you will all be happier!

6. Soak in that walk down the aisle.

My entire life, whenever I thought about getting married, I would think about walking down the aisle to my future husband, and my heart would swell with emotion. In the months leading up to our wedding, that might have been the moment I thought about most. I would get goosebumps imagining walking towards Allyn, stepping with a brimming heart into our future together.

Walking down the aisle, my arm slipped through my dad’s arm, is a memory I will cherish forever. But not just for the reason I was expecting.

Before the moment came, I hadn’t fully put things together in my mind. I hadn’t realized that yes, I would be walking towards Allyn. But before I reached him at the end of that aisle, I would be walking past all of my friends and family members who had played such important roles in my life up to this point — who had, in essence, made me the person I am today.

Walking slowly down that aisle with my dad was a surreal experience. I felt as if I were seeing a montage of my life. There was my best friend from kindergarten, smiling at me, standing beside my close friend from college and my dear friend who I met studying abroad in England. There was my mom’s best friend, who I think of as an honorary aunt, crying next to Allyn’s aunt and uncle who flew down from Washington to attend. There were my friends from church; my grandparents; my aunts and uncles and cousins; Allyn’s relatives and friends from grad school. Everyone in our lives, smooshed together in one room, cheering us on and giving blessings to our union. I teared up as I walked down the aisle, and I tear up now thinking about it.

And then, at the end of the aisle: the person I love more than anything, standing there, beaming.

Can you imagine anything better?

7. Remember the purpose behind it all.

All of the decisions and options that come with wedding-planning can feel a tad bit very overwhelming. Before getting engaged myself, I had no idea how much goes into planning a wedding! {Side note: I am definitely going to appreciate weddings and big parties much more now, noticing ALL the details and remembering that someone out there had to plan for every little thing at the event.}

Throughout the process, I would sometimes be overwhelmed with tears of stress and a spinning-with-details mind. The one thing guaranteed to calm me down would be reminding myself the whole point of planning a wedding: getting to marry an amazing man who loves me and who I love with all my heart! With that thought, my tears of stress would transform to tears of gratitude. And, looking back now, I can tell you that those are the moments I treasure the most from our special day: when Allyn and I said our vows, slipped rings onto each other’s fingers, and promised to be partners in this journey, now and forever.

Now, I’d love to hear from you! What would you tell your wedding-planning self?

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

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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