a year of Wooden: week 23

a year of wooden

Hi friends! It’s been a long time since my last year of Wooden post… Now, on the first day of July, it’s time to recap the month of June! Our theme was gratitude. This month’s challenge was to start a gratitude jar or gratitude journal, and 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.}

How did it go for you? I was amazed at how much there was to be grateful for … even tough/exhausting/emotionally draining days were full-to-the-brim of things to be grateful for. Keeping a gratitude journal helped me recognize and be thankful for the many blessings in my life — from big things like my family, friends, health, job, food and shelter, to smaller things like the smile from a stranger I pass by on the street, the warmth of my chai tea on a chilly June morning, or the hug goodnight from my grandma. Often the days that I was most tired and least felt like writing in my gratitude journal were the days I needed it the most!

I also made a list of 27 gratitudes for my 27th birthday … embarking on the list, I was a bit worried that I would have to stretch to find 27 birthday-specific gratitudes {27 is kind of a lot!} but I ended up having to consolidate some things into one number on the list because I had so much to be grateful for! That’s the thing about gratitude: the more you find, the more and more finds you. Gratitude grows exponentially once you learn to recognize it in your life!

All in all, at the end of this month focused on gratitude, I feel not only more grateful but also more centered, calm and at peace. I’m definitely going to continue keeping my gratitude journal for the rest of the year and beyond!

Now, moving on to July…

  • 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.
  • July: Love.

love quote

Coach Wooden said, “The two most important words in the English language are LOVE and BALANCE.” This month, we’ll be focusing on the first of those: cultivating and nurturing more love in our lives. Next month, we’ll strive to create better balance in our lives.

For this week’s challenge, write a love letter to someone special in your life. What do you admire about them? What qualities and details do you love about them? What is something special they do that makes you feel loved?

I’ll end with this photo that my friend Holly sent me — a sign posted in her gym:

wooden quote gym

Questions for the day:

  • What are you grateful for in your life?
  • What was it like keeping a gratitude journal?
  • Who makes you feel loved?

27 birthday gratitudes

me with bday sundae

Hi, friends! I’ve been working on this post slowly over the past couple weeks, ever since my birthday — which has seemed to stretch out for quite a while because I’ve gotten to spend time with my loved ones and celebrate my birthday belatedly with different circles of people. Now, I think things have fully calmed down and I can unequivocally think of myself as 27 years old! 🙂

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This birthday, more than any other before that I can remember, has left me SO filled with gratitude. So, in the spirit of this month’s year of Wooden challenge, and as a companion piece to my 27 acts of kindness for my 27th birthday, here are my…

27 birthday gratitudes!

1. The cards I received in the mail from my mom, my dad, and Gramps that I opened up while lying in bed the morning of my birthday. It made me feel so loved that, even though I was going to see them in less than a week, they went through the trouble of mailing me birthday cards so I could open them on my actual birthday. And their written messages were very sweet!

birthday cards

2. My grandma snuck into my room while I was in the shower and left me a flower and a card from her and Grandpap.

flower from grandma

3. Greg was out of the country in China, but he made a birthday video for me before he embarked on his trip! It was a huge surprise to wake up to an email from him in my inbox, not to mention this amazing video that I will treasure always. Wow! I can’t imagine a more loving and supportive brother, and I am so beyond blessed to be his sister.

me and gb at the deck

me and greg walking

{Greg got me that cute purse for my birthday, too! It’s from a market in Thailand.}

4. I received dozens of text messages throughout the day from lots of friends, former classmates, and relatives. Such a treat to hear from people I care about who are scattered far and wide but still remembered me on my birthday!

5. I also received phone calls throughout the day from friends and family, which was wonderful.

6. And so many thoughtful Facebook messages/posts! It made me smile throughout the day to get Facebook notifications on my phone. I made myself wait until the end of the day to read through them all, and it warmed my heart immensely. Perhaps my favorite thing about Facebook is how it enables you to keep in touch with people from all different parts and times of your life, and nothing showcases this more than on your birthday.

7. My friend Lauren sent me these gorgeous flowers!

laur flowers

8. Janet and Chidelia also sent me gifts and cards from far away {Wisconsin and North Dakota}… I miss them both and it was so kind of them to take the time to send me something on my birthday!

9. Speaking of thoughtful gifts, Allyn spoiled me with a few — including a mix CD that I have been listening to in my car nonstop since he left — and this cute card. He didn’t even know when he got it that I have a thing for adorable owls. {I have an owl-printed apron, an owl-decorated coffee mug, and some owl-embellished stationary!}

card from Al

10. Allyn also took me to the California Academy of Sciences for the day, which is located in the beautiful Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. I had never been there before and I loved the various exhibits, particularly the rainforest dome and the planetarium show!

academy of sciences me with trex

On an unrelated note, I could not stop taking pictures of butterflies. I have more than a dozen on my phone!

butterflies

11. After the California Academy of Sciences, Allyn and I headed back to my grandparents’ house where my grandma held a birthday dinner for me! She made a fancy salad and baked ziti and Grandpap grilled chicken. Annie and Arianna came over and it was lovely to visit out on the porch in the sunshine before the meal.

annie arianna my bday gpap grilling

12. Arianna helped me bake and frost my funfetti cake! Allyn and Bianca did a pro job with sprinkles distribution.

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al and bianca

13. My aunt Mary and cousins Makena and Bianca joined us for dessert, and as we did back in January for Arianna’s birthday, everyone went around the table and shared one word they would use to describe the birthday girl — in this case, me! Their words were so heartfelt and beautiful and I got teary-eyed listening to such loving tributes. I am a lucky girl!

14. As if that around-the-table tribute wasn’t enough, my aunts and uncles also gave me gifts and cards. I especially cherish the card from Arianna — every time I read it, I feel about ten feet tall. She’s a kind and gentle soul!

me and arianna

15. The day after my birthday, my dear car Charley had a little temper-tantrum. Something was wrong with the alarm system and it kept going off while I was driving — blaring noise, windshield wipers going, lights blinking. It was crazy! Luckily I was able to get Charley towed to the dealership and the concerned tow-truck driver insisted on waiting with me until my ride showed up. My grandparents came to the rescue, and my grandma let me borrow her car to drive to my birthday party and work the next day.

charley!

Something else to be grateful for: Charley is up and running again smoothly now!

16. That evening, some dear friends joined me at an ice cream parlor to celebrate my birthday! Even with my car fiasco, I was only five minutes late. We stayed for nearly three hours, sharing lots of stories and laughter and, of course, enjoying delectable ice cream!

bday friends

me and al bday creamery

17. These sweet friends sneakily paid for my sundae! I got the chocolate-peanut butter special: chocolate ice cream, peanut butter Oreos {did not even know those existed!} and Reeses. Plus a candle!

bday candle

18. The card Dana gave me was particularly special, since this is our first year as friends! She found a journal entry she’d written last September, when she learned through this very blog that I was moving up to the Bay Area, and was wondering whether she should reach out to me. Well, she did, and I am SO grateful for it! She included an excerpt from the journal entry in her card and it gave me goosebumps. She also gave me this beautiful wooden sign — I love its message! Dana, my life is so much richer with you in it!

birthday sign

me and dana my bday

19. Allyson and Henry drove all the way to Walnut Creek from Fremont in Friday traffic to come to my party, and they brought me a gorgeous bouquet of sunflowers to boot!

20. Allyn’s family made me feel very special — his mom sent me an incredibly nice birthday card, and his dad and stepmom Laurel gave me this pretty sunflower stationary. Laurel also baked delicious mini chocolate lava cakes as a surprise dessert and they all sang happy birthday. I was very touched!

sunflower stationary

21. The Wednesday after my birthday, I got to fly home for a few days to celebrate my birthday and my dad’s birthday, and also enjoy a few days with Greg before he left for his summer internship in D.C. Dad surprised me at the airport with sunflowers! {Haha, are you sensing a common theme here? I ❤ sunflowers!}

sunflowers

22. I loved all the gifts my parents gave me, including a night out at a local play, but probably the one I’m most excited about is a Magic Bullet blender! I forgot to take a picture of it, but it will no doubt be getting a LOT of use and popping up on the blog quite a bit! Hello, summer smoothies!

23. Gramps took me and Greg out for lunch at one of our favorite restaurants, Andria’s. Their grilled fish sandwich is my fave!

me and Gramps at Andrias

24. Erica drove all the way out to Ventura to see me after she got off work on Thursday evening. It was such a quick visit home, I was not sure if I would be able to see her, so it was an extra-special treat. And the birthday muffins she made me were the bomb!

cinnamon muffins

25. Dana donated blood at her work’s blood drive for my birthday! It was her first time donating blood and she confessed it was a little frightening {and she felt a little faint at one point!} but she bravely did it and I am so honored by the gesture. Plus, it’s wonderful to know that others will be helped by her donation!

dana donating blood

26. Holly’s entire visit was a ginormous birthday gift to me! Not only did she fly out to see me, she also got me a T.Swift birthday card and two terrific devotional/meditation books and a super-cute pair of flats… all wrapped in High School Musical wrapping paper, of course! That’s pretty much our friendship in a nutshell: deep conversations + Disney movies aimed for 12-year-olds. 🙂

gift from holly

me and holly lombard st

27. Thanks to all of YOU for your blog comments and for doing random acts of kindness to celebrate my birthday! You made my special day even more special.

I used a random number generator to select the winner of my birthday giveaway {an autographed copy of my book 3 a.m.: a collection of short stories} and the winner is… Annanori!

giveaway winner

Email me at dallaswoodburn<at> gmail <dot> com and we’ll get your book to you!

Questions of the morning:

  • What are you grateful for today?
  • What were some highlights of your most recent birthday?

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

gratitude jar

Hi, friends! A quick post today about a new habit I’ve started this year that I’m really loving so far. I’ve kept a gratitude journal in the past, which is a terrific way to cultivate awareness of the many blessings in your everyday life. As I learned last year doing my kindness challenge, gratitude is such a major component of happiness. I sincerely believe that a grateful heart is a happy heart.

This year, instead of keeping a gratitude journal, I am using a gratitude jar! Every time something large or small happens in my life that I am grateful for, I write it on a slip of paper. Then I fold up the slip of paper and drop it into a glass mason jar.

This is a wonderful visual reminder of all the blessings in my life, and I know it will be such a fun and moving exercise at the end of year to dump out the contents of my jar and relive all the happy memories.

Here is a neat website where you can virtually share what you are grateful for, and read the gratitudes of others: http://www.thegratitudejar.com/

gratitude quote

Questions for the morning:

  • Do you keep a gratitude journal or gratitude jar?
  • What is something you are grateful for today?

review of “half the sky”

HTS-book-cover-200-300My brother got this book for me for my birthday, and I am SO grateful that he introduced this book into my life. It seriously has rocked my entire worldview. I had no idea how many women are living in terrible, oppressive situations around the world. Reading this book makes me feel so grateful for things I’ve taken for granted: having enough food to eat and a warm bed to sleep in, feeling safe when I walk down the street, being able to get an education and pursue a career I’m passionate about… and on, and on, and on. After reading the remarkable true stories of survival and strength in Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, it is impossible to even feel a moment of self-pity. Instead, you will feel empowered to take advantage of all the blessings you have been given.

I also really enjoyed the writing style of the authors, husband-and-wife team Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn: detailed journalism combined with personal stories that touched my heart. The book was surprisingly uplifting at the end, with a passionate call to action and a list of ways you can help. Here are the four main ways the authors list:

1. Go to www.globalgiving.org or www.kiva.org and open a microlending account to help women entrepreneurs in developing countries. {I’m planning to do this today!}

2. Sponsor a girl or woman through Plan International, Women for Women International, World Vision, or American Jewish World Service. The authors add: “Sponsorship is a great way to teach your children that not all children have iPods.”

3. Sign up for email updates on www.womensenews.org and/or www.worldpulse.com.

4. Join the CARE Action Network at www.can.care.org which will assist you in learning more about these issues and becoming a citizen advocate for women’s rights issues around the world.

The authors also have a website for the book, called the Half the Sky Movement, where you can learn more and also watch a trailer for the film version of the book.

I’ll leave you with this powerful informational poster I found on the Half the Sky website:

violence against women

What books have you read that changed your life?

happy 4th of july! + chocolate pb rice krispies treats

Happy 4th of July! I’m taking a few minutes today — as I try to every day, but especially today — to be grateful for all the men and women who have fought to establish and protect our nation’s independence. We are all so blessed to live in freedom. Every human being should have that blessing — in fact, it shouldn’t even be a blessing. It is a basic human right.

I’ll also be thinking today of the Four Freedoms Speech that FDR gave in 1941, and especially of the Norman Rockwell paintings that were published in the Saturday Evening Post in 1943. I was fortunate enough to see the original paintings a number of years ago with my Gramps and brother when a traveling exhibit came to town. I feel incredibly blessed to enjoy all of these freedoms. Clockwise from upper left: Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Worship, Freedom from Want, Freedom from Fear.

What are you doing today to celebrate the 4th of July? We’re going over to my aunt and uncle’s house for a backyard barbeque and pool party. I’m looking forward to a sunny day of relaxing with my family.

I signed up to bring dessert {no surprise there!} and I decided to bust out a new recipe that didn’t require me to turn on my oven. {It’s been so dang hot out!} I was inspired by this recipe on Money-Saving Mom for chocolate oatmeal no-bake bars. I love rice krispies treats, so I adapted the recipe to use mostly rice krispies. Here’s my take on it:

pb chocolate rice krispies

chocolate peanut butter rice krispies treats

– 1/4 cup coconut oil
– 1/4 cup maple syrup
– 1 cup peanut butter
– 2 cups mini marshmallows
– 1 cup chocolate chips
– 1 tsp vanilla extract
– 1 cup rolled oats
– 3 cups rice krispies

1. Grease a 9 x 13 glass pan and set aside.

2. In a big pot over medium-low heat, melt coconut oil, maple syrup, and peanut butter. Stir until melted and well-combined. {Be careful it doesn’t burn!}

3. Add vanilla and chocolate chips. Stir until chocolate is all melted.

4. Add marshmallows and stir until the marshmallows are melted.

5. Remove from heat. Add rolled oats and stir. Add rice krispies, one cup at a time, until well-combined.

6. Pour into the glass pan and refrigerate until chocolate has hardened and the bars have “set.”

Enjoy!!

pb chocolate rice krispies

If you liked this recipe, here are a few similar desserts that would be great to bring to a 4th of July party or potluck:

rice krispies treats with mini M&Ms
classic lemon bars
patriotic fruit cobbler
pb cup brownies
red velvet crinkle cookies

father’s day recap

Hi friends! How was your weekend? Mine was wonderful + busy — so busy that I didn’t have time to post about Father’s Day until now! Thanks for your patience with me.

I had a busy weekend, but it was busy with good things: delicious homemade food; gluten-free baked goods {new recipe coming soon!}; lunch out with the fam on a beautiful sunny day; shopping with my mom for a dress for her to wear to my cousin Amanda’s wedding {she found the perfect one that looks gorgeous on her!}; after-dinner fro-yo with plenty of toppings; cheering at the TV with my fam as we watch the NBA Finals; curling up with a heartwarming book, Emily Giffin’s Where We Belong; a long, laugh-filled, soul-soothing phone date with my bff Holly; snippets of peaceful yoga time on my new yoga mat {birthday present from my parents, thanks guys!}; a powerfully moving sermon at church about helping others; and my Gramps came over for Father’s Day dinner!

gramps fathers day

And here’s a picture I took a couple weeks ago of my dad, brother, and Gramps on the couch before dinner. I love this photo: three generations all together!
3 generations

At my church, the congregation always sings a song as the children leave the chapel and head off to Sunday school. This week, the words struck me as particularly meaningful:

“How could anyone ever tell you/You were anything less than beautiful? How could anyone ever tell you/You were less than whole? How could anyone fail to notice/That your loving is a miracle? How deeply you’re connected to my soul.”

The lyrics made me think of my dad, who has always made me feel beautiful, whole, loved and connected. {My mom makes me feel this way, too, but my dad was especially on my mind because of Father’s Day!} I count my blessings every day that I have been so lucky to grow up in the warmth of my parents’ unconditional love. For as long as I can remember, my dad has always done little things like opening my car door for me and laughing at my jokes, and not-so-little things like genuinely listening to my thoughts and opinions and telling me that I can accomplish anything I put my mind to. He also always, always tells me he loves me and is proud of me. Throughout my life, my dad has been a shining example of how I deserve to be treated — and not just in the way he treats me, but also in the kind and respectful way he treats my mom. I love you so much, Daddy!

father's day

What did you do to celebrate Father’s Day?

happy birthday dad! {and happy memorial day, everyone!}

Today is my dear daddy’s birthday! I feel so grateful that I get to be home to celebrate with him! My dad is a truly amazing person. He is my friend and role model, my biggest fan and supporter, and one of the most genuinely kind and caring people I have ever met. He is also hilariously witty, goofy, and fun! I love every minute I get to spend with my dad. I hope he has a fantastic birthday today! I love you, Dad!

me and dad

On this Memorial Day, I also wanted to take a moment to remember and say thank you to all the brave, selfless men and women who have served our country. Words cannot express the gratitude I feel for your sacrifice and service — not only today, but every day!

We read this poem in church yesterday, and it really struck a chord with me, so I wanted to share it here:

Two Sides of War (All Wars)
by Henry Grantland Rice

All wars are planned by older men
In council rooms apart,
Who call for greater armament
And map the battle chart.

But out along the shattered field
Where golden dreams turn gray,
How very young the faces were
Where all the dead men lay.

Portly and solemn in their pride,
The elders cast their vote
For this or that, or something else,
That sounds the martial note.

But where their sightless eyes stare out
Beyond life’s vanished toys,
I’ve noticed nearly all the dead
Were hardly more than boys.

veterans1

Please take some time today to remember and give thanks to our veterans! I’ll be back tomorrow with this week’s Year of Kindness Challenge.

saturday upsides: grieving

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After the horrific shooting that happened yesterday in Connecticut, it seems difficult {or maybe even trite} to write about an “upside” today in my life. Then again, maybe it’s more necessary today than ever. I thought of Gretchen Rubin’s book The Happiness Project {review still coming soon on here, I promise!} and her recurring question/nagging fear: “Who am I to talk about happiness when everything in my life is fine?”

Grieving the tragedy yesterday, while also hugging my family close and thanking God for their safety and health and all the love I am so blessed to have in my life, I remembered one of the responses Rubin received on her blog: “Remembering that joy exists is tough when you’ve been traumatized. Joy is a big concept and utterly unbelievable when we are in the depths of catastrophe. But happiness … happiness is more accessible. We can be miserable and then find ourselves laughing, even if just for a few seconds. It reaffirms the will to live, and from there we can branch out. Happiness, and the belief we have in it, is the foundation for survival.”

Tragedies like the Connecticut shooting make us pause in the hectic flurry of everyday life and reflect on what’s important. For me, these are the questions running through my head:

  • How can I give more to others?
  • How can I spend more time doing what I truly love?
  • How can I bring joy to those around me?
  • How can I remember and refocus on what truly matters?
  • How can I use my blessings to make a difference for others?

I’ll be pondering these questions more in the coming weeks. I already have some ideas that I am hoping to implement and share with you here on this blog, and start a conversation with you about your own reflections. What matters to you? What do you hold most important in your life?

With love and prayers for you and your family,
-Dallas

thanksgiving gratitude list

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! I am spending the long weekend with Mike’s family up in Chicago and they have welcomed me into their household with open arms and absolutely delicious food. Especially during the holiday season, it is very hard to be so far away from my parents and Greg! Luckily I’ll get to go home for winter break and spend Christmas in Ventura with them. 🙂

Something I like to do often, but especially on Thanksgiving, is to make a “gratitude list” of all the blessings I have in my life and all the reasons I have to be thankful and happy. Often I make a mental list {it is a great way to fall asleep … counting your blessings!} but today on Thanksgiving I want to write a list down. So here it is:

my {ever-expanding!} gratitude list

  • my amazing, supportive, one-in-a-million parents and brother, and all of my terrific extended family, too!
  • my fun and thoughtful and lovely friends, near and far
  • my health {something that I didn’t used to appreciate nearly enough, but feel more and more grateful for the older I get}
  • that I always have not only enough food to eat, but also enough grocery money to buy organic fruits & veggies & dairy even though they are more expensive
  • my safe, warm, cozy apartment that is feeling more and more like home
  • my parents’ home in Ventura that will *always* feel like home and welcome me back with open arms
  • the opportunity to pursue my passions for writing and teaching as a career
  • the incredibly supportive teachers and mentors I’ve had throughout my life — from my first-grade teacher who gave my shy self confidence by casting me as the lead in our school play, to my middle school and high school teachers who encouraged my love of writing, to my teachers at USC and now at Purdue who have helped me develop my own writing voice and  nurture my own creative identity
  • my goofy dog Murray, who never fails to make me laugh with his antics and happy doggy smile
  • long walks through an autumn park or on the boardwalk by the Ventura pier
  • rain falling softly outside on a lazy Sunday
  • snuggling up on the couch with my sweetie
  • all the books I’ve devoured and all those I have stacked on my nightstand, waiting for their turn
  • old movies, especially It’s a Wonderful Life, Some Like it Hot, and It Happened One Night
  • watching Bing Crosby Christmas movies every year with my Gramps
  • warm chocolate chip cookies and a big glass of milk
  • shopping dates with my mom
  • lunch dates with my dad
  • my brunch date tradition with my brother
  • 3-hour Simone’s coffee dates with my friend Erica whenever I go home to visit
  • a hot cup of tea, an empty hour or two, and a journal or good book
  • browsing Target with my friend Holly and stocking up on Taylor Swift cards
  • sending and receiving handwritten cards from those I love
  • sunsets {and the occasional sunrises, when I’m up early enough to see them!}
  • Christmas lights twinkling cheerfully against a night sky or the snow
  • hugs and kisses and even tears saying goodbye because it’s a blessing to have so many people to love
  • being part of such a wonderful community of bloggers, and that you would spend a few minutes of your day visiting my little corner of the internet here!

Happy happy happy Thanksgiving! I hope you have a blessed day with those you love!

❤ Dallas