news! + year of virtues, month two

Hi friends! Wow, 2016 has been off to quite a whirlwind start in my neck of the woods.

In January, I…

… moved to a new apartment with my sweetie that, looking back at January’s focus from Ben Franklin’s List of Virtues, is pretty much successfully put into order. {We put together our bookshelf this past Sunday and our new couch was delivered yesterday!} It is looking much more homey and moved-in around here. I hope to share photos with you soon giving a tour of our new place, but in the meantime here are a couple snapshots of our kitchen!

new kitchen

new kitchen 2

Author Gretchen Rubin {who hosts my favorite podcast, Happier, with her sister Elizabeth Craft} says that “outer order contributes to inner calm.” After spending January focused on getting my surroundings into order, I have to say that I do feel much calmer in all aspects of my life. I have noticed that I am better about being on time to various appointments. I have no trouble getting up early and, most often, my dominant feeling upon waking up is excitement to jump into my day. I no longer waste time looking for things. I no longer feel “scattered” because my things are scattered all around. There is a distinct pleasure, I have learned, in putting an object back in its place. Marie Kondo writes about this feeling beautifully in her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. As human beings we cannot control everything — we like to think we are in control, but life likes to remind us that indeed we are not — but we can at least control our surroundings. Perhaps that is why outer order contributes to inner calm: it helps us feel in control of at least some things. I know that when I begin the day with a clean kitchen and a clutter-free living room, I feel much more equipped to tackle my writing projects.

Also in January, I…

… cut 8+ inches off my hair. And I absolutely love my new hairstyle. I feel so much lighter and freer!

My dad wrote a column weaving together my haircut with some other beautiful stories. You can read it here. {Warning: have tissues handy!}

Hair after

The biggest & best thing that happened in January?

… my sweetheart popped the question, and I said YES! Easiest question I’ve ever been asked. I am so thrilled to spend my life with this amazing man who makes me laugh, makes me think, and makes me feel so loved every day.

Al and I engaged

I’ll share our full proposal story with you guys later this week! 🙂

In February {what remains of February… how is it already the 10th??} I am going to focus on Franklin’s virtue of MODERATION. In the early stages of planning a wedding, this seems like an especially appropriate virtue to keep in mind. We want our wedding to be special and fun, but we also want to keep things in perspective: it is one day out of our lives. As a wedding blog I read put it: think of your wedding reception as a six-hour-long party. My sweetie and I have decided that we don’t want to break the bank for a party that will be over in the blink of an eye. Instead, we want to focus on what a wedding truly means: committing to spending your life joined with another person. That is where the real joy and excitement lies!

And, yes, planning a great big party to celebrate is fun… in moderation!

Questions for the morning:

  • What in your life do you wish to “get in order”?
  • Do you agree that “outer order contributes to inner calm”?
  • Any tips for planning a wedding? I’d love to hear them!!

merry christmas! mid-week meditation #16

Happy Christmas, everyone! I hope whatever you have in store for today, it is a celebration filled with joy and love!

In that spirit, here is one of my favorite quotes for this Christmas season:

grinch xmas quote

Sending so much happiness your way on this blessed day!

Question of the day:

  • What are you doing to celebrate Christmas?

mid-week meditation #15

Hi there, friends! I’m sharing a beer and pizza with my grandma right now. Coming at you from a commercial break of the World Series {gooooo Giants!} with this week’s mid-week meditation.

My brother and I were exchanging emails yesterday and the topic of generosity and gratitude came up, and how sometimes the act of accepting a gift of generosity is even harder than it is to give generously. It is so easy for pride to get in the way, or feelings of insecurity or inadequacy. But actually, accepting an offered gift with love and sincere appreciation is in itself a generous gift.

This morning, I saw that Greg had tweeted something I wrote in our email conversation as a #quote, which gave me the idea that maybe it would be a meaningful thought to share on here.

So this week, I’m presenting the first mid-week meditation that isn’t a quote from someone else — these are my very own words!

generosity meditation

I hope these words fill you with peace and grace. Here’s to giving generously, and receiving generously, too!

Before I get back to the World Series game, I also wanted to share this amazing Sat Kriya meditation from the effervescent Heather Waxman. I’ve only done it once, but it felt so good that I’m already planning to make it a regular part of my routine. She has such a soothing energy and compassionate spirit.

Questions of the evening:

  • What is harder for you, giving or receiving?
  • What does it mean to you to receive with a generous spirit?
  • Are you watching the World Series? 🙂 Who are you rooting for?

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?

mid-week meditation #3

And just like that, it’s already Wednesday! You know what that means: it’s time for my new blog series mid-week meditations! Each week, I’ll try to post a quote or question to think about as you go about your busy day. I hope it brings you solace and gratitude as it does for me!

This week’s meditation comes from my dad, who sent me this quote in an email:

thoreau quote.jpg

If you’re looking for a beautiful guided meditation relating to this topic, I love this one by Heather Waxman on radiance and transformation.

Questions of the morning:

  • What disappointments have you faced in your life lately?
  • What compensations might you find amidst the pain, frustration and sadness?

mid-week meditation

Hello, beautiful friends! Hope you’re having a lovely day! I’m off in a few hours to teach and then head to the airport to catch a flight home for my cousin Julie’s bachelorette party and wedding this weekend… I can’t wait!

Last night I went to an insightful meeting at church, and as always our minister began with a brief reading and a couple minutes for quiet reflection. Later on, as I drove home from the meeting, I thought about how comforting and nurturing even those brief periods of meditation are in my life. That gave me the idea to start a new series here on the blog: mid-week meditations! Each week, I’ll try to post a quote or question to think about as you go about your busy day. I hope it brings you solace and gratitude as it does for me!

Today, I’m thinking about joy and abundance, and these lovely words I came across from Sarah Ban Breathnach:

abundance meditation.jpg

If you’re looking for more meditation, I love Heather Waxman’s blog posts and her amazing meditation album Soul Sessions. I’m a newbie to meditation, and Heather has been a gentle guide as I nurture my own budding practice.

Question of the day:

  • Where in your life are you feeling a sense of abundance and joy?

why I make my bed every morning

made bed

I’ll be honest: making my bed used to be one of my least favorite chores. The three minutes it took to pull up the sheets, smooth the blankets and fluff the pillows seemed like a waste of time. After all, I would just mess it all up in a matter of hours when I climbed into bed that night. Also my mornings used to be so rushed that I typically wouldn’t even have three minutes to spare to make my bed. {Embarrassing, I know, but it’s the truth!}

This summer, I’ve been focusing on simplifying my life and developing healthy practices that help me slow down and enjoy this beautiful life. I’ve started doing yoga and meditating daily, drinking more smoothies, volunteering at the food pantry, and I’ve even tried out fun new exercise options like zumba!

One of the simplest things I’ve started doing every morning is — you guessed it — making my bed. I’ve realized that far from being a waste of time, it helps set a positive, productive tone for my entire day. Making my bed makes me feel organized and in charge and ready to leap into my day with a smile. Plus, this little guy likes to nap on my neatly made bed, and who could say no to that face??

murray on bed

Waking up a few minutes earlier and having a slower, more relaxed tone to the start of my day has made a world of difference! I feel calmer, more energized, and less frazzled. Making my bed is a big part of my new morning routine!

Do you make your bed every morning? What is your morning routine?

marvelous monday: little oases of rest in a hectic, busy season

Happy Monday, everyone! It’s that time of year … the holidays are upon us. All weekend I’ve been seeing not just Thanksgiving decorations in stores, but Christmas decorations, too! Some houses in my neighborhood have even put up lights and lawn ornaments. {Which I’m admittedly not used to, coming from California, but it does make sense here in Indiana where you want to get the lights up before the first snow hits!} It seems like Christmas season sets upon us earlier and earlier every year … which isn’t necessarily a bad thing for me, a girl who starts playing Pandora Holiday stations in October. I love the warmth and comfort of the holiday season!

Still, the holidays bring with them a lot of busyness — gifts to buy, special meals to cook, cards to send, relatives in town, parties to attend, and just a general hectic pace of life that can be overwhelming. Coupled with the approaching end-of-semester obligations and deadlines: final papers and projects to grade, class presentations, meetings — and for me this year, a completed rough draft of my thesis to turn in — and life can quickly feel out-of-control crazy-busy!

I’ve started doing a brief stretch and deep-breathing routine each morning to get my day off on the right foot, which I’ll share with you later this week. But something else that has helped me keep my sanity and approach the holiday season with a grateful heart {as it is meant to be celebrated, after all!} is to take little breaks throughout the day to slow down, take a breath, and reward myself for the work I have gotten done. Even just ten or fifteen minutes away from my computer or pile of dirty dishes can be enough to clear my head and make me feel worlds happier and more refreshed. Here are some of my “oases”:

  • making a phone call to my friends or family
  • reading a chapter of a good book or a story from a magazine
  • taking a power nap
  • going for a brisk walk around the neighborhood
  • daydreaming with a cup of tea

How do you keep your sanity and stay energized during the crazy-busy holiday season? What are your little daily oases?