7 things my dad has taught me

Today is my dad’s birthday!

me and daddy

I wish I was home with him to celebrate and give him a ginormous hug and bake him a peanut butter chocolate brownie cake, but that will just have to wait another 10 or so days until I’m home again. {We’re planning to celebrate both his birthday and my birthday a little belatedly this year when we’re all together again!}

bday brownies

In the meantime, in honor of this amazing guy’s birthday, I wanted to share with you 7 important lessons I have learned from my dad. I could have listed 707, but for the sake of brevity I kept¬†it simple. ūüôā

7 things my dad has taught me:

1. Find your passion, and follow it.¬†My dad is the reason I became a writer. He is a journalist and author {he will always be my favorite writer!} and when I was growing up, he often wrote his columns from home so he could spend time with my brother and me. I have always loved to read, and soon I began making up my own stories. Dad let me sit on top of the phone book at the kitchen table and type up my stories on his special work computer. I was thrilled — and hooked on writing. I decided then and there that I wanted to grow up to be a writer just like my dad. I couldn’t {and still can’t!} imagine a better job than spending my days bringing characters to life on the page. Dad has been my cheerleader and supporter for as long as I can remember, and my love of writing is intrinsically connected to my relationship with him.¬†Even when I was a kindergartener, he¬†always took my writing seriously. He helped me find my voice. He taught me to talk through ideas, to stretch my limits, to search for the heart of the story, to edit and edit to make every word count, every word shine. He is still my #1 editor, first reader, go-to brainstormer, and biggest fan.

with dad steinbeck reading

At my Steinbeck Fellows reading last year.

Dad taught me that when you find something you love, that doesn’t feel like “work,” that you daydream about and would do for free because you can’t imagine NOT doing¬†it — that is a true blessing, and not to be taken for granted. It can be difficult and scary to pursue your passion, but it is also a privilege. When I am feeling down or doubting myself, Dad is always there to lift me up and remind me that pursuing my passion for writing, through the good times and the bad, is how I honor my gifts and live a rich and meaningful life that makes me happy. Through his example, he has shown me what it means to follow your passion and devote your time to something that matters to you.

2. Little by little, big things happen.¬†My dad has a passion for writing, and he also has a passion for running. He has run at least three miles every single day for the past 11 years, 10 months, and 24 days. Just thinking about that is overwhelming to me, but Dad insists that when you take it one day at a time, it’s easy. Every single day, you simply lace up your running shoes and get out there. {In fact, he swears getting ready to go run is often the hardest part — once he’s out there, he hits his stride and enjoys it, even on those days he didn’t especially feel like running.} Writing, or whatever your goals are, is the same way: just focus on one day at a time. Books are written one word at a time. Businesses are grown¬†one transaction at a time. Relationships are built¬†one phone call at a time. Little by little, big things happen.

Running-Santa-Clarita-Marathon-720x1024

3. Sometimes it’s good to break the rules. I have always been a natural rule-follower. Maybe it’s because I tend to worry, or just have a cautious personality. I never really had a “rebellious” stage, even as a teenager. However, my dad has taught me that it is important to evaluate rules and that sometimes taking a risk is worth it! One of my favorite memories of this is when I was four years old and Dad took me kite-flying at a park for the very first time. I was so excited! My kite had a rainbow design and it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. The day was windy, perfect for kite-flying, but soon after we got my kite airborne, a strong gust of wind hit. The string snapped and my beautiful rainbow kite sailed off into a nearby barranca! Dad climbed over a tall fence — not fearing the NO TRESPASSING signs — and climbed a tree to rescue my kite. My hero!

me and daddy

4. Stay curious and always keep learning. Dad is one of the most curious people I know. He is always learning new things: reading books, listening to podcasts, watching PBS documentaries, traveling to new places. The older I get, the more I realize how hard it can be to keep an open mind and to constantly keep adjusting your opinions and views based on new information. Dad is a prime example of someone who is always listening and taking in knowledge, and I admire this about him so much. He is joyfully curious, and I think this is also something that keeps him young!

With Dad at a talk by Ken Burns, the legendary documentary filmmaker, at San Jose State University

With Dad at a talk by Ken Burns, the legendary documentary filmmaker, at San Jose State University

5. By giving to others, you give to yourself.¬†Dad has shown me by example that pursuing your passion goes hand-in-hand with sharing your passion with others. One way to do so is¬†to help¬†give access to other people who may not be able to do what they love. For example, my dad — a longtime sports columnist — has held a Holiday Ball Drive for the past 20¬†years and has donated thousands of new sports balls to underprivileged kids. He inspired me to start a Holiday Book Drive to collect books to donate to libraries and youth organizations such as the Boys & Girls Club. He inspired my brother to found a nonprofit organization Give Running that has collected and donated more than 16,000 pairs of shoes to both domestic programs and third-world countries.

me and greg shoes

My dad also gives to others through small, everyday acts of kindness such as picking up litter when he runs at the park, paying the tab for servicemen and women at restaurants, and giving food to the homeless. He lives by The Golden Rule and has taught my brother and me to do the same. More important than giving is the intention and love behind the gesture; we have learned that by helping others, YOU are truly the one who gets the most out of the experience.

6. Take time to savor the ordinary details, and use “the good china” every day!¬†Dad believes in making every day special, and using those special items — “the good china” — in your everyday life. After all, what are you saving it for? Why have it if not to enjoy and get use out of it? He has also taught me to take the time to recognize and appreciate the small details that make life rich and beautiful. Whether it’s a gorgeous sunset, a happy tail-wagging welcome home from a dog, a hot shower, a cold drink, a fresh-baked cookie, a new-to-you book or movie, a soft pillow, a hug from someone you love… close your eyes, savor and enjoy the details. Don’t just rush through your life. Don’t put off happiness until “someday.” Find something to be happy for and grateful for today!

me and dad

7. Love is the most important thing of all. Show AND tell people that you love them.¬†Every morning, I wake up to a text from Dad wishing me a masterpiece day and saying that he loves me. Every night, he sends me a goodnight text saying he loves me and is proud of me. I never get tired of hearing those words. Growing up, he would write notes on napkins for¬†our lunchboxes every single day. Not only did he tell my brother and me he was proud of us, he showed it by hanging up our awards, displaying our report cards and track ribbons, framing our school artwork. Every school performance, athletic event, book signing, academic competition — he has been there. He even drove 5+ hours each way to surprise me and attend my Steinbeck Fellows reading! When I was in college, Dad drove down to L.A. to have lunch with me every single week. He never complained about traffic; he always made it seem like a joy, rearranging his work schedule so we could have our “lunch dates.” He always has time for us and treats¬†our family as his #1 priority. He is the most thoughtful person I know.

with my boys

Above all else, Dad has taught me that love is the most important thing in this life. It is important to both show those you love how much you love them, and to tell them in words, too. Yes, we *know* how much Dad loves us, but we still love hearing him say it.

And now I want to say it to him, though I hope he already knows: Daddy, I love you more than words can express! Thank you for being my sunshine and for brightening my life every day. It is such a blessing to be your daughter. Happy birthday!!

Happy birthday dad

recap of my clutter-busting summer!

Happy Friday, friends!

This summer — inspired by the Clutter-Busting Challenge hosted this past May by Crystal at Money-Saving Mom, and the amazing Victoria at Snail-Paced Transformations who is continuing to give away, get rid of, or sell 3 things from her home every week this year — I have been on a mission.

My goal: get things out of my house that I no longer need or use, and get them into the hands of people who do need or could use them.

It’s amazing how much STUFF we accumulate, right?? I am not even the biggest shopper, and still I am just floored by the amount of THINGS I manage to bring into my life and into my space. Books, clothes, magazines, papers, flyers, do-dads, mementos, knick-knacks … where do they even come from??

In regards to clutter, this summer has been a perfect storm of sorts. I moved back home into my childhood bedroom, which was still crammed with stuff from high school and from the year I lived at home after graduating college. Plus, I brought home boxes of new stuff I’d accumulated while living in Indiana.

I was determined to slowly sort through everything through the course of the summer and get rid of as much as possible before moving up the Bay Area to begin my Steinbeck Fellowship. Also, as longtime blog readers know, I really don’t like to waste things, not even uber-ribe bananas. So if an item was useful, I didn’t want to just throw it away — my goal was to repurpose or donate as many items as possible!

clutter busting

Three months later, I’m happy to report my room is much cleaner and less cluttered, and I’m feeling more energized as a result! Here is a list of all the things I got rid of this summer, including how I repurposed some items:

  • 3 boxes of books: donated to the local library and the Boys & Girls Club
  • approx. 40 back issues of various magazines: donated to local senior centers and hospitals {just make sure to tear off the address label and any other personal info before donating!}
  • 2 large bags of clothing, including my heavy winter coat and a bunch of scarves: donated to Goodwill
  • 3 lovely little girls dresses, still in great condition, from when I was a little girl: also donated to Goodwill
  • 4 pairs of shoes I never wear: donated to Goodwill
  • 2 large fleece Snuggies that were not being used: repurposed into two handmade no-sew baby blankets for two friends of mine who each welcomed beautiful babies into their families recently
  • 2 outgrown T-shirts: transformed into diy pillows
  • 10 small hotel shampoos and soaps: donated to a local homeless shelter
  • 1 no-longer-used cellphone: donated to a soldier through Cell Phones for Soldiers.
  • 3 large trash bags full of old papers no longer needed: recycled

WOO-HOO! It feels so wonderful to de-clutter! Not only did I physically get rid of a ton of items, I feel like the act of clearing and sorting and donating was emotionally cleansing as well.

mur sleepy

This task was an amazing reminder of what a difference you can make little by little, day by day … I never imagined at the beginning of the summer that I would be able to get rid of so much unnecessary stuff, but slowly and surely I did!

What goals have you been working on this summer? Any fellow clutter-busters out there? I’d love to hear your tips for STAYING de-cluttered — my next task! ūüôā

some related posts you might enjoy:

cleaning out my closet clutter
tips for selling things on craigslist
year of kindness challenge: donating clothes
year of kindness challenge: donating books
year of kindness challenge: donating toiletries

review of “7: an experimental mutiny against excess” by jen hatmaker

You know when you hear a ton of good things about a book or a movie or TV show, and there’s a part of you that is hesitant to delve into that piece of entertainment or knowledge because you’re worried that it’s been built up too much, that it can never live up to your expectations now that so many people have raved about it to you?

Often, when I do end up caving and watching or reading whatever it is everyone is buzzing about, I do feel a little disappointed in the end — I guess my imagination and expectations are too easily raised to insurmountable heights! But there have been a few exceptions, when I have just been knocked off my feet by something that had already been built up so much. Off the top of my head, I can think of:

  • The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • the musical Wicked {I saw it with my mom, who was similarly blown away}
  • Downton Abbey {Mike and I resisted this for a while but are now thoroughly on the Downton Abbey train! Still a little behind, making our way through Season 2 and trying to avoid spoilers on Facebook!}

And now I have a new thing to add to my list: Jen Hatmaker’s amazingly inspiring book 7: an experimental mutiny against excess.

7 by jen hatmaker

I bought this book because I kept seeing great things pop up about it on many of my favorite blogs. The idea behind the book really intrigued me; here is the synopsis from Jen’s website:

7¬†is the true story of how Jen (along with her husband and her children to varying degrees) took seven months, identified seven areas of excess, and made seven simple choices to fight back against the modern-day diseases of greed, materialism, and overindulgence.”

When sifting through my thoughts about this book, the first thing that struck me was that my experience reading this book is a little ironic, considering Jen’s message of taking your life back from the modern pressures of materialism and overindulgence. Because I gobbled up this book. I devoured the whole thing in less than two days. I just could not stop myself from reading “a little more, just a little more, one more chapter …”¬†Talk about indulgence! ūüôā

There were a number of things that made reading this book so addictive. First, I loved Jen’s voice. Much in the same way I felt like reading The Happiness Project was an extended conversation with author Gretchen Rubin over coffee, reading 7: an experimental mutiny against excess felt like I was sitting with Jen Hatmaker at her kitchen table, listening to stories from her life. She opens her home and her life to readers, and her voice is so warm and inviting. I read part of this book on a plane trip, and I had to bite my lip multiple times so as not to laugh out loud. She is hilarious!

I think one of my reservations about reading this book was that I would feel “preached at,” but this is not one of those books. The book is written in a diary format, so reading it feels like you are there with Jen in the trenches as she attempts to make these huge changes in her life. She chronicles her failures and setbacks in addition to her successes and high points — by the end of the book {or, to be more honest, by the end of chapter 2 or 3!} I felt like Jen was one of my good friends. Or perhaps my own personal cheerleader, encouraging me to take the leap and implement some of these ideas into my own life.

The book proceeds chronologically over the course of a year in Jen’s life, with each chapter devoted to a month of the project. {She took off a couple weeks between months to recharge and regroup.} Here is the breakdown of how Jen organized her 7 project:

  • month 1: Food
  • month 2: Clothes
  • month 3: Possessions
  • month 4: Media
  • month 5: Waste
  • month 6: Spending
  • month 7: Stress

I think for me, the most eye-opening and inspiring chapters were those devoted to waste/the environment, possessions and stress. After reading this book, I feel so blessed to have so much, yet also the pressing need to unburden myself from extra possessions — I want to give more to others, to use what I have for good. I feel even more committed to my year of kindness challenge and inspired to do even more! And I have plans in the works to create a more efficient and thorough household recycling system — I try to recycle what I can, but I think I can do better. I will keep you posted!

Well, this review is getting quite long, so I guess I should wrap it up … as you can probably tell, I highly recommend this book. It surpassed even my built-up expectations, moved me, made me think, and warmed my heart. Perhaps above all else, it made me feel hopeful and inspired to do my small part to make a difference and make the world a better, brighter place. Jen Hatmaker is a testament that we all can take charge of our lives, mutiny successfully against excess, and live a more simplified, healthier and happier existence!

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if you enjoyed this post, you might also like:
review of The Happiness Project
review of Thirteen Reasons Why
review of The Secret Keeper

year of kindness challenge: week 4

year of kindness button

Happy Monday! How did the #yearofkindness challenge go for you this past week?

The week 3 challenge was to send a kind note to brighten someone’s day. I sent quite a few handwritten cards this week — I aimed for one per day — and it put me in such a good mood! There’s something about sending good old-fashioned snail mail that seems extra-special these days. I slid the stamped envelopes in the mailbox and thought about the recipients opening their mailboxes in a few days to find a card from me, and it was the best feeling! This kindness stuff is addicting! ūüôā

kind notes

Here are some good things that happened in my world this week:

  • I was alerted that one of my fellowship applications was incomplete with enough time to send in the required materials to complete it … they definitely did not have to take the time to email me about the incomplete materials, and I am SO very grateful they did not just throw my application out! {Whew!}
  • Funnily enough, I received some happy surprise mail this week — a letter and clipped cartoons from my Gramps! He is not very computer savvy and I am pretty sure he does not read this blog {I don’t think he knows what a blog is!} so it was serendipity that he participated in last week’s kindness challenge!
  • One of my best friends got an exciting {and very much deserved} job promotion. Woo hoo!
  • I bumped into a professor I had last semester, who thoughtfully told me that one of her current undergraduate students took my creative writing course over the summer and had great things to say about it. What a nice compliment that totally made my day!

Okay, now on to the Week 4 Kindness Challenge: give hot chocolate or coffee to someone out in the cold who could use a bit of warmth! Some possibilities: a construction worker, a toll booth operator, a crossing guard, a bus monitor, a mail deliverer … or I’m sure you can think of others!

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.

Have a marvelous week!
-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

marvelous monday: year of kindness challenge

In a post a few weeks ago¬†I shared that I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how to be a better person and give more to the world around me. Give more, do more, brighten more, serve more. I want to be grateful and I want to be joyful, and in my experiences the best way to do so is to give gratefully and joyfully to others. Case in point: one of my favorite experiences over this past holiday season was taking handmade cards and cookies to the local nursing home. In this next year–and beyond, for the years to come– I want to work on stepping outside myself {my petty grievances, my small problems, my unhelpful worries} and focus on the people and neighbors and global community around me.

Inspiration clicked into action when I came across this amazing post by blogger Becka about her birthday tradition of doing a random act of kindness for every year she has been alive. {I also found a similar and very neat Facebook community, The Birthday Project!} Reading through her deeds and looking at all the smiling photos, I felt energized and filled with hope. I immediately knew I wanted to do the same thing for my birthday this year — and then I thought, my birthday isn’t until May. I don’t want to wait that long! Why wait?

Hence, I present to you my Year of Kindness challenge.

year of kindness button

Here’s how it works:

Each Monday, I’ll present a small act of kindness “challenge” for that week, and the following Monday I’ll let you know how I did and then present a new challenge for that week. I would LOVE if you would join in on my year of kindness and blog about your experiences, then add a link to your post below. It would also be wonderful if you would share the photo button above with your followers — on Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, your blog, wherever! If you don’t have a blog, you can of course email me at <dallaswoodburn AT gmail DOT com> with any stories or photos you have from doing acts of kindness, and I will gladly share them with blog readers!

Let’s make this a powerful “pay it forward” year of kindness!

Here’s the challenge for this week:

Go through your closets and cupboards and pull out things you no longer use but are still in good shape. Then, donate them to others who will be thrilled to have these items. The goal is to give at least one thing away for each day of the week, for a total of seven items.

Have a marvelous day! Can’t wait to hear how the week goes! ūüôā

Blog about completing the Year of Kindness, Week 1 Challenge and add your link below!


clear out your closet clutter!

In the coming weeks, one of my goals is to get my bedroom closet organized! {I confessed earlier that I am a huge culprit of hiding my messes away behind cabinets and closet doors … like under my kitchen sink}

Here’s a “before” picture:

My first step has been sorting through my clothes, jackets and shoes and clearing out stuff I no longer use or need. My rule: if it’s in season {i.e. summer weather clothes} and I haven’t worn it in three months, it goes in the “donation” box. If I decide after a week or so that I want to keep it, I can keep it — but in my experience, once something gets out of my closet and into the “donation” box, I never miss it.

{If you have clothes in good condition, you could always try selling them on Craigslist, but since most of my clothes would probably only go for a couple bucks I prefer to save time and go the donation route.}

A tried-and-true donation option is your local Goodwill or Salvation Army store. I’ve also rounded up some charities that are looking for specific items that might be waiting right there in your closet for a new purpose:

Blouses, Blazers, Suits, etc:

  • Dress for Success: “The mission of Dress for Success is to promote the economic independence of disadvantaged women by providing professional attire, a network of support and the career development tools to help women thrive in work and in life.”
  • Career Gear: “From its inception in 1999, Career Gear earned a reputation for helping men who are low income enter the workforce by providing business appropriate clothing. The basic offering of a suit was simple, but also powerful. For those men who were improving their work skills and employability, a clean, appropriate suit of clothing was another important tool in finding a job. To date, over 30,000 men have been served through the job readiness program.”

Dresses:

  • DonateMyDress: “The first national campaign designed to encourage girls around the country to donate their prom and special occasion dresses to those who cannot afford them for prom, sweet 16, quincea√Īera or formals. The site features a directory of local dress drive organizations across the U.S. that will enable girls to easily find out where in their local markets they can donate or receive a dress.”
  • The Fairy Godmother Project: “Help students in the Houston area who cannot afford to purchase a prom dress or tux. Each year we provide hundreds of students in the Houston area with free prom, graduation and Homecoming dresses and tuxedos. We collect donations year-round.”
  • Ever After Gowns: “A Minnesota based 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation dedicated to supporting Twin Cities-area young women by providing them with new and gently used formal gowns, shoes, and accessories to be worn to their high school prom. Our clients receive all the attire and accessories free of charge. The ‘Ever After Experience’ is not just about getting a free dress, we aim to provide a warm, friendly environment where each guest feels like a princess”

Shoes:

  • Give Running: “Give Running teaches youth, through running, the character traits and skills that serve as a foundation for success in all aspects of life. We share our love for running as well as the many benefits and opportunities running fosters ‚ÄĒ such as improved health, self-confidence, and new friendships ‚ÄĒ by collecting, cleaning, and then donating new and used running and athletic shoes to disadvantaged youth in developing countries and local inner-city communities. Together, we can make a world of difference to deserving youth from Los Angeles to Haiti to Africa by giving them a chance to lace ’em up and empowering them to take a step forward ‚ÄĒ and never stop running!”
  • The Fairy Godmother Project: dress shoes, heels, flats, etc.
  • Dress for Success: dress shoes, heels, flats, etc.

Bras:

  • Free The Girls: “When you donate a bra, you give a former slave a job. It is that simple. We work alongside safe houses around the world that rescue women from sex trafficking and provide rehabilitation services. Your donation helps survivors of human trafficking make a living selling used clothing while they recover and build their new life. We accept gently used bras of all sizes and styles, including athletic bras, nursing bras, and camisoles.”
  • Bras for a Cause: “We have an ongoing bra donation recycle program. We are a distribution center that sends out bras to shelters, breast cancer survivor support groups, charities and others all over the world all year long. Now you can recycle and find a home for your bras. No matter the size, type or condition we can find a place for them.”
  • The Bra Recyclers: “We are a textile recycling company focused on doing our part to recycle and reuse bras (textiles) that unnecessarily go to landfills. We have created and support a network of Bra Recycling Ambassadors who assist us in providing deserving women with used or unused bras as they transition back to self-sufficiency.”

Clearing out your closet clutter AND helping others? Doesn’t get much better than that!

Do you know of any charities that should be added to the list? Please let me know! Happy organizing!

-Dallas