THE ANNUAL CHRISTMAS GIFT BOX & THANKSGIVING CRAFT

I have six beautiful nieces and nephews. Christmas is fun to surprise the kids with gifts. (I feel like Santa Claus) My nephews are typically routine to buy for-games or gift cards or science exploration kits. I guess it’s easier to both for them, but the girls? This is where I get creative and have far more fun making things! I locate an oversized box to begin the fun. I get large Christmas gift bags from the dollar store. I go online to a store like Kohl’s or Target or Walmart to order the girls a matching outfit or pajamas. (This requires a text to my sister in laws for correct sizes)

It has proven challenging in the last few years to locate matching clothing. My oldest niece will be thirteen this week so she is not in a child’s size any longer. I have found “family pajamas” (usually from Kohls.com) is my best bet.

I order the outfits and brainstorm their homemade gift. That’s right-I hand make them something each year. One year it was a cross stitch of their names. This year I am making them scarves via “loop-it” from Michael’s.

My good friend runs a side business making hair bows and ribbons for all ages. I support her each year through the purchase of matching hair attire for the girls. I hit Five Below or the dollar bins at Target or sometimes the dollar store to get pencils, erasers, pencil holders, fun little girlie notebooks, etc. I stuff those little bags right up with whatever I can find to bless them.

The bags fit inside the box and together, they open the box on Christmas Eve at my parents house. My baby girl has been in on this gift the last two years, despite her oblivion to what Christmas is or what the gifts mean yet.

It works perfectly well for me to orchestra a group, matching gift. In my case, we celebrate with my side of the family on Christmas Eve. I greatly appreciate my parents for this, by the way. They appreciate that we want to be in our own homes to watch our kids come down the stairs Christmas morning. They respect our new traditions so they have us all come over on Christmas Eve. Plus, how fun for all of us to celebrate before Christmas? It is the most joyous day of the year!

When the girls open the gift each year, they look forward to whatever I came up with. They expect it now. All the gifts from everyone are genuinely beautiful, mine are no better. It is just one that they know it’s going to be something unique, and they seem to enjoy the camaraderie of it all. I happen to think it’d be difficult to try to price match for the girls too. It wouldn’t seem fair to purchase a $15 game for one niece, a $25 outfit for another niece, and a $30 gift card for the other. It is simple and fun and beautiful to see their eyes light up for the gifts I hand made, and took the time to think through, is special to me.

(My daughter is in on these things and will eventually understand too). I recall years past when I’ve seen a photo of nieces in their matching pajamas and it makes me cry tears of joy, every time. Maybe this means I’m the “coolest aunt?” 🤞

The other tradition I created years ago is the Thanksgiving Craft. I search Pinterest for a holiday craft. Sometimes it is Christmas-related and sometimes Thanksgiving-related. When we celebrate, I come prepared with a step-by-step craft for my three nieces and my son. I spend days cutting special pieces of construction paper into shapes, purchasing glue for each child, using a Zip-Loc bag to bundle it all together. Again, does this make me the “cool aunt?” 😂

The above photo is of my gorgeous nieces in their scarves that I made! They came out pretty good. They’re super, duper soft!

Bottom line? I love my nephews and nieces!! I am the blessed one to have them.

HOW TO SURVIVE NIGHTLY HOMEWORK

As a parent, it is always more than worth it. And when I say more than worth it, I don’t mean it in the way someone might say that about maybe remodeling a room or working toward a promotion at work. While those are important, in my life, when I’ve said that expression, I’ve never meant it as much as I do in regards to parenthood.

Parenthood is the most exhausting, insanely best job in the entire world. I honest to goodness would give my life to keep my children safe, regardless. I have no hesitation in my heart at the thought. As far as I know, any parent would do the same for their children.

While I feel like I am fairly patient and attentive, even blissfully attentive a good portion of the time, I’d hate to think of the lack of help if I were alone. I have a supportive husband who sincerely helps. (I’ve heard stories of some spouses that aren’t as helpful). Homework alone is an exhausting daily ritual. My son is good about getting to his homework and doesn’t complain about that part, but sometimes math is challenging and honestly, after seven hours in school, sometimes he just wants to be done. I cannot blame him whatsoever. Some days it is brutal. How would I do it alone? How do single parents do it alone?

Do you have a specified homework time? We adhere to a few things.

1) When my son gets home, he washes his hands (keep those germs away!), gets a drink and a snack, and then settles right in for homework.

2) We consistently have him do his homework at the kitchen table to avoid distractions.

3) My husband or I sit right with him right now. He is in third grade so the homework requires us to be right there with him.

4) When one subject is done, I offer a few minute break if he wants one. (Typically he wants to get things done so he won’t take a break).

5) We go over the homework problem by problem to ensure it’s correct.

Yep, I actually feel like this photo some nights once homework is done. I think I should run a lap and stretch out my arms, scream and cheer in the sunlight, and dance around. Maybe my son should be doing the dance and celebration race for actually doing the work, but keeping the patience and diligence as a parent? Celebration worthy!

What are you tips or tricks? This isn’t to say it’s a perfect situation every single night. Sometimes he just doesn’t feel like it and isn’t positive about it. But, that consistency does wonders for our household.

ARE YOU LIVING YOUR LIFE, OR WATCHING IT SLIP ON BY?

An ear piercing scream, earth-shattering news, and the sequence of beeps on TV. These sounds are startling, frightening, and make time stop. There seems to be complete silence for a minute afterward until fear takes over.

It can be a non-tragic issue like a continuous crying child who cannot sleep due to congestion and illness. Perhaps a storm is sweeping through the area, warning of damaging winds and power outages. It could be medically-related lousy news.
The common denominator is the shift in priorities we experience at the onset of the beep, crash, or scream. Suddenly, my housecleaning, clothes sorting, and carpet shampooing do not matter. The things that matter are my sick baby, getting everyone safely to the basement, researching doctors and treatments.

Have things occurred that moved your heart? It seems that our needs do not matter much in the light of these moments. I imagine most people who’ve lived through national or personal tragedies take pause. When 9/11 happened, my plans disappeared. My heart wanted my family to know I loved them. I tried to help. When my daughter grew ill the other day and clung to me, nothing else mattered.

These moments gets us out of our heads, to wake up and “smell the coffee.” I question who I can serve and how can I help. While we would never ask for hardships to happen, our loyalties and priorities become apparent when rough things fall on our laps. Could tangibly tricky situations occur to remind us to put down the routine nuances and breathe in those things we love the most? Why not focus on those things in our everyday lives and not wait for a tragedy to strike? How do your feelings shift when these episodes occur?

When we are in our last days, what beautiful memories will we reflect on? I can guarantee we won’t be thinking that our house was clean. Will we think about our job? Probably not. Will we think about the bad things? Chances are we will think about how much we want our loved ones to know we love them. We will regret holding grudges. We will wish we’d gone out to dinner that night instead of staying in because we didn’t have the energy.

Tim McGraw’s beautiful song, “Live Like You Were Dying” speaks to all these things. Before his dad passed away, he went sky diving and Rocky Mountain climbing. He gave forgiveness he’d been denying. He watched an eagle as it was flying-the simplest thing brought joy to his heart.

I admit I like a clean house. Actually, I love to clean. I find it therapeutic. However, with two young children, it isn’t easy to keep things in order. If I busy myself around the house, I miss the precious time with my babies. When they’re off to bed, I feel sad. I wish I’d spent that time with them instead of cleaning. Obviously don’t neglect your home, but my advice, whether you want it or take it is entirely up to you, but I’d recommend living life while it’s yours to live.

Thoughts?

NURTURING PERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS AND BUSINESS CONNECTIONS

The ABC show Shark Tank is life-changing. There have been reports that even those who did not receive a deal became successful entrepreneurs merely by their segment airing. Isn’t it inspiring to see ”regular people” take an idea to a multi-million dollar product, usually available in any given store you frequent? Seriously, very cool.

shark-fish-hammerhead-shark-aquarium-67854
The down-to-earth shark Robert Herjavec, like some of the other sharks, uses social media to offer advice, Recently, he posted in regards to making the most of relationships. “Be genuine in your relationships, you never know how those connections can help you or those around you later in life.”

In a recent Forbes article written by Darrah Brustein, Robert was asked how he recommends building network and influence. He responded, “Be curious, ask questions and engage with those in your personal and professional lives. If you have an industry you’re interested in – ask those around you who they know who may be connected to it. Research online or on Linkedin. Use mentorship & networking tools like Ten Thousand Coffees to connect. Put yourself out there!” (www.forbes.com/sites/darrahbrustein/2018/09/09/robert- herjavec-on-how-to-grow-your-business-by-nurturing-your-network/amp/)

two women shaking hands
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

Has someone you know led to a business interaction or relationship? I have been blessed in this way more than once. A few years back, my neighbor’s friendship with a businesswoman led to my first book signing, and me writing my second book, The Carousel Capital of the World.

Because none of us can predict the future, we don’t know which relationships can turn into a business connection. Sometimes people know people who know people, as was the case with my second book. Other times, a chance encounter might become a new career.
What about casual relationships-those in which you’re not close friends, but you’re more than acquaintances. What are some easy ways to maintain those casual relationships?

1) Make genuine eye contact.
2) Listen intently: ask questions, acknowledge what they say.
3) Stay in touch via email or text, and be specific. For example, attach a link in regards to their interests. “I saw this gold-plated baseball pen and thought of your love for the Atlanta Braves.”


Keep doors open. You never know! The beauty of a friendship is, in itself, exquisite, so you have nothing to lose. When my neighbor connected me with her friend, I was not looking for work at the time, and God blessed me. #grateful When has something similar happened to you?

I want to wrap up with a wise statement my dad said recently. “No one is a stranger. We’re all friends here. Anyone else is just someone you haven’t met yet.” People are just waiting to be met, or helped, or to help you. What a comforting statement.

Maybe if we viewed others as instruments of God‘s perfect plan, we could see life as a beautiful thing! People and things are interconnected in profound ways, both on a personal level, and a professional level. It is a small world.

TIPS ON GETTING SOME SLEEP WITHOUT WORRYING

Can you describe the architecture and name the number of tiles on your bedroom ceiling? I certainly can! Unfortunately, I have a chronic sleeping problem. For the record, I feel great, I’ve had sleep studies done proving I do not have medical related issues. When I am awake, I rarely have anxiety.
I think bedtime is the one time women, in particular, allow themselves to stop work physically. Our bodies go minute after minute, hour after hour, but the night is a time to rest our bodies. What about our minds? Bedtime is the ignition for thinking, and worrying, and contemplating, and replaying.
How often have we all done this? I posted weeks ago about a work night I dreaded which turned out to be a blessing. It is never worth getting yourself worked up. I don’t think one cry is too many for my children, but I’d rather invest my energy on the positive. #Positivityalwayswins
It is never going to do any good to lay awake worrying. What steps can we take to break this vicious cycle?
  • Remember that you honestly are doing the best that you can. The work will eventually get done, and the family will be okay!
  • Write down what is on your mind. My dad used to keep scrap papers to do just that at night. The act of writing things down takes the thought from your brain to paper and gives a tangible sense of relief. Keep a small notebook and pencil at your bedside.
  • Take deep breaths, remembering you are only human and right this moment you are safe and warm and it is time to sleep. I say lots of prayers too.


Relax and sleep. You deserve true rest and worrying does nothing good! A verse I recite when things overtake my mind is from 1 Chronicles 16:11. “Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.” The strength part of this verse helps me. On the rare, occasional night I find my mind too busy, the above steps and prayer always calms my mind and brings me perfect peace. I wish this for you, too!

TIPS TO GO ALL IN & STAY IN

Do you ever start something new and the excitement is tangible? Maybe it’s a course or a new job or a new diet or exercise regimen. What do you tend to do? Do you feel gung-ho and you start full throttle and give it all that you’ve got? What happens after a few weeks?

Do you lose momentum and either slow down or give up entirely? You are like most the world! We throw the cushions off the chair, put our work down and walk away. Typically, despite our best intentions, we’ve all done this on some level. (Know that you are not alone)

While there any google search can offer various tips on staying on track, I can share what works for me! I encourage you to try these steps!

1) I pray and ask for clarity. When I put God at the center of everything, I can never go wrong, even if something does not play out as I’d like it to.

2) I post a photo of my goal to focus on. It helps to see this when I need encouragement. Are you working toward a master’s degree? Post a picture of a diploma. Are you working to save for a beach front home? Post a photo of a home on a beach. (Please let me see this photo!)

3) Create a mantra. Do not use words like “I will” but use words like “I have.” Ex: I have my masters degree. (Not: “I will earn my masters degree”). To see something physically before you and to hear and see the words of said goal, makes these more tangible.

4) Be real with your long-term goal. What is the date this goal must be accomplished? Think about this to determine when you’ll need to work each day/week on the long-term goal.

5) Break the big goal down to small-term goals. Do this by setting specific daily goals. Make these small and measurable. Write down how you will accomplish them.

Ex: Determine the time-frame of when you can work on the goal each day. For example, Monday nights are free from 7-9, but Tuesday’s only are open from 6-7. Wednesday’s and Thursday’s are too full, but Friday, Saturday, and Sunday you can devote four hours each day.

Know you CAN accomplish your dreams and goals. It helps to check off steps on your way, which in turn make you feel productive and motivated to continue.

Give these steps a try.

I’m interested in knowing how these worked for you. Or, do you have a system you already use? Let’s share them to see accomplished dreams!

THE BENEFITS OF JOURNALING

Do you keep a journal? A journal or simple notebook is extremely useful for both goal setting, and for problem solving. It is therapeutic to write down thoughts, emotions, events from the day. The act of “talking through” (in the form of writing down) something bothersome is the exact therapy people often need. There is something soothing about getting the thoughts and feelings out.

Journaling is also an amazing technique for goal setting. Many journals are of the “self-help” kind. These journals offer daily motivation, tips, accountability (“here is how I am going to reach that goal” versus “my goals are…”)

I enjoy keeping a journal and they are useful for keeping a positive attitude, to plan for my goals, and for dealing with stressors. I enjoy the methods Rachel Hollis uses. Rachel Hollis is a powerful entrepreneur who encourages goal settings step by step, living your best life, and believing in yourself. Whether someone uses her journal or any of the dozens of others, it proves to be helpful.

There are any number of things to write down. If you don’t have a journal, just use a notebook. I found a colorful notebook and I find I can be freer to write down what I need to that day, without feeling obligated to follow a standard each day. You can try writings things like:

  • Ten goals and plans on how to achieve them.
  • Ten things to be thankful for. (Keep it small and detailed if you need to. (I.e. my hot coffee, I woke up, I didn’t stub my toe on the same dresser I usually do….)
  • Free writing. (Whatever is on your mind)
  • Checklists for goals.
  • Lists of stressors with possible solutions.
  • What I am looking forward to.
  • (My personal favorite) Five tangible things that I will do today to bless others. (Make someone laugh, call my friend, etc)

If you haven’t journaled, it may benefit you! It may just be the cheapest form of therapy. Give it a try. The dollar store has adorable journals or notebooks if you want to give it a try without purchasing a more expensive journal that is leading (gives prompts). Good luck! Have some fun!