List Love

January!

Like everyone else, I’ve always made the usual lame commitments to lose weight, write a book, hell, shoot down the moon and keep it in my pocket, all before December’s end. And, like everyone else, it all fell out of my head like litter from a car window before January’s end. So this year, I’m doing something different.

Instead of a list of unachievable goals at the start of the year, I’m keeping a Growth Zone List.

My Growth Zone List tracks anything I do that is out of my comfort zone, and therefore in my “growth zone.”

It is exciting and motivating in a way that typical resolutions never are and I am excited to keep adding to it.

Even more exciting? Looking back on it at the end of the year to reflect on how much I’ve accomplished, instead of downing myself for all the unchecked boxes.

Check it out here.

What about you? Have you ever tried something like this?

In which I initiate a conversation with a stranger.

So I’m trying to do more things that land in what is called “the growth zone”. The growth zone is the area just outside your comfort zone that will cause personal growth.

We went on a cruise this month (!) and I thought it was the perfect opportunity to stretch into my growth zone. I did quite a few things that I don’t normally do during this trip, and one of those was talking to strangers and people I don’t know very well.

My husband is really good at striking up conversations with new people, but for me this is a skill that is often negated by my shyness. My tendency to be ultra private compounds things even further. Often when we meet people he gets the conversation going then I chime in with a punchline or a story and pretty soon all of us are laughing.

But on my own it is an awkwardly different story. Like awkward as an artform.

So back to the cruise ship. I was determined to practice talking to people on my own. Everyone in our party was clustered around the three-hand poker table and through my boredom of watching chips and cards shufflle across a felt-top table, I noticed an opportunity.

I ambled over to the bar by myself and slid into an empty seat. I turned to the lady next to me and struck up a coversation- yes, totally borrowing my husband’s lines- by asking her who she was cruising with and if she’d ever cruised before.

Yes, she had cruised before and this time she was here with her husband. I mentioned coming with my family then listened politely while she hashed on about husbands and kids.

Sensing drunk beligerence approaching, I steered the conversation back towards the trip. What excursions was she doing at port?

I was both really excited yet on the fence about checking out the Mayan temples of Tulum. It could be the experience of a lifetime or I could condem my family to excruciating boredom while everyone else in our group lived it up at the beach. Maybe she knew something about them.

Instead she’s like,
“The Mayan temples, huh? When my husband and I get off in Mexico, we’re gonna find us some prescription pills. That’s our excursion.”

I’m not sure how my husband would’ve handled that, but I just nodded politely and asked her what she was drinking. Then I ordered one from the bartender and soon excused myself back to the safety of three-hand poker.

Everyone asked me where I’d been and I told them. They all laughed at the absurdity of my conversation at the bar.

But later, at the Mexican port, there was totally a place called Deli and Drugs. As we passed it on our way to the t-shirt shop, I wondered if my barmate was holed up in there with her hubby, filling up on Reubens while they filled her bottles with pills.

Does the idea of talking to strangers terrify you or enthrall you? If it is your thing, what kind of tips and suggestions do you have for an introvert like me? Although it made me feel awkward, unsure and uncomfortable, I will say one thing: it made a hell of a good story.

Mom’s Top 5 Wist List

As much as we love our kids and want them to stay little forever, there are certain things I miss in this phase of my life. Every parent has their list of things that they wist for. Here is mine.

This Mom’s Wist List

1.Wine instead of whine with my dinner.
2. Dinner that is spicy, herby or flavored with something more sophisticated than cheese.
3. Pants without a stretchy waistline.
4. A body without a stretchy waistline.
5. Staying out and sleeping in.

What’s on your wist list?

Nightstanders #2

Hey! I’m back with more books from my nightstand. Here’s a bit of what I’ve been reading lately.

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I just finished reading The Great Zoo of China, an action-packed best- seller whose title caught my eye at the store. It’s been a long time since a book hooks me just with a title, I usually have to dig around and read all kinds of blurbs before I make my decision, so I knew I’d enjoy it.
I thought the prologue was fantastic and really sucked you in with a story question and a bit about the main character. That was a smooth move because the set up ran a little long, and if I hadn’t been so intrigued by the first chapter it might have been challenging to get through it.
Then the action started and it was like a female Bruce Willis kicking Jurassic Park ass. I loved the main character’s name (CJ ;)) but I did find myself wishing to know a little more about her so I could care more. I still finished it and it was a good, solid action book.

The other book on my nightstand, Inkdeath, is the last book in the Inkheart series. You may remember how I found the first two at a used book store back in February, but hadn’t had a chance to grab ahold of the last one. Well, the other day I was at Books A Million trying to talk myself into buying a $45 cookbook when I spied Inkdeath while browsing through the Bargain Books section. I was so excited both for me and my wallet. I haven’t started it yet, but I’m looking forward to it.

The other book I have on my night stand is one of those new adult coloring books that is all the rage right now.

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It is a bit of a pricey hobby compared to my kids’ $2 coloring books, but the art is interesting and very relaxing. Here are a couple of the pages I’ve been working on.

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What is on your nightstand lately? Have you tried this new art therapy trend that I like to call complicated coloring?

Top Ten Animated Adventure Movies

Yesterday I mentioned how much I love animated adventure films and I thought it would be great to share my Top Ten List of Animated Adventure Movies for Kids and the Kid-At-Heart.

These movies revolve around a hero’s quest, have rich fantasy backgrounds, and well-developed worlds. Most also have a killer soundtrack and plenty of humor, which are key to a movie’s replay ability. And if you are going to invest in a movie, it’s gotta be one that will live in the DVD player instead of gathering dust in a drawer.

Top Ten List of Animated Adventure Movies for Kids and the Kid-At-Heart

The Lego Movie
Oh, Lego Movie. This was my favorite for a long time before The Book of Life usurped it. It has the best quotable lines (“Cover your butts.” “Cover the what?” Boom!) The awesomest soundtrack, and a really creative hero story. So good for boys, girls and grown ups. A great family movie.

The Book of Life

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I talked about why I love this movie in this post. It is so good that I had it on for my son the other night and as my husband passed by on the way out of the kitchen he got sucked in and wound up watching the whole thing. That man Does. Not. Watch. Movies. If that’s not a recommendation, I don’t know what is.

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Finding Nemo
Classic adventure, memorable characters, so cute and so fun. You will never forget Dory and Marlin will grow on you so much you’ll forgive his terrible joke skills.

Cars
Creative, creative, creative. We have a lot of race car fans in my house (especially since builing them is my husband’s hobby) so this one was an instant winner around here. My favorite part is when Guido does a solo pit stop.

Frozen
Does this movie even need a review? Exactly.

Ponyo
A fun twist on the mermaid on land tale. My daughters replayed this movie until the disc wouldn’t play anymore. Then we bought another copy.

Rio
Another movie with lots of awesome music. It’s funny, it has a love story but beware – your kid might suddenly bust out some samba moves when you least expect it aka when it’s least appropriate.

Wall-E
The robot character is so expressive without saying anything at all. No one talks for the first thirty minutes of this film, and neither will your kid.  My daughter used to beg me to save those plastic Easter eggs and she’d nestle the bottom into the top at an angle and call it Eva. Then she and her sister would act out parts of this movie for many (quiet) hours. Any movie that jumps off the screen and into their fantasy play is a keeper.

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Curious George
The bright colors and again, good music, make this one great for the younger crowd. Will Farell and Drew Barrymore keep the adults watching too.

Meet the Robinsons
This movie has great vision and one of my favorite messages “Keep moving forward.” The enthusiasm the creators have for this concept shows through in the story. Family fun, science and imagination all rolled into one.

So that’s my Top Ten List. What movie would you add? List them in the comments, I’m always looking for a new favorite.

50 things that make me happy list

I was nominated to make a Makes Me Happy List the other day, so of course I’ve been obsessed with it ever since! I love making lists in general, but this was the best list ever because it really cheered me up. And once I got going I came up with even more than the 50 things. That was a pleasant surprise and I will be looking over this list anytime I start to feel down, so thank you Bonnie, for nominating me.

In random order

1. Chocolate
2. My son learning to talk
3. My twins reading to me
4. My husband’s hugs, his jokes, his eyes… ok i’ll leave it there
5. Catching up on my favorite blogs
6. Cracking open a coke in a can
7. Date night
8. Browsing magazines
9. Library visits
10. Writing with colorful pens
11. Baked Salmon
12. Eating with chopsticks
13. Thin crust pizza
14. Hunting for books at Goodwill
15. Scrounging great finds at yard sales
16. Sunsets
17. Shooting stars
18. Moscato in my fancy wine glass
19. Texts from my bestie
20. Movie night with the kids
21. Reading HP while I play HP movies in the background
22. Wearing headphones while I wash the dishes
23. Clean floors
24. Checking boxes off my list
25. Bright nail polish
26. Silly rhymes and word puns
27. Swinging on the swings
28. Wearing dresses
29. A book I haven’t read yet
30. Rereading a favorite book
31. Ballet flats
32. Hanging out with my mom
33. Surprises
34. Making collages
35. Making up stories
36. Petrichor
37. Backyard grilling
38. Sparklers
39. Learning new things
40. Snapping pretty pictures
41. Catching a sample at the grocery store
42. Smelling flowers
43. Buying myself flowers
44. Picking out a new journal
45. The smell of books
45. Snuggling in my bed
47. Listening to a rainstorm (without having to venture into it)
48. Mocha creamer in my coffee
49. Tacos and salsa
50. Summer weather

So fun! Who else wants to play? I’d love to read a list by:

Jenny from Blots and Plots
And
Kristan from Kristan Hoffman

planning tips for scrapbooking

5 Tips For Planning Your Scrapbook

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Hey! The kids are back in school and after a germ attack (Jumbo-sized hand sanitizer anyone?) and several three-day weekends it seems like I may finally be able to reestablish my daily writing routine. And even though things at the store are swinging into season, I am intent on finally crafting up that copy of Sailing Le Cirque.

But rather than just diving in, I have been planning out each page. I know lots of people do their writing and crafting from a pants-based mentality, but I am not one of those people. Let’s be real, I make an outline (and several drafts) to plot how I’m gonna clean the house, people!

But hyper-listing tendencies aside, planning ahead is essential when you make a large-scale collage, scrapbook, photo album or art journal. Times when I rushed ahead without a plan, I found myself with spots that were awkward to fill or a layer glued over instead of under something. If I spend a lot of time on a part of something, like say a page in this book, and it turns out I have to redo it, I tend to get discouraged about the whole thing.

But that’s not even the worst of it. I have blown the budget on some projects because of bad planning. Other times, I’ve overused materials on the first few pages, then struggled to keep the theme cohesive when I couldn’t find those stickers or that paper at the store anymore or I didn’t remember how I mixed that exact shade of blue last time.

Here are 5 super useful planning tips to improve your scrapbook planning and help you avoid making my mistakes.

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5 Tips For Planning Your Scrapbook

1. Plan most of your project ahead of time. If it’s similar to this one– like a scrapbook, a photo album, or an art journal– you can use paper clips, post it notes and sticky dots to plan out your pages. This can be fun! (Or is that just my planner personality talking?) But more importantly, it can save you headaches and discouragement later on.

2. Draw diagrams. Relax, you don’t have to be an artist to do this. A few simple sketches labeled with key words and arrows can help you remember details more easily.

3. Work in layers. For this project, elements like paint and glue will need drying time, the sketches and lettering will be drawn separately and added as cutouts, holes for stitches need to be punched ahead, and glitter needs to be applied last. So think about not only how your elements will work together, but how they will need to be spaced out, time wise.

4. Track steps as you go. Keep paint swatches, take notes as you mix or layer things and take step by step pictures! This will keep the project cohesive, especially if you have to work in chunks over several days.

5.Planning is your wallet’s friend. Planning ahead will give you a more accurate idea of how much you actually need, preventing over spending and under buying.

6. Expect the unexpected. Mistakes stress me out, so I like to plan for them. I allot extra materials and extra time for the inevitable mistakes, problems or even random additional inspirations that strike when I’m in the zone.

What tips or lessons have you learned from your creative projects? Inspire us with your suggestions in the comments!

Don’t forget to pin this list for future reference, and follow me on Pinterest for even more inspiration.

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A List Of Many Ways To Deal With Depression

Hey, everyone. Yesterday I shared my story and I promised to be back today with this list. First I’d like to say thanks to everyone that stopped by. I was seriously considering hiding under the covers yesterday, but a simple click from you changed my whole day (Okay, my whole month).

I’m going to start with the most important one. If you get bored or think my list isn’t for you, I want to know that you at least took away the most important suggestion, the one it has taken me the longest to learn and put into practice.

  1. Give yourself permission aka Guilt is a jerk.

Give yourself permission to coddle yourself when you need it, and ditch that guilt. Depression is hard enough without feeling bad about what you need to stop feeling bad.

If this or that is what you need, then it’s what you need. Don’t let the haters get you down, especially the one in your head. In the months leading up to my thirtieth birthday, this is the main mental change I made. I’ve come to terms with how I am different. My needs are different, I accept and heed to them.

If I need to just lie down, then I will.

If I need to cry, then I will.

If a party will drain me, then I skip it.

If I need to paint my nails hot pink and bling out my headphones, then I will.

So give yourself permission to be what you need to be to make a go at being happy.

  1. Tell that witch in your head where to go.

Everyone has an inner critic, but in a depressed mind the critic often has the loudest voice. So tell yours to pipe down. Seriously, I did this for the first time when I was scrubbing the tub one day.

I was thinking about the book I am writing and that voice was all, “Eh, who are you, trying to write a book? Go back to college. No one cares what you have to say, no one wants to know what you think. Who would read this?”

And was like, “Shut up! Just shut up!”

You should have seen the look on her face! Of course this was all happening in my head while I went on scrubbing the tub, which probably proves how crazy I am, but it was a very empowering moment for me. It also makes me smile smugly now whenever I scrub tub scum.

  1. Read something funny.

If you found me just recently, then you probably found me through Jenny’s retweet. If you didn’t come by way of The Blogess, then you need to take yourself over there and join in on the hilarity that makes her readers snort drinks through their noses and the receivers of strange stares when they look like they are laughing alone in coffee shops and cubicles. You can also buy her first book here and anticipate her second book here.

Hyperbole and a half is another great, funny blog. She doesn’t really post much anymore, but the archives are enough to cheer you up for hours. She also has this book, and this one.

And I will totally depreciate myself just to hear you laugh. So you can check out this story about the time I almost destroyed my husband’s birthday. (He still doesn’t remember this day as funny, but I appreciate it. Then again, it wasn’t my birthday.)

  1. Read something lonely.

Okay, I’m probably letting my freak flag fly again, but when I feel lonely, I like reading about lonely but powerful people. Many a survivor vs. nature adventure will suffice, but Jean M Auel’s Valley of the Horses is my stand out favorite in this category. I have owned several copies of this book because the first one lost a few of its pages and the second one mysteriously disappeared. I like to read this one when I am feeling alone because Ayla is so powerfully resourceful and strong in the face of complete lonliness.

  1. Write in your journal.

There is a reason I get so hyped-up when school supply season starts. I call it spiral season! I like to bring home an entire box of college ruled spirals to last me the whole year. Add some multi-colored medium point pens and it’s a party! Just me? Okay, anyway.

I spend a lot of time writing in my journal. This is the one that helps me the most.

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I carry a notebook with me everywhere and in fact, one of the criteria for buying a new purse is Can I fit a notebook in here? If you can’t carry a notebook with you everywhere, you can try the evernote app on your phone. I use evernote for different kinds of writing and it is a very useful app to have on hand.

  1. A coke in a can and a Hershey bar.

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This combination is guaranteed to cure my depression hangover when I have been having a rough day. Sometimes I switch out the Hershey’s for a box of Raisinettes. And sometimes I switch out the coke for

  1. A glass of Moscato.
  2. When your kid says, “Look at the rainbow, mommy!” Look at the rainbow. Appreciate life’s little moments with the eyes of a child.

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  1. Go to the grocery store during sample time.

Free food and trying something new generally cheer me right up.

10. Get yourself a good pair of headphones.

Remember how you blasted music in high school? Well, this is how I still do that without waking up the kids. And I may or may not prop my feet on the wall and hang my head upside while I do this.
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(What, you thought I was lying about the bling?)

  1. Go ahead and hide under that blanket, but set an alarm to come out.

Remember how I said “If I need to lie down, then I will?” This is how I accomplish that without losing myself in a sea of sheets and sadness.

12. Act like a kid again.

Build a blanket fort, pretend you’re a princess, line up all your GI Joes then shoot them off the fence with your water gun. Whatever it is that you loved to do as a kid, incorporate it into your adult life. Having kids is a great excuse for many of these activities (bonus: serves double duty as “family bonding”). I take my kids to the park just to take over one of the only two swings. And you know, so they can have fun.

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13. Help someone else.

When I worked at a non-profit and learned the realities of the malnourished poor around the world, it helped me with perspective. Not the “People eat bugs where there is nothing else!” that I pull on my kids to get them to eat their broccoli. But just you know, I’m lucky. We’re lucky.

So clean out your closet and drop it off at Goodwill or donate some stuff to a food pantry or bring some old books to the lending library. It will make you feel good and make your house cleaner.

14. Find your Mecca.

For some people, it’s church. For others, it’s the gym. And still others, the mall. For my husband, it’s the junk yard. For me, it’s the library. Nothing makes me feel more replenished than lugging home a bag full of books after spending a quiet hour at the library. It’s like they let you bring heaven home with you! So find your Mecca and make a pilgrimage every week.

  1. Make something.

It doesn’t have to be good enough to sell on etsy. It just has to be absorbing enough to distract you. Some people knit or draw or play an instrument. I suck at all of that stuff. But I do like to craft found things into collages. Like this vision board I made or this art journal I made.

I also make party decorations for my mom’s store. I get covered in glitter and burn myself with hot glue, but man, is it therapeutic.

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16. Talk to someone, but not just anyone.

The year my dad died, a handful of other kids lost close family members too, so one of the guidance counselors took it upon herself to start a bereavement group. We met once a week for like six weeks or something.

This was simultaneously hard and helpful. Hard because I knew I was going to go in crying and come out bawling. Helpful because there is a strange sort of peace from having community with others who have been dealt the same losing hand of cards.

I also monopolized my assigned counselor’s time for most of my sophomore year. I am eternally grateful for her guidance.

So if you are in the deep end of depression, I really urge you to talk to a pro or join a group (which is also more cost effective). They will teach you coping methods that you can pull out of your arsenal whenever things start to feel tough.

But don’t feel like if you can’t afford to talk to a pro, then you’re screwed. Find someone (or if you can spread it out, two or three someones) that you can trust and approach them for a chat.

But keep in mind that these talks can be as draining for them as they are draining or uplifting for you, so use their time sparingly and responsibly.

What I like to do is journal out my feelings then go through what I’ve written to pick out the two or three themes that stick out or are really bothering me. That way, I approach the conversation with a clear idea of my needs instead of rambling randomly for three hours.

A word of caution here. Be wary of who you bare your soul to. There are people who do not understand or have very little patience for depression and talking to someone like that can have adverse effects on your psyche.

Whew, that was probably the longest thing I’ve ever posted! But I hope you have found this list helpful in some way. Please know that there is no cure-all, that every situation is as unique as the soul surviving it. I use all of these, some more (journaling, chocolate), some less (talking about it) and some at the same time (journaling, chocolate). Find a mix that works for you and remember that the right blend will change with life’s seasons. Adjust accordingly.

Now here is the most important part: It’s your turn.

What works or has worked for you that isn’t on my list? Please add your suggestions in the comments. Your thoughts could help someone else win their battle. You can be their sword with one little line of words. Can’t wait to hear from you. And thanks for reading.

Ten Things To Learn By Thirty

I just had my 30th birthday and like a lot of people, I was rather meloncholy about the whole thing. I obsessed over the unchecked boxes on my bucket list, the wrinkles in my brow and other silly things. Then an off-key Happy Birthday
Song from two 6 year-olds reminded me that I’m lucky after all.

Here are 10 more lessons I learned in the last decade.

Ten Things To Learn By Thirty

1. Happiness is as fleeting as the sunset, so bask in the light of the golden hour.
But when happiness gone, just remember, that like the sunset, it will be back again tomorrow.

2. Villians and heros are not static.
At any and every given moment each of us is playing both hero and villian to different people in our lives.

3. Family is where you make it and what you make of it.

4. We really are alone but take heart knowing that we are alone together.

5. You hurt as hard as you love.

6. But at least love is abundant.

7. You will never know what time is left of your life but you can always make the best of the time in your life.

8. You have a destiny that is as much willfully powered as it is propelled by fate.

9. You are the hero of your own story.

10. You have a great story, and it’s probably as crazy as it is true.

What did you learn from your twenties? Share in the comments!

 

celebrate yourself, pamper yourself

20 Little Ways To Celebrate Your Birthday

Birthdays are when all the people in your life make you feel special. They might bring you gifts, sing you a song and wish you well on facebook. But sometimes its nice to take a little time for you, and if you are a mom like me, chances are that time is rare! So stop feeling guilty! (Or just buy the kids those gummy bears when you’re ringing up your new outfit. Even trade.)

Here is a list of the little things you can do on your birthday (or any day) to make yourself feel extra special.

Twenty Small Ways To Celebrate Yourself On Your Birthday

1. Get yourself flowers.
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2. Read a magazine.

3. Paint your nails.

4. Spend time with your favorite people.

5. Get all dressed up.

6. Drink coffee in silence.

7. Go shopping.

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8. Write for no reason.

9. Be grateful.

10. Buy balloons.

11. Take pictures.

12. Smile.

13. Laugh. Laugh A Lot.

14. Act like a kid.

15. Do something spontaneous.

16. Eat your favorite foods.
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17. Be surprised.

18. Light sparklers.

19. Get a massage.

20. Drink a celebratory glass.
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21.Toast to yourself.

In what little ways do you like to celebrate yourself?