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I must admit, I am a Summer and Winter Olympics junkie, but I am not as in on the World Cup action. I’ve checked out the scores on ESPN.com and watched a quick recap of the United States vs. England yesterday, but I haven’t made an effort to sit and watch any of the games. I loved the World Cup as a kid, because I played select soccer for many years (shout out to the Roanoke Stars!), but it’s just not my thing anymore. However, I am a big fan of huge sporting events, like the World Cup, that come around every four years, because I think they help unite people within nations and bring them together for a common cause. There is so much turmoil and fighting within countries and between countries that we often forget we are part of something bigger; we are all part of one world. The World cup reminds us that we can put aside our differences and unite for a common goal (“goal” soccer pun very much intended😉 ). Furthermore, athletic events can help boost morale; and for many people, it is a chance to put all of life’s stresses on the back-burner and focus on supporting your country and the wonderful, vibrant, diverse world we all inhabit.

So try and get in on the action in your own way, and even if a global soccer tournament doesn’t strike your fancy, be aware how important events like the World Cup are to lots of people and lots of countries. At the very least, throw your support behind your own country or another country that inspires you. I mean, even this sweet little kitten is showing its World Cup support (and its attempted soccer skills!). Check out this picture and be prepared for your heart to melt🙂 The World Cup unites nations, persons, players…and even animals.

GO USA!!! (Image obtained from http://www.gambling911.com/)

I am a true lover of cliches and overused phrases, so it’s not surprising that I often find myself saying “wow, it really is a small world after all.” In fact, just last night my cousin and I were exchanging messages on Facebook about an unexpected mutual friend, and I relayed that very phrase in our discussion. I must say, though, that it’s slightly hard for me to think of that phrase without thinking of the “It’s a Small World” boat ride at Walt Disney World. It’s the “ride” where a bunch of little plastic dolls from all over the world bob their heads and sing the song in a few different languages as you float by. It’s a great ride for the faint-of-heart (or extreme doll enthusiast) to take because it’s nice and relaxing and involves no treacherous flips or turns. I promise, my small talk about plastic dolls and outdated Disney rides is actually going somewhere…

Every couple always remembers the “first time we met” (unless that first time involved one too many “adult” beverages and the night’s events have to get pieced together after a few Advil and a next-day snooze). Nonetheless, the details are often regaled to friends and family at parties, wedding receptions, anniversary parties, etc. I think it’s always so refreshing to hear of the unlikely way a couple met or how the universe somehow pulled them together and they couldn’t help but fall in love. Everyone has his or her own interpretation of stolen first glances, shy and awkward hellos, and meet-cutes. Well, for one Boyton Beach, FL couple, their “first time we saw each other” story was a lot more interesting than they initially thought…

Just days before their wedding was to take place, Donna, the blushing bride-to-be, was showing her fiance, Alex, a few family photos from her childhood. They flipped nonchalantly from picture to picture until Alex became fixated on a specific picture of Donna and her family at Disney World. He couldn’t help but notice a familiar figure in the background of the picture – his own father pushing a stroller. As he soon realized, that stroller was occupied by none other than Alex himself. Donna’s family lived in Florida at the time and had gone to Disney World for the day, and Alex’s family was visiting from Montreal; and somehow in all the hustle-and-bustle, the two young toddles crossed paths. Little did they know that their first photo together was taken decades prior to their (now second) meeting at work where they fell in love. Let’s all let out a collective “awww” and smile as we think, wow, it’s a small world after all…🙂

What a great story to tell the grandchildren!

Sometimes, we need to be reminded of the little things in life that make us happy. We get so caught up in the chaos of daily life, that we often forget to delight in its daily pleasures. Every day, we owe it to ourselves to take time to breathe deeply and to soak in the small pleasures that make life worth living. No matter how stressful or bad your day has been, take a minute to think of something that makes you really happy, and if you’re able to at the time – act on it, if you can’t – reminisce about a time you enjoyed the small pleasure.  You’ll feel relaxed and will be smiling before you know it. And don’t push this 5 minute activity aside for “tomorrow” – remember, your own happiness is worth more than gold, and there are zillions of things in this world that make each of us happy.

The nice people over at Shine from Yahoo have gone ahead and done the dirty work for us. They have created a list of 101 small pleasures we can enjoy every day – we don’t even have to do the thinking on this one – now that’s a small pleasure in itself!🙂 I guarantee, however, that just skimming this list will induce some self-thinking about what you individually delight in – so grab a pen and paper and jot down all the little pleasures that make you happy. When you’re feeling blue, grab this list and remind yourself how lucky you are to have so many things that elate you. I truly believe that it’s the small stuff in life that really matters.

After reading Shine’s article, I created my own list of 20 small pleasures that make me feel gratified. I plan on starting a journal to list out my favorite pleasures (starting with the 20 below) and adding to it whenever I feel a twinge of inspiration. I can’t wait to relish in all the small pleasures and tokens of happiness that await me!

20 Small Pleasures I Delight In:

1. When my niece and nephew call me “Norsey” – the nickname my niece thought up for me

2. Savoring a large piece of birthday cake (whether it’s my birthday or not!)

3. Watching the sun rise or set

4. Sleeping in freshly washed sheets

5. Taking long walks with my girlfriends

6. Working on a crossword puzzle and completing it (or getting close to completing it!)

7. Feeling warm sunshine on my (sun-screened!) skin

8. Looking at family photo albums

9. Drinking margaritas and eating cheese dip outside on a hot day

10. Swinging on swings at a park or on a porch swing

11. Causing another person’s laughter

12. Sitting by the fire curled up in a blanket on a cold night

13. When my cat fall asleep on my lap

14. Reading a children’s book and looking at all the pictures

15. Chewing 2 pieces of Extra watermelon-flavored gum at once

16. Making a PB&J on white, fluffy bread and smashing it thin before I eat it

17. Taking a hot shower after a long, hard workout

18. Finding the perfect pair of jeans

19. Enjoying a nice summer night outside without getting any mosquito bites (or at least only getting a few!)

20. Soaking in the sight of beautiful gardens in the spring full of fresh, vibrant flowers

What does your own Happy Road consist of???

Check out these adorable (and lesson-inducing) videos of two creatures who are supposed to despise each other – cats and dogs – not only getting along, but loving each other. If cats and dogs can get past their differences and co-exist in love, can’t democrats and republicans, Palestine and Israel, oil and water, Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner…and you and your enemy?

When you’re feeling mad and frustrated with someone who has wronged you, be the bigger and better person and relinquish your hatred as hard as it may be to do. The act of forgiveness takes courage and only those persons truly at peace with themselves will take the risk and shake hands with their enemies. As Gandhi said, “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”

Think about it – what has hatred done for you lately? Personally, hatred has done a lot for me over the years including tearing my soul to shreds, inducing tears, and closing off my heart to others. Like we should with all enemies, I am going to chose to shake hands with my hatred (an enemy of us all!), tell him I forgive him for occupying my mind for so long, and in as kind a voice as possible – tell him to “take a hike!”

So here and now, I declare that I fully forgive those persons who have wronged me in the past, and I hope that those I have wronged will forgive me as well. I also forgive myself for holding on to hatred for so long – for I’m ready to set it free and start anew! It’s time for us to all come to terms with our mistakes and the mistakes of others and to refurbish ourselves as whole entities full of grace, acceptance, and love. Open your heart to yourself first, then open it to all those around you – remember, if dogs and cats can learn to love each other, anyone can!🙂

Because I am moving in a few short weeks, I’ve been spending some of my free time (actually, most of my time – what do you expect – I don’t have a job?!) going through all of my belongings deciding what stays, what goes, and what becomes one with the landfill (or recycling plant for all my “green” friends out there). I often tear out magazine and newspaper articles that I come across and want to read but just don’t have the time to focus on at the moment. I tear them out, throw out (recycle!) the remainder magazines and/or newspapers, and store the clippings in safe keeping for a future read-a-thon. During my read-a-thons, I fish out the folder(s) full of all my “save for later” articles and begin reading – my mind clear and ready to absorb the information – so I can eventually recycle those articles as well and replenish my “save for later” folder with new and up-do-date information. This past Saturday night, I turned off the T.V, grabbed some jelly beans (okay, so they aren’t really necessary for the read-a-thon, but they make it that much better in the end), cleaned off my glasses, and prepared myself for an all night article fest.

I scoured numerous articles I had saved on politics, health issues, fitness, etc., and I learned how to adequately care for sweaters, remove red wine stains, and perform a proper standing lunge. Yes, all very useful information, but the one article I came across that really resonated with me and made me feel inspired and uplifted was entitled “Habits of Happy Women” that I tore out of a past issue of SELF magazine. This article encourages readers to “find a serene spot, pull out a pen, and list your never-fail pleasures, no matter how goofy or self-indulgent they sound,” because, sometimes, happiness is hard to get a hold of and we all need a few guaranteed tactics to make us feel better and feel happier when times are rough. So, I suggest we all listen to SELF and start jotting down and acting upon the fool-proof ways that individually lift our spirits. Or, take the advice of the women interviewed in the article (I listed out 10 of the top suggestions) and try out their happy habits (or similar ones!) to see if they work for you. I also added one of my own and hope you will add your favorite as well to share with all of the blog readers. Now,read on, start writing, and get ready to start smiling!🙂

Photograph something every day:

“Four years ago, I started carting my camera everywhere and taking one photo a day. Sure, I have a lot of pictures of flowers or strangers in the laundry room of my apartment building, but I also have snapshots of my sister’s baby, friends’ weddings, sailing in St. Vincent and people who have come in and out of my life that I would have forgotten if I hadn’t captured them on film. When I sit down and look through my albums – another ritual in and of itself – I realize that even though I complain about my life at times, there are many reasons to be happy.”

Connect with your crew:

“The spring after my father died, I felt the need to strengthen my bonds with friends. So I organized a ‘Women I Love’ lunch as a way to boost my spirits. I invited all my friends over, we ate takeout, and one by one, I stood behind each woman and explained why I loved her. At the end of the afternoon, my friends all said, ‘You have to do this next year!’ and an annual tradition was born.”

Rock out:

“Whenever I need a lift, I get in the car, turn up my radio and sing at the top of my lungs. I may look foolish to the people in the next lane, but I’ll never see them again, so who cares?”

Be Hallmark happy:

“I love browsing in stationery stores. Typically, I’ll buy 10 or 15 funny cards all at once, stamp them, then toss them in my purse. That way, when I have a minute here or there – standing in line, waiting at the doctor – I’ll write a ‘thinking of you’ note to a friend and send it off. It gives me a good feeling knowing that they’ll have a pleasant surprise waiting for them in their mailbox.”

Enjoy a creative moment:

“When I was in Venice, I bought a leather journal that I now carry with me everywhere.l When I need an escape or just want to record a beautiful scene, I fill the pages with words or drawings. I love looking back and reflecting on what I’ve seen and heard. It keeps me linked to places I care about.”

Write a chain letter:

“After college, six of my best friends and I started a circle letter. The first person on the list writes a letter and sends it to the next person in the chain; she then adds her own letter and a treasure or two, and sends everything to the third, and so on. When it’s my turn, I put all my responsibilities on hold, curl up on the couch and sift through the photos, letters and clippings. It’s one of my favorite ways to reconnect.”

Get out the Kleenex:

“A couple of times a year I watch really sad movies, like When a Man Loves a Woman, by myself. I start crying, then I remember that this isn’t my real life and I feel better! It’s sort of reverse psychology.”

Eat like a queen:

“When I was growing up, my family had a tradition of marking our accomplishments by having the person of the hour eat off a red plate. So when I got engaged, my parents gave my fiance and me our own red plate. It reminds me how easy it is to make someone feel special. We use it to acknowledge things like finishing our taxes or getting a raise. When our puppy graduated from obedience school, he even got to eat off the red plate!”

Do something girly:

“Getting my nails done always turns my bad moods around. I usually manage to visit the salon once a week, which makes me feel in control of my otherwise hectic life. The flip side is that if my nails look scraggly, I know I need to slow down.”

Take the plunge:

“I live close to the ocean, so when I return home from work in the evenings, I like to walk by the beach, regardless of the season. If the temperature allows, I take a swim and ride some waves. When no one’s around, I may even skinny-dip. Being in the surf always makes the world melt away.”

My own fool-proof way to lift my spirits:

“I climb into some comfy clothes, turn off my phone, pop some popcorn or scoop out some ice-cream, sprawl out on the couch and watch an hour of hilarious Will and Grace, Friends, or The Office reruns. I push my ‘To-Do’ list out of sight and push anxiety and worry out of mind and, instead, zone in on the hilarious hi-jinks of Jack and Karen, Chandler and Joey, or Jim and Dwight. No matter how blue I am, I can’t help but laugh at a good joke :)”

Oh my goodness! It has been a week-and-a-half  since I have written a new blog post – I most sincerely apologize for the delay! Last weekend, one of my best friend’s left her home in the Capital City for a few days to come visit her ole friends in her previous home down in the Dirty South. The whole gang had a wonderful weekend catching up over delicious meals (except for Saturday – I contracted a stomach bug or had food poisoning and was out of commission for the day/night), and I was sad to see her go come Sunday😦 I am comforted, however, by the fact that Jenny (“Little Jenny” as I fondly call her) is following her dreams – she lives in her dream city and has her dream job and is continuing to tackle her dreams one-by-one. I am so proud of her, and although she isn’t around for last minute trips to the mall and Wednesday night margaritas and cheese dip, I can’t help but be happy for her that she can wake up smiling knowing she’s on her way to living the life she’s always dreamed. This got me thinking – isn’t this what we should all be doing? Shouldn’t we all be chasing (and getting closer to catching) our dreams everyday?

Changing your life in order to follow your dreams is scary. Trust me – I know. I’m scared to death right now. I am leaving a group of extraordinary friends, a city with more to do than I could ever imagine actually getting done, a state I’ve lived in for the past 8 years, and a lifestyle and schedule in which I’ve grown quite accustomed in order to pursue my own dreams. Unfortunately, my dreams can’t be realized in the city of Atlanta, so I must venture out of my bubble to the unknown (first stop – University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) and, essentially, start over.

If you know me at all, are my Facebook friend, have read my “About Me” on this blog, or all of the above, you pretty much know by now that I try and live my life based on the following quote from Erma Bombeck:

“When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left and could say, ‘I used everything You gave me.'”

For the past three years, I haven’t been pursuing my calling. If I died tomorrow, I wouldn’t be able to stand before God and truly say that “I used everything You gave me.” I didn’t use the positive aspects of my personality in my advertising/search marketing career, and although I learned a great deal about the business/advertising world, I realized that it just isn’t for me. I don’t want to shake hands with it ever again, and I don’t think it really wants me to return.

I am giving up my life sitting behind a computer and fixing websites in order to pursue a career where I feel that I will matter. I am going to begin graduate school this summer to obtain a Master’s in Library Science with a specialization in School Library Media in order to become an elementary school librarian/media specialist. I know that my unique talents include the abilities to make people laugh/smile, to truly listen and learn from children, and to creatively teach others how to expand their minds through reading and obtaining information. I want to go into work excited for the day and leave work feeling like I made a difference. I want to use my talents in order to give back. I truly believe that a life that is not spent helping people in one way or another is a wasted life. To give as much as you can – whether it’s your time, support, money, help, encouragement, etc. – that is to have succeeded. That is to have lived a full life.

I’ll say it again – chasing your dreams is scary – there is nothing more nerve-wracking than giving up the known in order to venture into the unknown. When I start to feel my chest tighten, my heartbeat race, and my stomach tie up in knots, I think about all of my family, friends, and mentors who have taken a dive into their own unknown abbyss – only to come out stronger and happier on the other side. We are too young to live only a life of contentment – let’s try and live a life of pure happiness filled with soul-enhancing and life-changing experiences. Although I leave my beloved Atlanta in less than a month, I am looking forward to the future and to capturing my dreams head on and, of course, to the day that I will get to smile at God and tell Him that “I used everything You gave me.”

Every morning you have two choices - continue your sleep with dreaming or wake up and chase your dreams - the choice is yours.

Give Yourself a Break!

Sometimes, we all need a little distraction in our lives – something to take our minds off of our daily stresses. It’s so easy to over-think solutions to our problems and to drive ourselves nuts in the process. We end up with more issues than when we started! When I was submitting my targeted essay for grad school, I ruminated on this one specific sentence over and over again until I got so frustrated, I slammed my laptop cover down and said “Screw it! I’ll get to it later!” I was driving myself nuts trying to edit to perfection. I finally realized that the more I seem to focus on a problem, the more problematic it becomes. When we are stressed out, upset, confused, etc., it’s good to take a break from emotional triggers and to focus our mind elsewhere. We can, eventually, return to the original problem with a clear head and clean perspective.

Yesterday, I was reviewing my “To Do” list (I write one out almost every day) and became instantly overwhelmed at what I needed to accomplish in such a short period of time. I can easily freak out thinking about everything I want to get done, and instead of actually moving forward with daily chores, I sit and wonder if I’ll be able to “do it all.” Then, I don’t get it all done, and the never-ending battle between “thinking” and “doing” plays out again and again.

This time, instead of really stressing myself out, I looked at my list, took a few deep breaths, and pushed the day’s impending busyness out of my head for a solid 15 minutes. I saw an article on Fox News entitled “Mind-Bending Optical Illusions” that grabbed my attention (who doesn’t love a good magic trick or optical illusion once in a while!?). Instead of filling it up with the worries of the world, I cleared my mind and directed all of my focus on these 12 amazing optical illusions. Afterward, I re-focused my attention on my “To Do” list with a new sense of vigor and refreshment. I had given my mind a much-needed break from the stresses that bombard it every day.

If your mind needs a break from your day (and I promise it does) – check out a few or all of these images – or find another good 15 minute distraction that will help to re-focus your brain and to push your worries out for a short time. Get up and stretch, take a 15 minute walk, enjoy some hot tea, meditate, doodle, read a children’s book, etc. You’ll feel instantly refreshed and will probably get more done than if you went a mile-a-minute on each task without taking a second to breathe. “Break” your never-ending cycle of panic by giving yourself a well-deserved “break.”🙂

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