My 200th Post: The Good Things Jar

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Happy Friday! ¬†We made it ūüėČ ¬†I’m excited to announce this is my 200th post on this blog. ¬†That is quite an accomplishment, I must say. ¬†It signifies a commitment to my writing practice and to you, my dear readers. ¬†It’s important to celebrate all those milestones, no matter how big or small they seem in the moment.

One way we can do that is to create a Good Things Jar.  I first saw this concept posted on Facebook, but there are many different versions of it.  In fact, a friend of mine and fellow blogger recently posted about The Happiness Jar, a kind of gratitude jar, which was introduced by writer Elizabeth Gilbert.

The Good Things Jar helps you focus on something good that happened each week. ¬†You write it down on a slip of paper and place it in your jar. ¬†Then, at the end of the year, maybe even on New Year’s Eve, you can open the jar and read about all the good things that happened in 2017.

Alternatively, if you don’t have time or space for a jar, you can simply make a list and keep track that way, but it might not be as much fun. ¬†I realized I was actually doing this last year when I kept a list of “miracles” (big and small) that occurred to me or someone else I cared about. ¬†This was in response to my word of the year.

But whatever you decide to do, keeping track of your successes, what you are grateful for, and the general positives in your life is guaranteed to be uplifting.

May you have a year filled with many good things!

My Word for the Year: 2017

Bamboo Forest Illumination in Kyoto, Japan

It’s a new year, My Lovelies, and you know what that means. ¬†Time to pick a new word to represent 2017. ¬†This time, I had a little trouble choosing. ¬†A lot of words hold special meaning for me these days, some of them challenging, others encouraging. ¬†But ultimately, I realized I needed something dynamic and fun. ¬†Something that would get me excited to jump out of bed every morning and start the day. ¬†Something that would give me hope in a very complex world.

So without further ado, my word for the year is…

MAGIC

 

And here are some quotes to express exactly what magic means to me.

“You can’t tame the spirit of someone who has magic in their veins.” –unknown

‚ÄúAnd above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.‚ÄĚ –Roald Dahl

“Magic is believing in yourself. ¬†If you can do that, you can make anything happen.” –Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“Words and magic were in the beginning one and the same thing and even today words retain much of their magical power.” –Sigmund Freud

“Love is the closest thing we have to magic.” — from Aquamarine¬†(movie)

“It’s important to remember that we all have magic inside us.” — J. K. Rowling

“Magic is something you make.” –unknown

“Look for magic in daily routine.” ¬†–Lou Barlow

“By choosing to be our most authentic and loving self, we leave a trail of magic everywhere we go.” ¬†–Emmanuel Dagher

I hope you will find ways in the coming year to invite magic into your life. ¬†And don’t forget to come up with your own word for the year!

Check out the list of my past words here.

Tidying Up = Letting Go = Inviting Miracles

A new year is all about a fresh start, right? Well, what better way to start off the year 2016 than by cleaning up around the house. ¬†Sounds kind of boring, doesn’t it? ¬†I thought so too, until I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. ¬†Actually, my husband and I listened to it on audio. We both have a habit of holding onto our possessions, long after they cease being of value to us. But what good is it to be surrounded by so many things that you aren’t even sure which things you like and use and which things are just there simply because you can’t let go of them or, worse yet, forgot they even exist.

Ms. Kondo wrote this New York Times bestselling self-help book on tidying primarily for Japanese people who need to organize small living spaces, but the book has taken the world by storm and its popularity continues to grow. ¬†Why? ¬†Let me share some of the great tips and insights I learned from this book that changed the way I view cleaning and organizing. Don’t be surprised if you suddenly feel like tidying up your space too. ¬†The best part is, if you tidy all at once now and really put your things in order, you’ll never have to tidy again. What could be more appealing than the idea of never having to spend time straightening up or decluttering again?

First things first. Know that you will come away from this experience  with more than just a tidy house.  This book promotes cleaning as a way of restoring balance to your life.  How cool is that?

Here are just some of the ways tidying up will affect your life:

–The moment you start, you reset your life.

–You discover what you were really meant to do in life.

–You surround yourself only with those things truly important to you.

–Letting go allows more good things to come into your life.

–You gain confidence in your decision-making ability.

–You become more zen.

–You can truly see what you have and appreciate it.

–Your health and vitality often improve (like a detox).

–You are forced to confront your choices, which is cathartic.

–Tidying can increase good fortune.

Tips

–If you tidy only a little each day, you’ll be tidying forever.

Apparently my mom had it right years ago when she had my sisters and I “overhaul” our basement/play room rather than just straighten it up. ¬†But at such a young age, I couldn’t fully appreciate this concept. ¬†To us, “overhaul” simply meant getting rid of some of our favorite toys (and they were all our favorites), never mind we were probably too old for some of them and didn’t play with half of what was down there.

–Ask if something truly brings you joy.

–Remember everything wants to be useful.

This means that if you are holding onto a vase that you don’t like because your Great Aunt Zelda who passed away gave it to you, but you never use it or take it out of the box, then it isn’t serving its purpose. ¬†Give it away and let it “spark joy” for someone else.

–Realize that some items fulfill their purpose the moment you receive them or purchase them.

You know that sweater you bought that made your bad day better but ended up not looking that good on you? ¬†It’s ok to discard it.

–Most items are kept based on an attachment to the past or anxiety about the future. ¬†Keep only that which reflects and supports who you are today.

–If you discarded something useful, you can usually recover it or get over it.

–Own only what you love and need.

–Organizing is not the same as decluttering, so discard first and then organize what you have left.

–Declutter by category, not place.

–Best order of decluttering: clothes, then books, then papers, then misc. ¬†Save mementos for last.

Feng shui is about living in accordance with nature, so put your house in order in a pleasing way that makes sense for your life.

Favorite quotes from this book:

“One theme underlying my method of tidying is transforming the home into a sacred space, a power spot filled with pure energy.”

“The lives of those who tidy thoroughly and completely, in a single shot, are without exception dramatically altered.”

Real World Application:

My husband and I put the KonMari method to the test. ¬†Last weekend we started by cleaning out our closets, first realizing that we had clothes in several closets but with no apparent order whatsoever. ¬†I would say between the two of us, we’ll probably discard at least 6 bags. ¬†And we still have all the clothes we want and need, now arranged all together in a satisfying way. So all I can say is, what’s next?

As for you, I recommend you go out and get this book. ¬†But don’t take it from me. ¬†Try it for yourself. ¬†If you want to get your life in order, start by getting your house in order. ¬†See what happens. ¬†Trust that by letting go, the release of energy will come back to you in a new and surprising way at just the right moment. ¬†Maybe in the form of a miracle.

PS: Stay tuned for more results from me about this life-changing experience!

 

 

 

My Word for the Year: 2016

Happy new year! ¬†It’s that time again. ¬†No, not resolutions. ¬†We have enough of those to keep us occupied and sometimes frazzled and guilt-ridden. ¬†What I’m talking about is something that sets the tone for your year. ¬†One word to inspire, motivate, and sometimes even surprise you.

Here’s a list of my past words:

2013: possibilities

2014: confidence

2015: change

It’s amazing how a single word can create an entire mindset for the year. I started out with something really open and positive and then moved towards words that would challenge me and help me grow, sometimes in ways that were not always comfortable.

My husband has also enjoyed choosing a word for himself each year. ¬†Since he just graduated with two master’s degrees while working full-time, he decided his word for this year should be: reignite. ¬†As in, he wants to reignite his hobbies, exercise routine, and friendships. ¬†Sounds perfect!

As for me, I’m taking a different track this year. ¬†My word is…

Miracles

To get me started, I’m going to focus on some mantras related to this word. ¬†Two of them come from one of my favorite meditation CDs, Meditation Moment.

“I open myself up to miracles both large and small.”

“Miracles happen every day.”

The third mantra is from SARK and can be used when you find you need a little help from the universe. ¬†Fill in the blank below with whatever you need. ¬†I especially like to use this one when I’m trying to find a good parking spot ūüėČ

“________ miracle find me now.”

(i.e. Parking miracle find me now.)

You’ll be amazed at the results of inviting miracles into your life.

But don’t stop there! ¬†Come up with your own unique word for the year. ¬†Something to excite you and get you all fired up. ¬†A word that not only defines your entire year, but also each moment of each new day.

Go for it!

 

 

My word for the year: 2015

On Top of Stone Mountain

Happy new year dear readers!¬† It’s getting off to a marvelous start, don’t you think?¬† Every year needs a theme to help propel us forward.¬†¬†My¬†friend got me started on this practice of creating a word for the year.¬† I began with possibilities in 2013 and then confidence in 2014.¬† So what’s¬†my word for such a stellar new year such as this?

CHANGE

This could be the most exciting and intimidating word I’ve chosen yet.¬† Nobody likes change.¬† I think it’s part of our defense system as humans.¬† We’re taught to believe change equals something bad, when in reality, it often doesn’t.¬† In fact, by welcoming change, we invite all kinds of unique experiences and opportunities into our lives.¬† When we learn to embrace change without fear, that is when we are most likely to grow, soaring to new heights.

As my husband finishes up his masters program, I can see all kinds of change for us on the horizon.¬† Part of me hesitates, as I sit on my comfortable perch.¬† But being comfortable doesn’t always mean better.¬† And I don’t want to miss out on all life has to offer simply because I’m comfortable where I am.¬† Leaping into the unknown is scary, but it’s the kind of uncertainty that will set you free.¬† Let me offer you an example or two.

My husband and I recently took a road trip to the South.¬† He lived there for three years, but I’d never spent any time there, mostly because I felt it was too different.¬† Given the history of the culture characterized by racial inequality and differing values, I assumed I wouldn’t like it.¬† But I realize now that by not going, I was harboring my own set of prejudices.¬† Defining an entire culture based on one moment in time.¬† And as it turns out, I was missing a lot!¬† I saw a part of the country that was not defined merely by its mistakes but by its ability to claim them and move through them.¬† There is integrity in that and hope.¬† It also made me recognize more clearly the separation that still divides us close to¬†home¬†in the North.¬† I hope we can recognize and own that, too.¬† My husband¬†and I are grateful we live in a time that allows for¬†more differences and hope that trend will continue to grow in the future.

But getting back to the South.  That southern hospitality reminds me of the politeness found in Japan.  It feels genuine, too.  The cuisine blends the comfort food of the past with the modern trends of farm to table and foodie culture.  The warm climate, the Spanish moss, the charming squares, historic buildings, and the country/jazz/blues music all found their way into my heart.  I was also impressed by the diversity found in major cities like Atlanta and Nashville.  We even found a Japanese bakery, which felt like home.  Consider me a changed person already, and the year is just getting started!

Now as I sit here typing on my Dell, I face my next big change.¬† A new computer.¬† My first Apple.¬† I haven’t even opened the box, yet.¬† Ha!¬† But¬†you can trust that I will.¬† Because it’s a new year and I’m embracing¬†the change that is all around us.¬† The only constant.¬† I feel myself expanding in every direction.¬† Welcoming all the possibilities with confidence.

In the coming year, how will you embrace change?

“I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.¬† Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself,¬†CHANGING yourself,¬†CHANGING your world.¬† You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re doing something.”¬† —Neil Gaiman, author of Stardust and Coraline

 

 

 

 

 

 

Japanese Good Luck Doll

It’s almost a new year!¬† Can you believe it?¬† 2015 is right around the corner.¬† And what better way to head towards a new year than with a bit of good luck.¬† But where to find it?

One way is to purchase a Japanese good luck doll known as a Daruma, or tumbling doll, which¬†is modeled after Bodhidharma, the founder of the Zen¬†sect of Buddhism.¬† It’s traditionally made of papier-m√Ęch√©,¬†spherical, and weighted down at the bottom.¬† That way, even if it falls over, it will always¬†stand back up.¬†¬†This is¬†to symbolize perseverance.¬† The Japanese have a famous phrase: “Nana Korobi Yaoki” which means¬†“Fall down seven times, get up¬†eight.”¬† As someone who has fallen before (while running), I really appreciate this saying!

How does it work?  Think of a goal you wish to achieve.  Then fill in one of the blank white eyes with black ink.  Put the Daruma doll in a prominent place where you will constantly be reminded of your goal and what you want to achieve.  Pursue your goal as best you can.

When¬†you complete your goal and your wish comes true, it’s time to celebrate by filling in the Daruma’s other eye.¬†¬†He was motivated to grant your wish, because in turn, now he can see!

As you¬†may have noticed¬†in the photo above, I decided to purchase my very own Daruma.¬† With one eye filled in, my goal is set.¬† Now it’s time for me to get up and move towards achieving it!

What are your goals for the new year, and how do you plan to stay motivated to achieve them?

 

Ringing in 2013!

I just returned from a trip to Japan to visit my in-laws. I feel like this country is my second home, mostly because of the kindness of my husband’s family. One of the new year traditions in Japan is to go to the shrine and ring a very large bell. I don’t usually post photos of myself, but I thought this one would be an appropriate way to highlight my enthusiasm for 2013.

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Ringing in year 2013 at a Japanese shrine!

I had the usual end of year feelings of an artist. Had I accomplished enough? Was it good? Was I truly meant to be an artist? Confirmation came in unexpected places. One of which was having the pleasure of drawing with my 5-year-old nephew. I was the only one he allowed to draw on his cardboard house with him. What an honor! Of course I drew my signature frog for him ūüėČ

I had also brought a small sketch book with me to Japan, promising myself I would draw while there.¬† Then on one of the final nights we all went to dinner together to surprise my husband’s mother for her birthday.¬† I ended up sketching a picture of a borzoi, my mother-in-law’s favorite dog, for her as a gift. She was moved to tears by it, which warmed my heart like nothing else.

I realized what my focus must always be: #1 inspiring children #2 sharing my art with others

Thus far my goals for 2013 are this: to find my voice in my writing and to find my style in my art

How do I plan to get inspired? My husband gave me some inktense pencils as a Christmas gift. I also brought home some great new art tools from Japan including calligraphy pens, brush pens, and colored calligraphy ink. I can’t wait to start experimenting with them!

What are your goals for the new year?  What inspires you about 2013?  Please share!