Gratitude Journals

3A few months ago a friend of mine was really struggling with some recent big mistakes she made and the backlash from parents.  She was posting lots of depressingly intense yet vague Facebook updates.  You know the kind.  The ones that don’t actually say what happened and yet try to guilt trip you  – “I can’t believe how terrible today was! Everything was awful and no one came to help me!”  Jeff and I would try to offer support without chasing and encouraged her to use the skills we knew she had to get out of her own way.  I had made her a gratitude journal a few years ago and it seemed like a perfect time to make her some new ones.

If it wasn’t obvious, a gratitude journal is a notebook filled with inspiring quotes or images and then instead of writing a traditional diary post, you just write down like 3-10 things you were grateful for that day.  It’s a way to remind yourself of the good you experienced and as you continue to do it, you start to become more consciously aware of just how many big and small things that occur in your life that bring you happiness.  There are even apps you can download if you don’t want to carry around a notebook all the time.  When I had made them for the girls at the treatment center, for some of them it was practically impossible for them to find anything good about their day, let alone 5 things that I had given them the assignment to write down.  But after just a few weeks, they asked if it was okay if they wrote more than just 5.  That was a proud moment.

When I created this journal, I began by finding quotes on gratitude and thankfulness which quickly spread into quotes about things I’m grateful for like love, family, nature, and finding freedom from fear.  After compiling  about 60 quotes, I began the long, yet surprisingly relaxing task of creating the individual pages in Photoshop.  These are some of my favorites:



6After printing them all out, I started the long task of cutting them all to size.  While I did that, Jeff helped me design the covers.  I love the texture he added so they look like vintage Indian wooden block prints.



I decided that I wanted to make lots of journals to give away to multiple people, so I divided the quotes into booklets, each booklet containing a weeks worth of quotes, so totaling 8 booklets or 2 months worth of journals.  Just organizing them into booklets was  a major challenge because I printed enough for 10 sets.  10 didn’t seem like a lot initially, but I soon realized that meant I had about 630 individual pieces of paper to sort out.


Once in booklets, Jeff found a great excuse to breakout the power tools again and drill some holes for me through the booklets so I could experiment with Japanese stab binding.  There are so many ways to bind paper with that technique, but I chose the design, hemp leaf, because it was more elaborate than the basic 4 holes, but still pretty simple.  I had it mastered after just 2 times of threading my twine through the booklets.


I loved the look of the earthy colors of twine with the kraft paper.  These are perfect for gifts, projects for Young Women or Relief Society activities, and especially for yourself to nurture and expand your own peace and happiness.  Create your own or send me a message and I’ll give you the hook up.

Succulents Planter Boxes

When Jeff and I got married, I wanted tons of succulents and cacti to decorate with instead of flowers.  A few years ago, I had purchased about 100 glass jars and vases from a candle company that was going out of business.  These became the home for our tiny succulents and I absolutely loved them.

baby succulentsWell, after 7 months, some of these once tiny succulents and cacti are huge.  The aloe vera is, frankly, out of control.  It was definitely time to give them a new home and after lots of searching and searching and not finding what we wanted, we decided to make our own planter boxes.

With relative little planning and leaving all the math equations to Jeff, we headed to the store for supplies.  A few hours of cutting, drilling, sanding, staining, and drying – voilà, really handsome, rustic planter boxes.

succs 2It took a little juggling to figure out which plants should go in which box, and in the end we had space left over.   So, of course, that meant another trip to get brand new succulents.  I lined the bottom of the box with a trash bag to prevents leaks.  Then I spread a layer of river rocks for drainage – too much water will kill these little guys.  Once they were planted, I had some tiny black rocks that we spread all over to give it a really nice touch.  Jeff said it looked so good that it looked fake!

I’ve also been wanting an herb garden for a while, so we got a some of those as well – chives, thai basil, cilantro, oregano, sweet basil.  They live behind the kitchen sink now, so it’s so easy to just clip off some herbs, wash, and then cut them up with my awesome 5 blade herb scissors I got for Christmas.


My lovely mother-in-law has kindly agreed to babysit them while we are away on our travels.  It seems silly, but I know I will miss them.  Having so much greenery surrounding us in so many areas of the house will be sad to leave behind.


One of my favorite things about having these is watching Jeff care for them.  I thought he would think they were cool, but since I’ve brought them home initially, he has been the one to water them, fertilize them, trim off the dead parts, and has done a lot of research about them when a few weren’t looking too good.  He’s going to be a good daddy for sure :)

40 Days of Lent

When I was in the 3rd or 4th grade, I was sitting next to my friend, Nikki, as she explained to us what Lent was and what she was planning to give up for 40 days until Easter.  I thought it seemed like a rather humble and pious thing to observe and was impressed that people all around the world were trading worldly vices and habits for repentance and gratitude.  Then she said she was giving up fish for Lent – she didn’t even eat fish to begin with.  Then came the explanation of Mardi Gras – oh, jeez.

I was amazed and rather appalled that something that was intended for self-reflection and improvement had become a joke or an excuse for indulgence for so many.  Over the years I’ve wondered how many people woke up Easter morning to discover they were pregnant or their marriage was in jeopardy due to their indiscretions on Mardi Gras. Thankfully, there are many who take the Lenten season seriously and become better for it.  A friend shared an article from White House Black Shutters today about simplifying your life by de-cluttering your home one space at a time for 40 days.  Another one over at Catholic All Year had lots of ideas for “beginners, intermediate, and advanced” levels of sacrifice and commitment.  These were some of my favorites:

1. Don’t eat out at restaurants
2. Make all your food from scratch
3. Grow/raise all your own food
1. If you like email, make phone calls
2. If you like talking on the phone, write letters
3. Go visit someone in person
1. Give up one particular type of treat
2. Give up all sweets
3. I’m pretty sure there’s nothing harder than that

So although my faith doesn’t officially recognize Lent (perhaps because we strive for self-improvement and make lots of sacrifices all year long – those 3 hours of church are often the  l o n g e s t  of the week) I felt compelled to observe it this year.  I wanted to sort of combine the ideas I found of de-cluttering with connecting more and improving my relationships.  I’m going to clean out my collection of scrapbook papers (a vast collection a hoarder could be proud of) and make a card to send to 40 friends and family members.

To keep me motivated, I’ll post pictures of some of the cards I made.  To get me started, here’s some lovely lovely inspiration from Coco/Mingo.




Here are some of the cards that I’ve sent for Lent

Insights: Love your enemies

I just discovered what is the best, most honest, funny, hopeful, amazing blog.  In fact, I’m a little mad I discovered it only just now.  Have you heard of Momastery?  Please, whatever else you do today, make some time to read and be inspired by the writings of Glennon Doyle Melton.  Seriously, her words are that important.

Glennon is a recovering alcoholic and bulimic.  She is a wife and mother and sister to her thousands of followers.  She is a writer, the kind of writer that takes those impossible things that you could never express and eloquently and honestly shares those stories.  She talks about hard things.  The kinds of things we fight our whole lives to keep secret because we’re ashamed or embarrassed or sad or lonely or tired or numb.  She takes those fiercely protected secrets and blurts them out and makes us realize how universal our very personal secret problems and issues are, shared by so many in the world.

I loved reading post after post, partly because I’m so proud of the growth and progress I’ve made in my own life, but also because it highlighted and normalized those things I still do that I’m not proud of.  It feels so empowering to recognize my successes and also have the courage to look at those areas that still need refining.

One of those areas that needs loads of refining is dismissing or excluding people that I find hard to love.  I have two people in my life right now that I find extremely hard to love.  One is obnoxious, selfish, arrogant, and boastful.  The other is sad, anxious, harsh, and exhausted.

For a while now, I’ve felt absolutely justified in creating as much distance as I can between them and myself because who would want to be friends with people who acted like that?  Even though they have completely different personalities, when I’m around one of them, I feel the fun and life and inspiration getting sucked out of me.  I find it so hard not to have an emotional reaction even when I just think of them.

The second time I went to Africa, my friend and mentor, Kathy Headlee Miner, gave me a challenge to write down all of my fears.  I was pretty good at lying to myself back then and even though so much of my life was real happiness, I would dismiss things that I thought were negative like being lonely or worried.  I thought if you were happy then you couldn’t have any troubles in your life.  The biggest culprit was using gratitude as a way to say those things shouldn’t hurt or scare me because I have so much to be thankful for.  I am the queen at avoiding hard emotions.  It took a long time to make my list and get honest with myself, but by the end, I had some insightful, rather telling list of fears.

I had a few that I thought were pretty normal, universal fears.  I am afraid of disappointing other people.  I am afraid of being left behind or being alone.  But the one that fuels a lot of my anxieties in life is I am afraid of other people ruining my experience.  Ruining it by taking over, or not caring, or getting in the way.

As Kathy and I worked on ways to help me deal with my list of fears, she talked about one of her favorite parts from the Sermon on the Mount, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.”  She said when we read this, we usually think of praying for enemies that their hearts will be softened and will stop being jerks.  And while we should pray for such things, she said we would be wise to start praying for enemies to enter our lives as if we were asking for them like we would blessings.  Enemies teach us so much about ourselves and often our true colors are shown under duress and persecution instead of peace.  They give us the opportunity to experience growth in ways that might otherwise not be possible.

So as I think about those two seemingly unlovable people in my life, I try to look beyond those annoying or depressing qualities that seem to dominate their personalities.  I try to recognize that what I’m primarily feeling is that I’m afraid that they might ruin my experience in that moment.  I try to look for ways to interact with them and involve them in my experience instead of shutting them out.  I learn to sit with those uncomfortable feelings and let them pass so I can feel empathy instead of judgement, peace instead of frustration, and love instead of loathing.

Of course, if one of these people was Kim Jong Un, then maybe he’d deserve a little loathing.  Luckily mine just need love and kindness and service and not an intervention from the UN.  The last thing they need is one more person who dreads being around them, which I’m sure they sense and just fuels their sadness and shame.   And the last thing that I need is focusing my energy on my self-righteous notions of why I’m more well behaved or pleasant to be around when I could be making them feel welcome not uninvited.  My wise friend Kathy sums it up beautifully by saying, “When we serve each other we remember who we are, Whose we are, and who everyone else is.”  When we serve with our whole heart, it is impossible not to love each other and see one another for who we really are.

Love your enemies

Freebie: Valentine’s Day Printable


Happy Valentine’s Day!  This is our first Valentine’s as newlyweds and I must say, it’s definitely all it’s cracked up to be.  Our celebrating hasn’t even begun yet, but just snuggling with your one true love is just the best feeling.  With only a few exceptions, I’m so surprised how closely my marriage reflects what I hoped and dreamed for as I grew up.  Luckily a lot of those exceptions are better than what I anticipated.  Real love is certainly better than any Disney movie I ever watched.    Having him work from home and that he can work anywhere is way better then sending him off to work each day with a kiss and I tend things at our home in the suburbs.  Perhaps when the children come, that will be our lives, but we need our fill of adventure until then.

As we continue preparations for our upcoming adventure, I’ve been surprised how well I’m doing getting used to the idea of living with very little as we travel.  I love shopping and finding hugely discounted bargains that I find to bring home, so it’s been hard to not only cut out almost all spending, but over the past few weeks, I’ve been selling boxes and boxes of clothes, shoes, and bags.  In fact, I’m a little embarrassed how much stuff I’ve collected over the years.  It’s curious how symbolic those things were as they mirrored the boxes and boxes of emotional baggage I gathered during that same time.  It’s been surprisingly liberating to get rid of it all, to focus on the essentials, and realize (in all areas of my life) what is most important.   And so that thought goes perfectly with quote on my Valentine card, “The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.”

Highlighted: Perpetual Calendar

perpetual calendar

I love dreary weather.  Rain and lightning storms, snow, fog, and dark clouds would be in my ideal forecast.  My favorite colors of greys and taupes would be considered boring and blah by most, by they are so cozy to me.  I like sunshine and summer just fine, but mostly summer to me equals being sweaty, frizzy hair from the humidity, and never enough Otter Pops to keep cool.

Cold, dreary weather equals some of my favorite things – cozy blankets, fireplaces, and hot chocolate.  Not to mention boots and scarves, hot apple cider, lots of baked goods to warm up the house, all the holidays and festivities, and my favorites – snuggling and cuddling.  Even writing this post, I’m curled up on the couch (with my squnched arms and wrists definitely not in an ergonomically correct position) in my favorite grey cardigan and emerald scarf and wrapped in the warmest, softest, squashiest blanket I’ve ever had.

So it was no surprise that I immediately fell in love with this calendar from Arina Pozdynak.  The tones and colors, the mist and fog, and I love the artist’s message about why she didn’t include individual dates.  “Don’t mind what day it is today … just live.”  Since I started working from home a few months ago, it’s been the first time since I was probably four years old that I do whatever I want all day long.

It has been so liberating to just be and to have time to do all the creative things I would consistently put off when I was in school or working.   Obviously when a madly-in-love, newlywed couple both work at home we get distracted a lot, but I know we will certainly miss this time together when we have kids and busier schedules and perhaps a job that he needs to go to an office for.  So for now I spend my days being utterly spoiled and absolutely loving it.

Words to Live By: Curiosity

replace fear

Each day that comes brings with it the nearness of summer and our dreams of moving abroad.  I love doing research about moving to Spain, finding beautiful pictures from all over Andalusia, and I’ve even begun collecting Spanish recipes I want to try out (like yummy churros and dipping chocolate).  I get so excited just thinking about our life that is to come.

With that excitement, there is fear that sometimes accompanies it.  I’m typically quite calm and relaxed and thankfully, I’ve never been plagued with constant anxiety and fear like so many friends and family members I know.  However, I do find myself at times wondering and worrying about the what ifs…  What if it takes so long to make enough to move?  What if we run out of money?  What if I get pregnant overseas?  What if we have consistent bad experiences and we find traveling the world isn’t all it’s cracked up to be?

Luckily, I have a lot of practice listening to others play the what if game and validating their fears, but then eventually directing them to a more balanced mindset instead of being trampled by their emotions.  Before I had all this practice, I made some pretty big errors in my own thinking when I was the one who was fearful.  Because I’m pretty chill and logical, as soon as I would have the what if thoughts, I would immediately dismiss them as silly, unproductive thoughts, and would move on to the solutions.  I thought it actually worked pretty well for 25+ years.  What I didn’t realize the emotional damage I was doing by not validating my fears and just skipping that part and moving on to the solutions.

Because I’m not having fears of elaborate, catastrophic what ifs like apocalyptic zombies or Godzilla or things like that, it’s easy for me to be dismissive about things that really are important to me.  Now that I have more practice, I realize that it’s perfectly reasonable for me to wonder and worry about what if I get pregnant in another country, away from my family, unable to speak the language?   Feelings of fear, apprehension, confusion, and worry are actually just intended to prompt us to seek more information so we can make decisions, but too often we get stuck and unable to move past the fear.  The easiest way for me to replace fear with curiosity is to answer the what if questions.  What if something terrible happens in Spain and we use up all our money to get out of trouble?  Well, depending on the rest of our plans at the moment, we might get a loan from the bank or family, or maybe we’d just come home.  Not that scary after all, right?  Even what ifs that end in death and dismemberment, those are usually pretty improbable and I’d rather those calculated risks than the risk of cowering in the suburbs for all my days.   In the end, I always find that the immobilizing fear of the what ifs is far worse than if those fears were actually realized.  So here’s to adventure and discovery, to living instead of just existing, and above all, to love and peace and curiosity instead of fear.

creative life


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