You are currently browsing the monthly archive for January 2010.

One of my favorite things to make myself feel good is to pay it forward. Giving is such a treat for me. For a long time, we were not able to give to our friends or communities because the struggle of everyday was just too much. I treasured those times when a girlfriend called to ask me out for a cup of coffee, or over to watch a movie, or sent a card in the mail. Now that things are looking up in my world, I want to spread the good feelings whenever I can.

1> Cover lunch for a friend.

2> Send a care package to someone. Pick someone, anyone and send a little pick me up. I’ve given tea bags, pouches of cocoa mix, small things of coffee, little trinkets, bath products, whatever I think will brighten someone’s day. It always gives me a smile to think about a friend opening their mailbox to a present instead of the usual bills.

3>Donate to a favorite charity or a local cause. This is a wonderful way to honor the philanthropists in your life. I know my friends support a wide variety of charitable causes. There’s something so gratifying about picking up a few extra school supplies, or a couple cans of food, or finding a great outfit on clearance to give away.

4>Volunteer. I know, I know, we’re all extremely busy. Between work, kids, school, and life there’s not a second to breathe let alone volunteer. Take a good look around your local community–is there a mentoring program you can hit up @ lunch once a week or so? What about your kids schools–do they need a little help? Maybe you have a great talent for something–look for a single project that showcases your talents. It doesn’t have to take a lot of time–most of my “planned” volunteering takes place the weekend before Christmas when my family treks en masse to the local community center to pack holiday boxes. It’s something we look forward to every year.

5>Duplicate dinners. Make a double batch of whatever you’re cooking and take some to a friend or family member who’s having a hard time, working late, or could just use a night off.

6> Sneak treats to friends. I will occasionally leave a favorite treat, usually chocolate, on my co-workers’ desks while there up and about the office. Once I snuck a sample sized bath product in a bag of books I was returning to my neighbor. Get your creative juices flowing and make sure someone special has a surprise waiting for them.

7>Clean out your closet. You know that you’re just dying to get yourself a new wardrobe (at least that’s what’s on my spring to-do list!). If you don’t wear it anymore, just don’t like it, or can’t remember the last time you used it, send it on to a new home. Someone will love that beautiful blouse that just isn’t your color, or those comfy jeans that now fall off your hips.

8> Pick up the tab….for a stranger. I will never forget the day this happened to me. It still makes me tear up with gratitude.

9> Go visiting. Every once in a while, I’ll drop in on my grandma just because. Or I’ll call an old friend an plan a trip to their area. Occasionally, I’ve dropped in on friends in the hospital–either while they were supporting a loved one, or there because they needed to be there. Sometimes bringing a cup of coffee, sometimes just a card and a prayer.

10> Be the clean-up crew. Have you ever thrown a party and done all the clean-up yourself? It’s no fun. Next time you’re invited to play, offer to help with the set-up or tear down. Even little things like rounding up the trash from the tables or carrying dishes to the sink can take some of the burden off the host. Being the clean-up crew doesn’t stop when the party’s over. Pick up the trash you find on the ground instead of leaving it for the next person.

Even little things make a huge difference. So go ahead, give yourself a smile and make someone’s day!


My family could always tell when I was getting bored. One day I’d go to bed with mid-back length brown braids and the next day I’d be out and about with a shoulder length (or shorter) burgundy ‘do. There’s just something so refreshing about changing up the hair.

I tend to stick with tones of red–auburn, burgundy–the darker the better you won’t find any strawberry blonde on me! Every once in a great while I’ll venture into the land of blonde. Since I’m a natural brunette, blondes require more maintenance than I am usually willing to devote. Wash and wear is my hair motto. If I can’t wash it and go, you can bet it’s a ponytail or braid. I never said I was a girly girl–much to my mother’s dismay.

I’m a do-it-yourself kind of girl. We never had the extra money to pay someone to color my hair so I’d venture to the world of the public beauty supply store. No drugstore boxed kits for me! Wandering down the hair color aisle, I’d be bombarded by different brands and colors. Grabbing the developer and a few (depending on how long my hair was *that* trip) boxes of color, I was on my way to a whole new hair adventure.

As I got older, I started thinking about what I was putting on my hair. All those chemicals smell nasty and are not good for the environment. Then I discovered henna. Henna–finally a hair color I could use while pregnant! (A state it felt I was constantly in for about 3-4 years.) Henna combines the best of both worlds–tomboy meets girly. What else can make a mud-like paste that will color your hair or your skin? (aka henna tattoos–body art without needles!)

I can’t say that I’ve fallen off the chemical dye wagon for good. Sometimes you just want a nice, bright, purple streak or five in your hair. Still, if it’s been a long time between dye jobs I’m more likely to just grab a brick of henna and mud up the hair. The color is less obvious as it fades and my hair feels so wonderfully soft afterward.

As winter winds down and the blahs set in, it’s time to start thinking about a new ‘do. Do I go for a trim, something really short, or somewhere in between? Should I opt for more henna, using up the old boxes of dye, or try something completely new? What do you do when it’s time for a change in your everyday hair?

What do you do when the neighbor kidnaps your children for the evening at dinnertime? Well, my original plan involved lots of bubbles, books, and a lovely blueberry wine I had been saving. Just as I was gearing up for a night in the tub, I hear “we have these gift cards….” and the rest is history.

It’s been a long time (nearly a year and before that over a year) since my husband and I could have an actual date. When you’re just this side of broke, with kids, and school, and work, and life sometimes little things like spending time with your spouse take a back seat to everything else. This is not good for a relationship, it’s not good for the person, and really if mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody in the house happy. We’re still dealing with the post-holiday bills that came on top of two-weeks out-of-town, out-of-pocket so finances were really, really tight. Still, we had those gift cards…

I looked at the menu online while the hubbs took the bottles back. (Yes, the bottles had to go back so we could have a date. It could have been worse, we could have had no bottles.) Then I looked at the movie schedules and we decided on a time (that really would have been better if we were younger with no small children) and off we went. We looked at the bottle cash and decided that we could totally splurge on the Imax presentation of Avatar at a mere $4 more per ticket. Then I found the gift card I had stashed for gas for the week and we had snack cash too!

The evening began at the Outback where we enjoyed quiet conversation and an entire meal served at the right temperature with no little fingers in it. Then hubbs bought the movie tickets (still 2 hours away) and we hit up the local 24-hour store for some exercise (chasing each other with shopping carts is good exercise, just don’t get caught). We somehow managed to not get thrown out of the store and headed to the theater. We stood in the ridiculously long line (did I mention it was a 10:45PM show, on a Sunday) for popcorn and drinks, grabbed the nifty 3-D glasses and found seats. Somehow we managed to cram ourselves into the chairs without injuring anybody (we have a little extra padding) and settled in to enjoy a movie without the constant interruptions that come with movie-watching with small children.Somehow we even managed to avoid shocking the frat boys behind us and kept our hands mostly to ourselves.

The dinner was nice, the movie was great, the ability to get out and interact without three small children was priceless. We did have to crawl into bed when we stumbled through the door at 2am. Still, sometimes you just have to let it all go and get away with your partner. It doesn’t have to be for a full night, or even for dinner. Take a walk, go to the park, visit the place of your first date (located in the same mall as the movies for us), pack a picnic and go. The focus is on spending quality time with your partner, without the distractions that are common at home (like the internet and children).  I know that if we had waiting for a “good time”, the gifts would have gone to waste. Sometimes there is no perfect time, there’s just right now. Sometimes right now is the perfect time.

There’s something about tea that brings to mind warm, sunny days. Probably because my first experience with tea was the iced form, a refreshing treat on a hot summer day. Tea is no longer used just as a cold beverage on a hot day. It’s something to warm you when the weather is cold, something to make you feel better if you’re sick, a drink with dinner, or afternoon snacks. Something to take to work in the morning. Tea is just one of those multi-purpose wonders in my life.

My husband jokes about my tea taking over the house. He’s not really kidding. I have an entire shelf in our small pantry for my tea stash. I have loose-leaf tea in canisters and bags, boxes of tea bags–in many flavors, medicinal teas, and teas specifically for serving cold. More than just the tea itself are the tools–I have tea pots, tea cups, tea strainers, and even a travel tea cup complete with mesh strainer for making whole-leaf tea on the go.

My children learned from a very young age how to prepare the tea pot and measure the tea, how to strain into cups and choose the right sides to compliment (milk or cream for spicy teas, and sugar or honey for fruitty teas). Tea parties take on a whole new meaning in our home—we get out the flowered tea pot and the fancy tea cups, we carefully choose the tea we’ll brew and what snacks (if any) we’ll serve. We create our space and put down a nice cloth, lay out our snacks, and when the water has boiled, the tea steeping in the pot.

Even on a cold winter day, a cup of tea brings to mind sun and warmth. I can tailor my tea to my mood–something spicy and warm like chai, a strong black tea like assam, an earthy green tea. I can have my tea iced, or hot, or warm with honey. However I choose to serve it, I can have my cup of sunshine any time of the year.

Tribal Style begins her series on The Care and Feeding of Zils.

Spectacular Me! only has one resolution for the new year.

Modern Sage is at a Crossroads.

Wouldn’t You Like To Know? struggles with addiction. And not her own.

Socgradmama is reminded of her own power.

Get MamaBirdie’s perspective on Reiki at the official Blog.

Melia Lore takes a slightly painful, slightly humorous walk down memory lane with the Ex Files.

Moves in Curves has a new book review: What Happens in London.

Luscious Decadence takes herself Out to Dinner.

The Inside Life Regains Herself.

Catch up with the Social Justice Week in Review on Equality and Justice 4 All!

Mama Duck reminds herself to Stop Waiting and Live in the Moment.

One of my favorite things to do for myself is enjoy a nice meal, solo. Yesterday I was given an unexpected last minute chance to head out for dinner by myself. I could have just grabbed something at the drive-thru and been home earlier. Drive-thru is just not my thing.

Instead I headed over to this little lake front Chinese restaurant that I’ve been going to since I was a girl. It’s cold here so I opted out of the window seat, instead getting a cozy booth with a stunning lake view on an inside wall. Before even taking my seat, I was greeted by a breathtakingly beautiful view of the sunset over the lake. When I entered the restaurant it was at that time that was not quite twilight but close.

As I was perusing the menu, the sky was changing from the light blues of afternoon to the darker blues, purples, and oranges of twilight. The snow and ice on the lake were pale and shimmering against the darkening sky. The bright, orange-red sun shone through the large windows. From my seat, I could see the tree in the courtyard still lit up for the holidays and the garden lying dormant, just waiting for spring to come again. I allowed the peace of the evening wash over me. It was a beautiful way to wind down from the day.

By the time my meal arrived, it was full dark outside and the lights were sparkling against the windows. I turned to my meal and my book, enjoying the peace of a nice meal and a good book. My meal finished, the next chapter read, I was able to return home to my family relaxed and refreshed thanks to my unexpected night out.

The Inside Life is Taking Inventory.

Modern Sage invites her readers to Come Out Come Out WHOever You Are!

Moves in Curves has a list of Movies to See in 2010.

Melia Lore has kindly provided us with her Favorite 15 Songs of 2009. Turn it up!

Moments to Keep posted her first post, The Semi-Beginning.

Wouldn’t You Like to KnowHow Long the Hair on Her Legs Is?

Got a Special Spot? Luscious Decadance does!

SocGradMama is only one week into 2010 and already has Learned Some Lessons.

Equality and Justice 4 All at Camp Courage!

Know CPR? Mama Duck reminds us all how important it is to learn.

Gray Gaia has a Funny Perspective for you.

We are so used to light now. Thanks to electricity we can have our homes be as bright as noontime in the middle of the night. Light is a wonderful thing. Too much bright light…well, that’s another story.

When I want to relax, the last thing I want is bright light. Even the bulb of a lamp can be too much. Sometimes I’ll turn the lights off and open the curtains at twilight. This lets the natural light softly filter in bringing the colors of night with it. There’s something soothing about the deepening blues and purples and red-oranges that signal the day is over.

When the weather will not cooperate, I use candles. Their flickering flames gently light the world around them. I have several candle holders, depending on my mood. My current favorite is stained glass in oranges and greens. I have a plain pillar candle inside and it casts a beautiful colorful glow when it’s lit. I also have a variety of tea light holders–tea lights are a versatile candle. They come with their own little cups making cleanup a breeze. I put them in plain colored glass, arrange them in front of a mirror, or put them in the little “lanterns” my children made for the holidays.

For those who are not comfortable with real flame, there are now a variety of flameless candles. These little wonders flicker like flame and can set a similar mood. Using batteries instead of fire, they are safe to use in areas where normal candles may not be.

There’s just something magical about relaxing by candlelight.

It’s winter here. Not just winter, it’s heading into the coldest part of the year. The time when just breathing the air outside hurts. Just because it’s cold outside, doesn’t mean you can’t be warm and toasty inside.

On days like today, I love my “warm fuzzies” as I call them. My entire family has their own warm fuzzies–for some it’s a blanket, others have a robe, or slippers, or pjs. They are as vital to our wellbeing as the air we breathe.

Personally, I have some yummy pajamas in either soft cotton or fleece. Depending on how cold it is, or how I feel I may also add on a fluffy robe and my favorite blanket. The feel of the fabrics is just as important to me as the warmth. I want to feel the warm softness against my skin. Sometimes just reveling in the sensation of well-broken in cotton, soft, fluffly fleece, or warm brushed flannel is the perfect comfort on a cold winter’s day.

I have a habit of moving frequently. Ever since I was a very small child, it’s been rare for me to be anywhere more than a year or so. Constantly changing environments bring their own stresses as well as their own joys. Though the years I have learned to create some space for myself wherever I happen to be. I make some space in hotel rooms, camp sites, dorm rooms, and in every new home my family finds. It’s second nature by now. Since I am not tied to any geographical location, I have adapted to bring “home” with me. And at the end of the day, wherever I am, my space is where I go first to center, relflect, and often cleanse myself of all the junk the day can bring.

Anyone can create space. It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate. When I’m moving around frequently or staying out of town, my space is usually some small items of personal meaning that are carried in a small pouch. My last portable space included a cloth, a satin bag filled with stones–some gems, some treasures from my children, some sage and sweetgrass, and a gift from an old friend. What I carry with me depends on my purpose, needs, and how I’m feeling when I pack. It’s not a standard “kit”–it’s something that I can easily tailor to meet my needs.

At home, I have several spots–my desk where I go to think, my tub where I go to relax, and my sacred space, where I can meditate and cleanse myself of all the energy I’ve picked up during the day. I may come in the room, get come comfy clothes on, light a couple candles, burn some incense, turn on some music and just let myself be for a few minutes. I may turn on some different music and burn off some steam. I may just spend some quiet time with my spot and recenter myself.

Everybody should have a spot or two of their own. Somewhere to go when life gets rough, when you are lost in thought, or when you have this great idea that needs to get out. Where do you go when you need to be–to think, to relax, or to create?

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