Living In The Moment

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How often are we ever truly living in a moment? All senses tuned, full concentration engaged?

I feel like our society is one that doesn’t innately teach us how to live presently. It seems we are either being driven by a sense of regret or blame (living in the past), or else one of guilt, stress, or discontentment (living in the future). Perhaps our minute-to-minute feelings aren’t so black and white as that, but are we always keeping a mental to-do list running on loop in the background of our consciousness?

Today, I want to encourage you to BE. Pick a moment. Whether it is at a mealtime, or on a coffee date, while you’re walking through a park, reading your child a book, wrapped in your husbands arms, or even just sitting at your workspace.

Open up your senses. Feel the world around you. What do you see? Smell? Taste? Hear? Touch? How does your heart respond to those things?

What fades into the shadows during those moments of present-living? It’s a beautiful thing…being fully there. Your soul will be imprinted with those moments forever. Your heart will soften to a place of gratitude.

It’s how to grasp onto life, instead of letting life run you over. Will you give it a try today? This weekend?

Be.

**Don’t forget to enter to win a May Day Basket of spring goodies from me this week! Just a little thank you for being a faithful reader.~ If you haven’t already, you can enter HERE.

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Thoughts On Following Your Dreams

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Hello beautiful readers! I’m Jenny Highsmith, of Maiedae, and I’m so happy to be doing a guest post for Kristin! When she asked me to do a post on “How to Follow Your Dreams”, I was thrilled. A while ago, I shared on my blog the exciting news about how I quit my 9-5 job on April 12th (woohoo!!) and went full-time with Maiedae. I am so so so excited and happy to finally be taking this risk. You can read more about that story on my blog here – http://www.jennyhighsmith.com/2013/03/the-winds-of-change-are-blowing.html .

For those who don’t want to read the whole story, pretty much what you need to know is that I’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur. I’m a graphic designer and an artist – I love making things beautiful. But, I realized as I grew up that making your dreams happen wasn’t the way the movies made it out to be. It wasn’t easy.

Kristin made a good point that many people would follow their dreams if they only knew how. So, how does one follow their dreams? I’m definitely no expert, but if I were to break down what I’ve learned on my journey of following my dreams, I would give these four pieces of advice:

 FOCUS

 We all have dreams, passions, and talents.  From the time we are really little all the way through our life, we have dreams. About our future, about what we want to be, about our passions. The thing is, our dreams constantly change and sometimes we have so many we don’t know where to start. Sometimes, we have dreams and we aren’t gifted or talented at all in those areas. So, the first step is to focus or narrow down your top dreams and passions and figure out where your talents line up with that.

 To do this, I would suggest taking some time to get away and write out all of your passions, talents, and dreams. Look for common themes. And, at the end of the day, look inside your heart and decide what really “gets you going”. For me, I’m passionate about art, hospitality, family, building relationships, bringing others joy, and a lot of other things. But, when I thought about the day-to-day, what really satisfies my soul is creating beautiful designs or art for others in order to help them pursue their passions and fulfill their potential. I love enabling others to accomplish their dreams by making things beautiful. And although I might be passionate about those other things, this is what I chose to focus on and pursue as my “career” dream.

 PLAN & PREPARE

Although risk is required in almost every case of pursuing your dreams, planning and preparing for those risks is just as important. You might think, “Then how is it a risk if you’ve prepared for it?” Well, if you’re deciding to quit your 9-5 job like I am and decrease your salary by half, that’s a huge risk. Not planning or preparing financially for that risk would be unwise, but doing so doesn’t make it less of a risk – it just makes you smart.

When I realized that I wanted to pursue Maiedae full-time as a career, I took a risk and moved to Atlanta with little preparation. I didn’t have a job, I didn’t have a support group, and I didn’t have a huge savings account. I couldn’t prepare for some of those things, but I could have prepared more than I did. So, when I realized that it was time to start thinking about preparing for going full-time with Maiedae, I sat down with my husband and we starting planning out financially how we could best prepare for this transition. We set goals for our savings account and started living off of the new budget that I would be on with Maiedae to practice and see how it would work. We prepared and planned and took a “calculated risk”.

STOP DREAMING & START DOING

Whoever said that dreams come easy was LYING to everyone and should be shunned. Okay, maybe not. I think maybe it’s just that, as a child, we all look through life’s window with our eyes glazed over with possibility. We think we are invincible and that life will be so good to us. Then we grow up. We realize that life is tough. And one day we look back and wonder how we got where we are now.

I’m here to tell you that I felt the same way. I realized at the beginning of college that my dreams of being an entrepreneur had little chance of ever happening. I felt discouraged and lost. And I realized I was not on a path towards real purpose for my life. Shortly after, I learned a very important lesson:

There comes a point where you have to stop dreaming, planning, and preparing and just start going for it. 
You have to stop saying, “One day I’d love to…” or “What if…” or “I just can’t…” and just start trying.I didn’t know that I could actually accomplish my dreams until I started actually doing them. Once I started, it gave me hope and stirred my passion even more. And I realized that I COULD do whatever I put my mind to. All it takes is courage and action.

MAKE SACRIFICES

Actually moving from “dreaming” to “doing” is the first big hurdle to jump over. The second is when you realize that “doing” means a lot of hard work, long hours, making sacrifices, being consistent and persistent, and keeping yourself inspired and on task. Savannah and I started Maiedae almost 3 years ago. And for the past 3 years I’ve worked a 9-5 job, then come home and worked every night (except Wednesday which is date night for my husband and I) and most weekends. Am I exhausted? Y-E-S. But pursuing your dreams requires a lot of hard work and sacrifice.

I joke around a lot that I’ve given up my social life along with many other hobbies for Maiedae. And, although that’s true for the most part, I know that it will pay off. And it’s a decision that had to be made. Figure out what sacrifices you have to make to make your dreams happen and ask yourself if you are willing to follow through with them.

I’d love to hear any advice you have on making your dreams a reality! Feel free to leave a comment below or email me at jenny@maiedae.com Thank you again for having me here! Check out my blog sometime – www.jennyhighsmith.com – for more Things I’ve Learned, Fashion, DIY Projects, Recipes, and other fun tidbits! petals

Thank you so much for sharing Jenny! And, I know I’ve recommended them before, but if you are in the market for a blog facelift – you need look no further than Maiedae. They are a design powerhouse!

Lessons From the Garden

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I planted the first early seeds of my vegetable garden last week. We’re trying something new (the voles forced our hand) and giving raised beds a go. – Although, yes, we did just have a surprise snow storm on Thursday, things are finally waking up here in Virginia. The trees are starting to bloom, the grass is turning green…it’s a time for spring and renewal. –

Something about digging in the dirt had me thinking about the metaphors of life that can be found in a garden.

The whole breadth of our lives, we travel through seasons…just like the earth. Times of fruitfulness, and times of dormancy. We get lazy and allow “weeds” to crowd our days and even rob our soil (heart) of joy. There are spurts of caring for ourselves and tending to the needs of our innermost being with great attention. And often those times are when we find ourselves having the most to offer others in return as we bear our well-fed fruit. We weather some storms better than others. And we flourish best on a perfect balance of both sun-filled and rainy days.

This spring, I just wanted to encourage you to take a moment or two to think about the condition of the soil of your life, as I did that day in my little garden. Is it healthy and balanced? Or is it overgrown and crowded with weeds that you may need to remove in order to let your priorities grow? Do you need more nutrients added to the mix? Are you consciously soaking in the beauty of both the sunshine and the rain in your life? Do you find yourself planting seeds of good things, like the Fruit of the Spirit, to make your life more lovely and fragrant to the world? Or do you have seeds of skunk cabbage happily growing in your plot that sends off an offensive odor to those around you? Gardening our lives well, like most everything else, requires intentionality.

So don’t be afraid to get out there and start digging around in the dirt!

Gentle Words for Today

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The beauty of a day is not necessarily found in what it holds for us, but in what we bring to it.

Our highest calling is fulfilled in serving well those who dwell under our roof.

You will rarely know the whole story. Make your judgements accordingly.

Nothing can irritate you without your permission.

“Above all, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with all men.”

We can allow life to pass us by, or we can choose to reach out and savor each moment we’ve been given as a gift we will never receive again.

When you close your mind, you seal your fate.

Today, you be the one. The one to smile, the one to forgive, the one to initiate, the one to hug, the one to overlook, the one to stretch out an olive branch, the one to hold the door, the one to bend, the one to celebrate, the one to know that life is too short to wait for others to be the one.

The Beauty of a Handwritten Letter

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Is it just me, or is there a gentle, pleasant, comforting, sentimental aura evoked by a beautifully written letter? A real letter. The kind that comes by post and is scripted in ink…

I’m often accused of being old fashioned. Of bucking technology (ironic that I’m a blogger, isn’t it?). But part of my heart is old. The part that loves pearls and lace and peonies. The part that adores antique stores and old books. The part that delights at the sound of a Victrola playing. That same part thrills at the sight of a hand written envelope sitting in my mailbox.

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There is such romance attached to the thought of a tactile object making long journeys to find its intended recipient. How much of the world that prosaic little folded rectangle of paper has seen! Sometimes crossing oceans, mountains, countries; sometimes just rumbling across town.

But no matter how far it has traveled, it always carries with it, beneath the carefully sealed flap, a small part of the heart of the sender. And in this world of electronic everything, I often crave the tangible. Something to hold in my hand; a little piece of paper that connects you to a someone as an e-mail never could. I love slowly soaking in the words, then displaying it on my nightstand- to catch glimpses of and smile, and later tucking it away in my letter box… And because such things are so rare these days, they have become priceless treasures.

I was talking to a friend recently about how, in our ideal world, we would sit by the fire after dinner every night; sipping tea, and catching up with all our friends via post. But that just doesn’t happen nowadays, does it? Sad. What can we rearrange in our lives to allow more time for this “vintage” form of communication? Will we who love words, who love pen and ink, who love gorgeous stationary, who love connection, revive it? Or is it really just going the way of the dinosaur…

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I’ve recently been conscious of making sure I’m able to spend a little time each day with some pen and paper. Even if it’s only 15 minutes, and truly, it’s almost like therapy! Something about slowing down, meticulously forming letters, letting your thoughts drift toward the person to whom you are writing as you catch them up on the latest goings on…it’s good for the soul.~

Do you enjoy “snail mail”? Do you still send/receive it?

 

Christmas is Coming, the Goose is Getting Fat…

***who knows the next line to that song??? If you do, ten points to Ravenclaw!

Can you believe it? The holiday season is nearly upon us! Many of you, perhaps (and I include my over-achieving self in this lump), are beginning to feel a bit under the gun already… But instead of letting that feeling paralyze you into a nervous breakdown, realize that we do still have almost 3 weeks before December, and if we get our collective rears in gear, we can still make a huge dent in our holiday to-do list, with the goal of coasting through December in the spirit of relaxed festive merriment, remembering the reason for the season-ing, and lots of cozy togetherness! Who’s with me????

Today I’m sharing some of the best tips I’ve found for how to practically have a stress-free (or at the very least , a low-stress) holiday season. Don’t be overwhelmed. Get out your planners, and break down this task list over the next two or three weeks… assigning certain tasks to certain days. It’s possible! I promise! Many of these tasks can be achieved in mere minutes…

This is basically a brief overview of Flylady’s Cruising Through The Holidays Plan, one I have subscribed to loosely for years. Below I am including the tasks from her plan that I have regularly implemented into my own holiday preparations.

+ Add Christmas cards to your shopping list this week if you haven’t already purchased them.
+ Address your Christmas card envelopes, and write Christmas letter if desired.
+ Sign your Christmas cards.
+ Call all family involved in the holiday celebrations to coordinate who is hosting, and what you’ll need to bring.
+ Make a master list of all the dishes you will be making for your family as well as contributing to any group meals/parties.
+ Write up a shopping/ingredient list for each of those dishes.
+ Each week, add several non-perishable items from that shopping list to your regular shopping list to break up the expense of holiday food purchases.
+ Make up any dishes you can ahead of time to freeze (cookies, cakes, casseroles, breads, etc. – including some “extra” baked goods or dips for drop in company, or unexpected potluck parties)).
+ Devote a whole week per region as you gradually deep clean different spaces of your home. A clean slate will make your house decoration and company ready! Since we have three weeks ’til December, let’s do: Region 1/Week 1-Kitchen/Dining Room/Bathrooms Region 2/Week 2-Bedrooms Region 3/Week 3-Living Areas – Set the timer each session, and work quickly and efficiently.
+ Look up local Christmas happenings (parades, concerts, dinners, etc.), write them down, discuss with your family over dinner one evening to decide what you would like to participate in, put the final choices on the calender, and purchase tickets if needed.
+ Make a list of people you would like to buy gifts for, include any gifts you have already purchased, and any ideas you may have brewing.
+ Spend a concentrated time online completing your internet shopping.
+ Purchase at least one gift with every trip to the store/mall.
+ Whenever you bring a gift home/receive a gift in the mail, immediately wrap and tag it.
+ Make kennel reservations or sitter arrangements for the family pets if you plan to travel. Also, if your pet gets groomed professionally, make appointments close to any events you are hosting so that they will be pleasantly clean for your guests.
+ Go through your holiday party wear, and wash or dry clean dresses/sweaters if needed.
+ If you have any friends or family with December birthdays, write, address, and stamp their birthday cards now – then write in your planner when to send them. December babies are often forgotten in the hubbub!

Now I’d love to hear your tips for a stress free holiday! Share them with us all in the comment section :-).

One…Two…Three…BREAK!

P.S. Did you see Saturday’s “Sisterhood” post? It was an important one…go take a quick read!

An Outfit and Today

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We can’t change the world overnight, save all the starving children with one check, or banish AIDS with the wave of our hand…

But today we can:

Share a smile with everyone we come in contact with
Hold the door for those walking behind us
Stop for pedestrians
Help the elderly load their groceries into their car
Give ourselves fully to the tasks we find laid in front of us (however menial they may be)
Write a “snail mail” note
Spend the day counting our many, many blessings
Drop a dollar into the Salvation Army buckets
Say a prayer of protection over those we love
Call an old friend just to say hello
Pick up a fun dessert from the store (or bake one yourself) to surprise our family
Unplug and put the “to-do” list on hold, to spend quality time at home this evening
Give extra long hugs
Make our goodnight kiss a passionate one

…and we will have, in our small way, made our world a better place.

*What are some other ways we can all make a difference today?