I've been on a major self-help kick lately. I blame my podcast addiction. I'm one of those grown-ups who misses school and podcasts have helped fill that longing for sitting in a lecture hall. It all started when a friend recommended Magic Lessons. I've got to be honest, Elizabeth Gilbert kinda bugs me sometimes, but I enjoyed her message (Episodes 1 and 12 had me in tears) and it got me hooked on podcasts. Since then my subscribe list has become quite ecclectic, but there is one podcast that has really changed the way I see things: Happier with Gretchen Rubin. I'll admit the first episode I listened to I thought, "These ladies are a bit strange and they seem to be trying to impersonate the guys from Car Talk." But then I listened to an episode about the Four Tendencies that blew my mind (I'm an Upholder married to a Rebel in case you're wondering). I have since listened to every single episode and I've grown to love Gretchen and her sister Elizabeth. They make striving for a better, happier life sound doable. And if nothing else they have helped me learn how to play to my strengths instead of battling my weaknesses.
My love of the Happier podcast, of course, lead me to buy Better Than Before* (I got it from the library first, but then decided it was too good not to own) and it has my head swirling with hopes for better habits. What I like most about Grethen's approach is the emphasis on getting to know yourself better. For example, one thing I've realized is that I do best if I keep my goals private. I can't tell you how many times I've declared I will do something and simply declaring it somehow takes the wind out of my sails. So, while I am working to radically change many of my habits, I'm not going to make any huge declarations right now. I do however intend to check back in when I see what sticks and share what I've learned. I've got my new Get To Work Book and nice set of pens and I'm ready to dive in. I feel both excited and trepidatious. I want to make changes as long as they feel positive and energizing. As soon as I start dreading my new habits I know it will be time to reexamine. I need to remind myself that I can do anything, but not everything.
Now I can't finish this post about resolutions without sharing one that I read by my friend Anne of Flax & Twine. It already has me thinking twice about a few of my goals. If you've ever struggled with asking too much of yourself, I encourage you to read her beautiful words.
How about you? Have you ever dug into the self-help world, any books I should check out? Am I the only one that does better with secret goals? And perhaps most importantly, what are your favorite podcasts?
* Affiliate link, if you click these links and make any purchase on Amazon, I get a tiny commission, thank you so much for your support!
The wants: they travel in the air, through the net, and into the mailbox. Catalogues, pinterest boards, ads, instagram accounts, they all contribute to a false feeling of need. A desire for more: more clothes, more travel, more toys, more time to create. The wants hit our house hard and fast recently.
Instead of being grateful for two shows, Jude wanted a third. He asked and begged for things at every store. There didn't seem to be enough stuff, privileges, or attention to quench his desires. And the grown ups weren't doing much better. I found myself wanting to shop more. Pining for the money to travel and expand our house. Wanting more and appreciating less. I noticed that focusing on want makes you more apt to complain. It is a formula for dissatisfaction.
Luckily, the anecdote is simple and free. You can treat a case of the wants by cultivating an attitude of gratitude. Once we started focusing on the haves instead of the have nots we all felt a whole lot better. Let me be clear, there is nothing wrong with striving for more, but it also never hurts to appreciate what you already have. If you'd like to try cultivating gratitude with your family, here are a few things that have worked for us.
1. Keep a gratitude journal. This is a habit that I work hard to keep (I had fallen off the wagon big time). Taking just a few minutes each day to list five things you are a grateful for can really help quell anxiety and place a spotlight on the things you cherish. Any type of notepad will work but I've got a free printable if you'd like to make it extra special.
2. Play three best things. At dinner each night we go around the table and share three highlights from our day. This simple activity has been a lot of fun for us. It allows us a special window into Jude's day at kindergarten and he helps us guess what Ronan would say which often hilarious and sweet. Plus, my husband and I tend to vent to each other about our days so this is a great time to hear what went right!
3. Practice random acts of kindness. This can be as simple as smiling at people as you pass them on the street. Or striking up a friendly conversation in line at the grocery store. Maybe you have enough cash to buy the person behind you a coffee. Spreading happiness makes you feel glad to be alive.
4. Be charitable. Volunteer your time and give to those in need. Nothing makes me more grateful for all I have than truly recognizing those who go without. It can be painful to think about, but helping, even in small ways, is a great way to build thankfulness.
5. Write thank you notes. Do you ever think about that teacher who helped you see the world differently? Do you appreciate how your parents are always there to lend a hand? Does the continued support of your best friend put a smile on your face? What if, out of the blue, you wrote them a thank you note? I'll be honest, I haven't tried this one yet, but I plan on trying my best to write one once a week. (If you'd like to join me, follow on instagram and look for the hashtag #52thankyous, coming soon!)
6. Avoid your triggers. Scale back your social media participation, put those catalogues straight in the recycling bin, go for a hike instead of a trip to the mall. Try to recognize what sparks the wants for you and your family and do your best to avoid them.
I hope these tips help you feel a little fuller and happier this holiday season and beyond. I am so very grateful for my readers. Thank you for visiting my little home on the web.
P.S. - I created the above image as a free printable. Simply save it to your computer, print, and enjoy. (As always all free printable are for personal use only, thank you!)
For those who know me personally, I am generally not at a loss for words. And yet lately I feel as though I've lost my voice a bit. The past few months have been full of big change, most of it exciting, much of it challenging. I want to write about it all here and yet I feel as though in some ways I've forgotten how. If rambling posts by creative mothers trying to find their way aren't your bag, please rest assured I've got an excellent Apple Crisp Recipe post coming soon!
I recently scaled back my contributor work to make way for a return to this little space that I love so very much. I thought between Jude going to school and less guest posting I'd be all set to craft and cook and blog up a storm. Oh the lies we tell ourselves. I am so very guilty of saying "I'll have time for that when ___" The universe loves to laugh at those kinds of plans. Jude is adoring kindergarten, but it turns out having one in school and one at home is more work, not less. Between getting him there and back, volunteering, soccer, and special events I'm struggling to find this extra time I thought I'd have. Plus, I've needed to redouble my efforts at my "real" job. Oh, and I have a toddler now, with his own agenda, wants, and needs. All this to say: I love it here, and I'm coming back, but I'm still working out the kinks.
One kink I've been struggling with is my niche, or lack thereof. I can't tell you how many times I've told myself that I should just choose one creative endeavor and get really good at it instead of dabbling in all manner of making. But you know what? I love to dabble. Deep down, I don't mind being a Jill of all trades, master of none. At it's core creativity is supposed to be fun. For me that means bread one day and embroidery the next. This isn't good for "business" or "busy-ness" but it is good for my soul so I am trying to make peace with it.
For now, Small + Friendly will continue to be a mash up of making. And I will continue to share as much as I can. Because here's the thing, the only thing I love more than making is inspiring others to do the same. Have you ever wondered where my blog name came from? I got it from a line in a song by The Deadly Syndrome (a now defunct but great little indy band, I went to college with the drummer) that says "Now you know my tricks, I over simplify a bit, and I break things down until they're small and friendly." I love breaking things down until they're small and friendly. And so this fall I plan to bring you more of what I love, please just bare with me while I find the time to share. And if you are so inclined I'd love to know what you like seeing most. Sewing tutorials? Recipes? Motherhood musings? I know blogs aren't very conversational these days but I also know that my readers are out there and I couldn't appreciate you more, so please feel free to speak up. You can also find my on Facebook and Instagram if you prefer to chat there.
Lastly, I wanted to share links to my mom.me posts for this month. This is the only contributor gig I stuck with and that is because I adore it. It turns out, I'm a writer! My best friend recently texted me about a podcast I would like, mentioning that the guest was a writer like me. I laughed aloud, I'm not a writer I thought. I'm not sure why I never felt worthy of that title, but nevertheless I've decided to embrace it. Without further adieu, here is what I wrote this month:
Addicted to googling? I was, until I quit cold turkey.
I fear I am guilty in perpetuating this myth.
I'm still fuming over this.
What surprised me most about having a second child.
Thanks for reading friends. I owe you an apple crisp.
Thoughts on the men I hope my sons become have been weighing heavy on my mind as of late. I recently wrote an article for mom.me that was more challenging than I expected it to be. Jason and I stayed up late trying to narrow down a list of life lessons we hope to tech our boys. My hope is to raise modern gentlemen: those that can swing a hammer, get down on the dance floor, scrub a toilet, and say they're sorry. And then Jason found me this quote, and it pretty much sums it up.
I loved it so much in fact, that I made a little free printable. Click here to download and print your own. And whilst Robert A. Heinlein put it best, my list isn't half bad either. Click here if you'd like to read what 30 things I really want my sons to know. I also want to add that I think children learn best by example and it is for this reason that I am ever so grateful to be raising my boys with Jason. He models what it means to be a modern gentleman everyday. And like the enlightened renaissance man that he is, he does it with style and grace and the world's brightest smile on his face.
Photo by Julio Duffoo Photography
This Father's Day I wanted to tell you about my awesome dad. I love my dad with all my heart. He really and truly is my hero. We don't share DNA, but we do share so much very much more. My biological father was not a great guy, his alcoholism prevented him from being a decent human being, let alone husband and father. When I was nine years old my mom left that dirtbag and for that I am eternally grateful.
A short while later she met the man of our dreams. He was younger and kinder and so much more responsible. He almost instantly loved my mom and my sister and I with all of his heart, and we loved him right back. Their second date was a family outing to see Bingo. My life went from tumultuous and stressful to stable and joyous, seemingly overnight. It wasn't long before my mom married this wonderful man, and just one year later he was able to legally adopt my sister and me. He saw me through puberty, high school, college, and beyond. He was there for me every step of the way, calming fears and fueling dreams.
Today we work together, I help him run his business and he plays with his grandsons while I do it. In our professional lives I am often mistaken for his wife (he is only 14 years my senior) but I love the chance to set them straight. I am overjoyed and full of pride to explain that this amazing man is my father, he adopted me, he chose to make me his. He coached my every sports team, attended my every recital, cleaned my puke, and wiped my tears. He taught me what a great father is, and in that way, helped me find one for my own children. I couldn't love him more if I tried.
He's not a huge fan of public affection, fanfare, and attention, but I needed to honor him in this space, for all he has given me. So today I say Happy Father's Day to my dad, the best father a gal could ever dream of.
Happy Father's Day Daddy, I love you.
I've got a confession to make: my all-or-nothing, perfectionist streak that has got me stuck in my tracks. I want to lose the baby weight, purge my home, make all of our food from scratch, sew a wardrobe for myself and two boys, undertake a number of home improvement projects, and the list goes on and on. The trouble is I work from home and out of the home, have two little ones, and only so many hours in the day. I feel a bit burnout and a lot stuck, because I'm not even sure where to start. I'm not out of ideas, but I might be out of energy.
I'm usually so blindingly ambitious that I don't even pause to wonder, is this how I should be spending my time? I just chug along, making cool things and a whole lot of mess, without too much deliberation. But lately all I want to do with my free time is ignore the mounds of laundry, curl up in bed, and binge watch Girls. I'm not sure if it's a whole year of sleepless nights finally catching up to me, or the unending colds that have been attacking my house, or simply a weird phase. I just thought I should put this out there and keep it real with some of my very favorite people: my readers. I really don't like feeling so unmotivated to create.
So tonight I'm not here to tell you I'm taking a break from blogging (I don't want to!), instead I wish to share my one and only goal for the rest of May: to rediscover my maker mojo (honestly it might require a bit more TV watching and more than a few naps).
Any tips or tricks you have are most welcome.
And perhaps more importantly, I'm almost done with Girls, what should I watch next?
Dear Ronan Sky,
How is it possible that you are already one year old? Wasn't it just yesterday that you shot into this world like the sparkling star you are? Perhaps the time has passed so swiftly because you are so darn fun: all smiles and pure charm. Then again, it might have something to do with the fact that you don't care for sleep. It hasn't actually been 365 separate days, just one really long one with naps here and there.
I know you'll get the hang of sleeping, eventually, and the other things you've mastered in just twelve short months are astounding. You've been walking for a while now, in fact I think I can officially call you a runner. You clap and wave and do kisses like it's your job. You say Mama, Dada, dog, woof-woof, ball, dis, dat, and "na" (which means no, Na, and nice, depending on context). Your favorite thing to do is play outside, preferably with your brother. You love to throw balls and wield sticks. Animals make you super happy. Your favorite foods are frittata, chicken, avocado, hummus, yogurt, and those strange pouches I sometimes get you for a treat. You laugh often and have what I like to call personality plus.
You have many nicknames, but the one that seems to have stuck most is Bordelaise, because you're just so delicious (and your mom is a weird foodie). You've got a mouth full of awesomely crooked teeth and you are growing the world's most luxurious mullet. You have the sweetest most kissable belly and delightfully chubby thighs. Your skin is the softest thing I've ever felt. You look just like your Daddy. You are the cutest baby I've ever seen (tied with your brother of course).
I couldn't possibly love you more. And while I'd truly like to keep you a baby forever, I adore each and every day I get to watch you grow. Here's to many many more. Happy Birthday my dear sweet boy.
All my love,