A Thanksgiving Story

This week I took some old clothes to the Goodwill donation box and had a powerful reminder of how minute my “problems” really are. The weather hadn’t called for rain that afternoon, yet dark clouds formed and cold droplets were falling hard. I was grumpy, complaining to myself about how cold and damp I’d get in the 5 foot walk from my car to the dropbox. I was in a bad mood already because I’d had to stay in town for an exam and wouldn’t be able to leave for home until the day before Thanksgiving. I almost skipped my errand and went straight home, but then the rain slowed down.

I moved the first load from my trunk and shut the metal flap, still obsessing over how annoyed I was by the weather, this chore, and my to do list. I gathered the rest of my clothes and dropped them in, too. As my hand rested on the handle seconds from sending these away, I heard a man calling out, “Ma’am please, please wait! Could I look through those before you shut it?” Sadly, my first thought was for my safety, but when I turned, the man I saw was fragile and looked desperate but not unkind. He was running across the parking lot, followed by his wife who moved a little slower. She clutched a bag from the nearby fast food joint, and she wore several layers of torn clothes that were doing nothing to save her from the cold and damp.

“Thank you ma’am,” the guy was saying, bowing his head in front of me. “My wife needs clothes so bad.”

She just kept saying “thank you,” with a look of hope and happiness on her face.

“There are some old flannels,” I said, handing her the one on top, “I hope they’ll keep you warm.”

I got in my car, and now I was feeling sad. My heart felt like lead in my chest. And I did something many of us have done. I began to ask God why.

Why didn’t You call my attention to these people before I dropped the first load of clothes down the chute?

You see the second load had a few flannels, but it was mostly dresses. Completely useless for this woman. The first load had contained sweaters. And even better, it had contained an old coat – a puffy, warm coat that would have protected her from the elements this winter. All I wanted was for this woman to have that coat, but since there was nothing I could do, I gave my grief to God and tried to turn my attention elsewhere.

This isn’t a feel good story. Sure, she’s a little warmer, but she needed much more than she got. I’ve thought about her and her husband frequently since I saw them, praying for a change in their circumstances. This story is a reminder. We get grumpy when things aren’t going our way, and we forget about the bigger picture. If you’re reading this post, whether you’re on a cellphone or tablet or computer or even smartwatch, maybe this story will give you pause the next time you’re grumpy over something small. Because this couple was so far from grumpy. They were happy beyond measure to receive cast off clothes that I had whined about taking the time to give away.

I hope this post finds you recognizing what an immense blessing it is to wake up and have to decide what to wear, under the vents that keep you warm and the roof that keeps you dry. It reminded me that being thankful is easy when you realize nothing you’ve got in this life is a guarantee. Everything is a gift. I hope this post finds you gifted beyond measure, with a heart of gratitude to match.

Happy Thanksgiving from my family to yours.

Love Your Reflection

Since I’m trying to re-establish blogging as part of my busy work week, I wanted to get back to the basics this week and remind myself why my work matters.  So let’s talk about the girl in the mirror and why we love her!

Worldwide, women are under pressure to meet beauty standards.  Those standards are different wherever you go, and even within a culture, everyone has an opinion.  That means you are never going to be everybody’s cup of tea.  No body meets every beauty standard.

So where should you be focusing your energy?

IMG_6800Instead of conforming to your society’s standards, take a look in the mirror and see what’s there.  Then, find a way to love what you see.

Easier said than done.  We all have our hangups – a freckle we can’t see past, a curve we wish would shrink.  You are your own worst critic, and that’s okay.  We all have the potential to make changes in our lives, and as long as those changes are healthy, it’s okay to make them.  Just make sure you make changes out of love for yourself, not out of pressure to conform.

So how do you love your imperfectly perfect self?  Here are a few exercises for those days when the girl in the mirror isn’t living up to the standards living within you:

(1) Take “time off”

Nobody has the energy to be “on” at all times, and time off is at the heart of my self-love practice.  Light a candle, power down your networking apps, and pour a glass of wine.  Sink into the tub or under the covers.  Open the book that’s been gathering dust on your nightstand or turn on a mindless flick.  Just be.

(2) Accomplish small goals

Every morning, I make my bed, and no matter what happens during the day, I have accomplished that one, very small, goal.  It sounds silly.  For me, it works.  No matter what else happens, I have done this one small thing for myself, and at the end of the day, I get to pull the covers back and escape.

(3) Quicken your heartbeat

Get a workout in!  The amazing thing about exercise is that it works if you’re tired or if you’re too hyped up to wind down.  A meaningless day that drains you of all energy or a strenuous day that wires you with stress can both be reversed with a little cardiovascular training.

(4) Phone a friend

Call someone who sees what you are having trouble seeing: you are amazing.  Let them remind you of all the good you bring to the world, the enrichment you give to their life.  We all need a hype man sometimes.  Embrace their compliments and love!IMG_6774

(5) Just dance

Okay, maybe don’t dance, but do something you love!  If you don’t have a hobby that you can’t talk about without smiling, it’s time to find one.  Find something that makes you feel good about yourself, that lets your talents shine.

Whatever you choose to do, make sure you are keeping the outside world quiet so you can clearly hear your own needs! 

How do you remind the girl in the mirror that she woke up flawless?

#APerfectFit

Why Hating Valentines Day Matters

There was a time in my life when I said I hated February 14th, but I absolutely loved to hate it.  Valentine’s Day was a celebration with my gal pals – we ate chocolate, threw gummy bears at couples in movie theaters, and in later years, popped bottles.  As much as we whined and complained about being single and forever alone, we were never actually alone.

Fast forward a few years… it turns out I wouldn’t be single forever.  You won’t be either if you don’t want to be.  I love him every day, but he gets extra attention today both for the Hallmark holiday and his birthday.

So what’s the point of this post?  I guess I just want to give a little bit of completely unsolicited advice to all my single friends.  And maybe even to the younger girls whose relationships with boys are so much less important than their friends (even if they don’t see that right now).

Hating Valentines Day is one of the best girlfriend activities in the world, and if you aren’t embracing it, you are seriously missing out.  By embracing it, I mean pouring your heart and soul out to your friends.  Laugh and cry and verbally abuse people who have done you wrong.  If you’re doing it with your best friends, it’s going to turn into a beautiful memory, and all the mushy outcries are going to make you closer.

Hate on couples and romance, but immerse yourself in the love of your friends.  Open your heart up and be vulnerable with the people who will stand by you at the altar one day, tears in their eyes because they know how much you prayed for the person standing across from you.  Don’t harden your heart on a holiday about love.  Just because you’re single now doesn’t mean you don’t or can’t love, it just means you have extra feels for your friends right now.

As thankful as I am that I have a man to do life with, when I hear my roommates talking about getting wine, cookie dough, and a chick-flick for tonight, my heart aches a little.  Because as happy as I am to be in love, some of my best memories with those girls include those very things and hating on everyone who had done wrong by us.  So my advice is simple: embrace the stage you’re at in life; you’re going to miss it tomorrow.  If that means wine night and Magic Mike, engage in every minute of it.  You might have all the romance your heart craves next year, but until then, be with people that matter today and love them with all you’ve got.

And to my beautiful roommates, thanks for having a second go round on Thursday so I can participate.  Knowing a night with my best friends is only a couple of days away heals the FOMO I have about going on a romantic date tonight.  Thanks for making it possible for me to have both.  I can’t wait for Galentines!