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Day #17: Jump With Both Feet First

empty-leaves
Throw caution to the wind and just do it.
-Carrie Underwood

Our red maple dropped her leaves overnight and we woke to a yard covered in some crunchy goodness.  Seriously, it felt like a snow day!  And I’m sure my neighbors would much prefer we rake and bag them, but we happily ignored that notion. 
kestan-in-leaves
We did in fact get out the rake, but that was only to, as Kestan put it, “rake the biggest pile of our lives!”
Kestan-leaves-2
And that’s how the story goes.  Life, like the dropping leaves, surrounds us with ever-changing beauty. There are times for cleaning up the mess, disposing of the piles, and seeing what lies underneath.
laying-in-leaves
And then there are those times when you throw caution to the wind.   
raining-leaves-2
When you are ok with imperfection. 
playing-in-leaves
And when you know that messing up the piles is exactly where you need to be.
ashy-in-leaves
Today, I thanked my beautiful boys for sharing their playfulness with me.
lauren-and-kes
And I thanked our babysitter for continuing to play in the leaves with them so that I could enjoy some quiet time in my art studio.
Later, after the boys finally came in the house to warm up, Kestan ran and gave me the biggest, sweetest hug “of our lives,” which was his way of thanking me.
Your Personal Reflection: Let it go, embrace the change, and be ok with the mess.  Go ahead…jump in the pile with both feet first.  See what happens when you throw caution to the wind and just go for it.
If you haven’t already, get on over to THIS POST and enter to win a spot in one of four life-changing e-courses.

Day #16: The Gifts of Giving

photo

For it is in giving that we receive.
-St. Francis of Assisi
Halfway through Thirty Days of Giving Thanks and I’m completely grateful for the little bits of sunshine coming my way.  It’s simply beautiful – the gifts that giving thanks can bring.  
Your Personal Reflection:  What comes your way when you give to another?

Day #15: The Joys of Ordinary Life

end-of-fall
Isn’t this just peaceful? I love this time of the year so completely. The leaves continue to fall and the weather is just cool enough for sweatshirts, but warm enough to be outside crunching and jumping in the piles.
messy-art-room
And you know what I’m trying to practice as we gear up for winter?  How to keep this peaceful, playful feeling inside me, even within the walls of our home.  
Yesterday we stayed home all day.  It’s something I’m calling “Maintenance Mondays.” Because my husband and I share a car, he takes the car on Mondays and I stay home. with the kids. all. day. long.  Otherwise, I have this deep urge to want to escape into the world of drive-thru lattes and other distractions so I don’t have to face the stuff like…organizing, scrubbing, folding, wiping, budgeting – you know, the “maintenance” stuff that keeps things running a bit more smoothly – yet I usually want to avoid.
Sometimes I just love staying home – especially in the winter.  Fires, cookies, snow and pajama days – oh the thought of it makes me smile.  Yet, I am gearing up for the first winter with TWO little boys who get into EVERYTHING.  And being home all day trapped in the mess, that is the nature of play, can really get to me if I’m not careful.
Yesterday I did feel some irritation.  I did get frustrated at times.  I was kind of moody and let the mess get to me.  And towards the end of the day I got a little restless.  But I did it.  I resisted the urge to make plans and go out and do something and stayed home instead.  I let the feelings of overwhelm come and go.  And after getting the boys to bed I landed on the couch with Hand Wash Cold and read this:
In all this mess, I found the ingredients for the next stage in the spiritual journey: the opportunity to move beyond myself and into compassionate care of everything and everyone that appeared before me morning, noon, and night.  I found myself in the very heart of life, an ordinary life, the best spot to give and receive pure love.
messy-living-room-2
So as evidence by these photos, my house truly was a mess yesterday, as it is every day I stay home with the kids.  It gets cleaned up at the end of most days.  Sometimes it makes me crazy and sometimes it doesn’t.  And I guess this is the practice – to find the stillness among the chaos, to find the peace within the mess.
I may trip and stumble and get tangled up along the way – that is the nature of the journey, isn’t it? And as I do, I continue to learn how to embrace and receive the joy and love that comes from daily, ordinary…life.
messy-living-room
And now I sign-off to hit a yoga class with my husband, where I’ll be thanking another wonderful teacher near and dear to my heart.
Your Personal Reflection:  What joys in your ordinary life are you thankful for today?
And…make sure to enter for your chance to win a spot in some pretty awesome e-courses on my last post.   

Day #14: Create Yourself (& BIG give-ways!)

Create Yourself

Today marks the beginning of week three of our Thirty Days of Giving Thanks challenge and I’m continuing to make space to thank those in my life who have taught me something new.

As a thank you to YOU for reading my blog, I’m offering you a sweet opportunity to win a spot in some of the best e-courses out there!

Nothing brings joy and inspiration into your life like learning something new while connecting to other women from all over the world.  Here are just a few led by some of my very favorite women on-line.

Creative Courage - offered by Stephanie Levy
Creative Courage is an international e-course about finding, following and realizing your creative dreams. Creative Courage is a practical guide to help you clarify your own unique path and give you tools you need to start making your goals real. Creative Courage will run from January 9th – February 24th, 2012.


Journal Your Dreams – offered by Amelia Critchlow
This is a two-week long on-line workshop exploring dream-setting (reaching your goals) through watercolor, photography and collaged words. This course is open access and you can take it anytime from now through October 2012.

Sparklesoffered by Jamie Ridler 
Sparkles is a creative e-course.  For 31 days, you’ll go on an adventure designed to awaken your creative spirit and fill you and your days with sparkle.  Each day, you’ll receive a quick-to-read, quick-to-do inspiring creative exercise in your inbox.  Lessons come from an amazing array of creative guides from a wide range of disciplines (e.g. photography, writing, painting, sound, dance – even food!) They’ll show you how to get creative even when you feel like you have no time at all!  Registration is always open.


Rooted – offered by Megan Monique
Imagine your entire creation, your life, your body is a house.  The Root Chakra is the foundation your house has been built on.  In Rooted, you get the opportunity to take a good look at what it is your roots have grown into.  You will get to explore as you gain tools to assist you with creating abundance, freedom and so much more. Registration is always open.

Inside Out: A Creative Adventure of Self-Discovery 
-offered by me.
Become a bold explorer of your dreams, celebrate your unique brilliance and embrace the REAL you in this 5 week e-course experience.  Through art journaling, writing, guided meditation, and yoga principles you will learn how to limit the distractions of the outer world and reconnect to your intuition and creativity.  Rediscover the inner wisdom and beauty that live within YOU and be inspired to bring it out more fully into the world – all in the comfort of your own home and at your own pace. This course runs January 23rd – February 24th, 2012.


1) To enter to win a spot in one of these e-courses, leave a comment below to the following question:

Your Personal Reflection:  What are you feeling thankful for today?

Let me know if you do any of the following and I’ll make sure to add your name for more chances to win!

2) For additional entries, join my Facebook Page or follow any of us on Twitter.

Stephanie @StephanieLevy

3) OR send a tweet out about this give-away or share it on your personal Facebook page. 


I will announce a winner this Friday.  
Happy day!

Day #13: Feeling a Shift

hand wash cold photo

I’m not gonna lie.  Last night was kinda crazy.  The boys were super hyped before bed. And I let their energy really get to me.  And then I started acted kinda crazy.  Once we all fell asleep the craziness continued.  Ashy is teething so he was up every hour. Kestan woke up crying in need of some extra snuggle time, which of course woke up Ashton just moments after I finally got him back to sleep.  And it seemed like between that and my own thoughts, the interruptions continued throughout the night.

I woke up asking myself, What am I doing?  What AM I doing? And then, as if a light bulb went off, something switched.  A new thought emerged.  I smiled and said, I surrender. And in the morning I got up from bed feeling as if a deep shift had taken place.

This slowing down thing seems to have merit.  Creating space is turning out to be a very good thing for me.  And I’m understanding that the more I stop trying to control the outcome of things, my environment and the people in my life, the easier it is to surrender to what IS and man, that makes my heart feel a whole lot lighter.

I struggle to find balance between the love of my creative endeavors and the love of being home with my children.  And for some reason, the light bulb switch – the declaration that I surrender -  has helped me see some clarity about this topic that I’ve had a hard time seeing until now.  Things they are a-changin’.

And in the middle of things today, I picked up Karen Maezen Miller’s book, Hand Wash Cold.  I literally had two minutes to read a few pages when the following sentence spoke to me – “Only when our hands and head are empty do we discover what we’ve been aching to find.”  That pretty much says it all.  Ahhh…I surrender.  

I sat there and felt the deep shift settle in.  And a few moments later Kestan brought me a “mountain sandwich cookie boo” that he created out of Play-Doh – the perfect thing to get me out of my head and into my heart.

So as part of my Thirty Days of Giving Thanks, I thanked my yoga guru for his amazing guidance and teachings he’s shared with me over the last 10 years.  And I thanked author, Karen Maezen Miller, for sharing her beautiful wisdom and goodness with me and the world.


Your Personal Reflection:  Have you ever read something or seen a piece of art or experienced a teaching that created a shift in your awareness? Take a moment to thank that writer, artist or teacher (or child) this week.


And the winner of the darling butterfly clutch is Debbie!

Psst…The Clean Food Challenge starts Monday.  I’m going totally gluten-free for 7 days. If you are ready to make a change then consider joining us.

Day #12: Thankful for the Space Between

My boys in fall
Slow down and enjoy life.  
It’s not only the scenery 
you miss by going too fast 
you also miss the sense of where 
you are going and why.
-Eddie Cantor
Yesterday was the perfect day.  The weather got up into the mid-60′s, the sun was out and the fall colors are still quite magnificent.  I took the boys on a much needed exploration day in the park (as the day before they felt a lot like wild caged animals in the house (full moon anyone?!).  We picnicked, we walked, we climbed, and we moved very slowly, stopping to enjoy the beauty around us and looking for “hidden treasures” along the way.
And what I always seem to discover when I’m with my boys, with no agenda or time restraints, is that the relaxed and carefree feeling that comes in these moments IS the hidden treasure in itself.
So today, I’m thankful for the clarity that comes in the space between all the running, going, and doing.  And as I move throughout my day today I will spontaneously thank those who cross my path.
Your Personal Reflection:  Slow down and enjoy the scenery in your life today. What hidden treasures will you find?
There is still time to enter my last give-away – check it out in the previous post!

Day #11: Feeling the Love (& a give-away!)

felted heart
Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, 
“What!  You too?  I thought I was the only one.” 
-C.S. Lewis
Doesn’t that quote just say it all?  There is nothing like when you find someone who you can relate to.  That type of friendship is so invaluable to feeling connected in this great big world.  This is the magic I’ve discovered from reaching out through blogging and offering my e-course.
Several weeks ago I got the pleasure to meet one of my on-line friends in person.  I love when this happens!  I am so very grateful for the opportunities to connect to so many amazing souls from all over the world.  Thank you, Internet!
  
lynnette photo
Lynnette  took my Inside Out e-course and we’ve been friends ever since.  She happened to be traveling through my area on her family road trip and they made a special trip to my home.
Thank you, Lynnette (and your family), for your visit.  Your support, kindness and friendship have so enriched my life!  

butterfly clutch
My new Internet friend, Stephanie, made this beautiful butterfly clutch just for one of YOU.  It can be used as a wristlet style purse or an e-reader case.  For your chance to win a spot, simply leave a comment on this post by Sunday morning.  (I’ll announce a winner that day.)
AND, check out Hip Mountain Mama’s Thankful Giveaway for another chance to win a gift card at their lovely store!
Your Personal Reflection: Do you have a favorite blogger or a friend you’ve connected with through the Internet?  Thank them today!

Day #10: Unexpected Surprises

letter to postman
Today I’m leaving a little note for our postman.  I thought it would be fun for someone who delivers mail all day long to pick up a little something for himself along his route.  I included a gift card to a local cafe so he could get a warm meal after making deliveries in the cold.
Your Personal Reflection:  Is there someone you come in contact with during the week that you don’t know very well?  Maybe today is the day to give them a little unexpected surprise?

Day #9: Giving Thanks as a Practice in Receiving

our-shadows
Pure love is a willingness to give without a 
thought of receiving anything in return.
-Peace Pilgrim quote

I read something this week that made me pause.  A blogger shared that when she was traveling to Nepal her host politely asked her to stop saying “thank you.”  The host explained, “Everything we do for you is our delight and our honor, as an expression of our way of life.  There is no need for thanks.”  This blogger became fully aware of how often she said “thank you” to just about everything and realized that doing so could become what she called a “distancing tool.”  She shared, “[Saying thank you] can be a way to clear up an obligation, to reciprocate in order to make the scales even once again.  …I had to admit to myself that while my excessive thank yous were often totally sincere, they often carried a twinge of worry.  I didn’t want to put anyone out and I felt uncomfortable receiving without having some way to immediately give back.”

Whoa, right?

I totally get what she’s saying here.  All too often when someone does something for us out of the kindness of their heart, we feel like we have to pay them back – like we owe them something, and I think that’s when excessive thanking can go awry.  Because the act of “thanking” becomes more of a business deal, doesn’t it?  You did something for me, now I must do something for you, ya know, to keep the score even.  I think when we start to play that game we end up rejecting the positive impact that gratitude can have.

Sometimes I find that when I offer to help out a friend or family member many will respond by saying, “No, I’ll be alright.  I can manage.”  And, heck, I know I’ve done the same thing. What happens when a friend offers to buy our lunch.  ”Oh, no…you shouldn’t do that. Ok..fine…but I’ll get you next time.  Thank you.”  And we all know how it feels when we want to do something for someone else, but they just won’t let us.  It’s not that they are being unkind, they just don’t want to be any trouble.  Yet, when we don’t let others help us, or feel like we owe someone when we do, we are rejecting and denying that unconditional love.  The love that wants to give simply to give.

the-path

It seems like a really good practice on our path of giving thanks is to learn how to receive.

So I don’t think there is anything wrong with giving thanks.  I do think it’s important to become aware of your intentions when giving that thanks.  Are you thanking someone because you feel you owe them something?  Did they do something for you and now you are paying them back?  Are you secretly expecting a thank you in return?

I remember an early memory of a family member getting upset if we didn’t write “thank you cards” for her gifts.  It became an expected practice to write thank yous for any gifts received.  And although I truly value giving and sharing thanks, when it becomes an obligation or an expectation, it makes me pause.  And then I have to look at my own children and how I parent.  All too often I’ve seen us mamas out in public with our kids and we repeat, “Say thank you, little Johnny.  Johnny?  Say thank you!”  I think there is also great value in teaching our children to give without force, to receive without rejecting and to determine when giving a “thank you” feels appropriate and intuitive for them.

I may be totally lost in the woods here – maybe making no sense at all.

What I do know is this.  Giving thanks over the past 9 days has been energizing and magical.  It feels as though I am starting my mornings with wider arms and a more open heart.  And that’s gotta be good, right?

I think the best thing I can do when giving is to learn how to fully, boldly and more openly RECEIVE.

me-and-kes

So today I give thanks for the opportunity to be a mother, because to me, that’s the greatest practice in giving and receiving.  When I’m out alone with my boys, like on our weekly walks, we don’t say “thank you.”  We just are. together. giving. sharing. playing. laughing. exploring. receiving. in. love.  And that’s the greatest act of giving thanks that I know.

Your Personal Reflection:  I would LOVE to hear more about this topic from you.  What do you think about “giving thanks” and do you have a hard time receiving things from others without feeling like you have to pay them back?  Notice how many times you say “thank you” throughout the day. What are the intentions behind them?  And when someone gives you something out of kindness, can you accept and receive it fully? Practice RECEIVING thanks from others today.

And…
The winner of Lori’s beautiful 
Surrounded By Love print goes to…
Manda!

Day #8: Special Friends & Synchronicity

thank you gift
It’s rainy and cold here and it seemed like the perfect day to drop by a little sunshine to my dear 84-year-old friend, Larry.  I met Larry about 10 years ago when he volunteered with his wife, Nellie, at my former job.  It’s funny because I don’t even remember meeting them, it just seems like we’ve always been special friends.  Nellie passed away 4 years ago and I miss her a lot.  Larry and I stay in touch and each time we get together we can talk for hours.  And what I love about our friendship is that we can talk about the deep stuff, the unseen stuff, and the stuff that is hard to talk about with a lot of people.  But Larry and I just “get” each other.  We have that connection that no matter how long it’s been between visits we can easily and effortlessly pick up right where we left off.
One thing Larry and I enjoy discussing is books.  And recently while visiting one of my favorite used bookstores I found a copy of Eckhart Tolle’s, A New Earth – a book I know Larry would really enjoy.  
I left the book and a thank you card at his door today.  I’m starting to get a kick out of my sleuth behavior as I secretly drop gratitude at my friend’s doorsteps.  This Thirty Days of Giving Thanks is turning out to be so much fun.
And get this, yesterday I wrote a letter to my bff and texted her in the morning to thank her for her friendship.  A few hours later the postman delivered a letter from HER. (Thanks, Jen!) She had noticed my November challenge and wrote me a day prior to thank ME.  Gotta love the magic of synchronicity.
Your Personal Reflection:  Have you noticed any synchronicity in your life these days? What happens when you focus on gratitude?

(There is still time to enter the giveaway.  I’ll announce the winner tomorrow!)