Category: Self-Improvement

50 Ideas for “No Light Hours”: Take advantage of the fall time change

Nighttime squareIt’s easy for someone like me, who prefers warm weather and being outside, to get depressed that the time has changed and winter is on its way. However, this time I am oddly optimistic about what I will accomplish with no outdoor distractions. After spending a summer outside building and painting furniture, fixing roofs, and gardening, I’m kind of looking forward to an excuse to stay indoors for a while. Here are 50 ideas to occupy your extra nighttime hours and keep you away from trash TV.

Take up a new hobby

1. Learn to crochet
2. Learn to play an instrument
3. Practice cooking more delicious and healthy meals
4. Go the other route and learn to bake delicious and indulgent treats
5. Read more
6. Take up writing or at least journaling
7. Learn to sew
8. Learn a new language
9. Take an online course
10. Learn to make and bind books
11. Take up scrapbooking
12. Learn how to coupon
13. Learn a new style of dance (maybe you could get your spouse to join in it with you)
14. Make jewelry

gamesMore Family Time

15. Play board games or other physical games like Hide-and-Seek
16. Do puzzles together
17. Go on night drives to see the Christmas lights, make sure to bring hot chocolate
18. Have movie nights at home with popcorn
19. Learn to ice skate together
20. Go bowling
21. Build forts in the living room
22. Exchange foot massages
23. Take treats to a neighbor
24. Learn some songs together and sing them to elderly folk at a nursing home or assisted living center
25. Plan and prepare Christmas for a less fortunate family
26. Just talk over a mug of hot chocolate

 

More Personal Time

27. Take a bubble bath
28. Have a spa night with homemade spa products
29. Go to bed earlier and reap the benefits of beauty sleep
30. Exercise or go on a night walk, just bundle up and wear reflective colors
31. Find a new podcast or audiobook to listen to while you clean or work on a project
32. Give yourself a manicure or pedicure
33. Take up meditation
34. Window shop or browse online shops
35. Think about and write down your goals
36. Write a real paper and pen letter to a friend and mail it

Work on indoor projects

37. Paint a room in your house (or all of them!)
38. Paint a small piece of furniture
39. Read this book and declutter your home
40. Fix things that you haven’t gotten around to fixing yet
41. Go through cabinets, drawers, and closets that have needed it for a while now
42. Sell stuff you don’t need online
43. Put together a cookbook of your family’s favorite recipes
44. Make all homemade Christmas gifts this year
45. Make an inventory of your stockpile or food storage, if you have it, and decide where you’re low
46. Organize old, printed photos and keep them in a safe box that will protect against aging and yellowing
47. Organize digital files and photos and back them up
48. Make a password reminder list to help you remember all the different usernames and passwords you have. Protect the document with an easy-to-remember password
49. Clean out your filing cabinet or make a filing system if you don’t have one
50. Organize your brain by reading this book and following through with what it teaches

Let me know if you try any of these and how it goes. Do you have any other ideas? What’s your favorite way to spend that extra time indoors?
Nighttime FB

6 Steps to a Productive Morning Routine

Morning Routine SquareThere are days when I start feeling completely overwhelmed with life, like time is just passing me by and I’m accomplishing very little to climb out of the never-ending hole that is my to do list. Those are the days I know it’s time to get back to my early morning routines.

There’s something magical about having a morning routine on autopilot that fuels your energy and ability to GET. CRAP. DONE.

“Lose an hour in the morning, and you will be all day hunting for it.”
~Richard Whately

There are definitely days I sleep in until the very last second before I need to be out the door and its my kids who end up getting me up. However, when I make my mornings a priority, I feel so much more inspired and ready to take on the day the right way.

I haven’t always been this way though. Like a lot of people, I used to stay up late and wake up too late to get much done in the morning.

After I had my son, I wanted to pick up running. Because of our somewhat unique situation, I had to exercise in the morning and I realized that if I wanted to run, it would have to be at 5am.

22788653_sLet me tell you, this was sooooo hard for me. I remember grunting every time my alarm went off and wanting, more than anything, to hit the snooze button. After I while, my body adjusted and I actually looked forward to getting up early. It was the only time I didn’t have to be responsible for anyone but myself. I could trust that my husband was keeping my son safe and I could actually be ALONE! It’s not that I didn’t love spending time with my son but I really missed my “alone time” to just be me and not have to worry, constantly, about anyone else. It was therapeutic.

Then I got pregnant again and after the birth of my daughter, I was in survival mode. Like most postpartum moms I would sleep in until the absolute last second that I had to get up and out of the house. That was fine for a while, until I started getting postpartum depression. I  contribute a lot of that to not getting any exercise and completely losing myself in trying to take care of two kids and my disabled brother all at the same time. Once my daughter was a little older and sleeping a little better at night, I made myself pick up my early morning schedule again. It has saved my life!

I am still working out the kinks and trying to decide exactly WHAT I want to spend this precious time doing. Although I’m still working on solidifying my morning routine, I thought it might be helpful to share some ideas for how you can create your own morning routine.

1. Write down the most important things you should (or want to) do in a day

Decide which of these items would best be accomplished in the morning, when your willpower is at its strongest and distractions are at a minimum.

17693241_s2. Plan out your ideal morning

Write out what your ideal morning would look like. For me, I love mornings. I don’t necessarily enjoy getting out of bed, but I love the time I have to myself once I’m up. For me, ideally, I would go for a run, read my scriptures and pray, write for at least an hour or two without interruptions, make and eat a big breakfast with my family, and get ready for the day. Plan it out and see where your priorities are.

3. Decide how long it will take to accomplish

This one’s easy, do the math to figure out what time you will need to get up in order to accomplish those things in the morning.

4. Prioritize

My ideal morning is, unfortunately, totally unrealistic. For one thing, my kids are usually up at 6. That would mean, in order for me to enjoy all the things I want to before my kids get up, I would have to get up at like 2am. Yeah, not gonna happen. So…I can decide how else I can order my mornings and take out something I feel like I could do later in the day if I had to. I have to take a long, hard look at my priorities and see that something will have to be done at a less idealistic time. This is where I’m struggling right now…but I have faith I’ll work it out.

15614704_s5. Get up at your predetermined time

Just do it guys. If you need to get up at 5 and you’re currently getting up at 8 or 9, don’t think that tomorrow you’ll be up before sunrise. Try 15 minutes earlier than your current time for a few days. Gradually increase your mornings in 15 minute intervals until you’re up at your desired time. It’s really that simple. If you have to put your alarm clock on the opposite side of the room, do it. If you want to use a really cool sleep app/alarm clock download this one, it’s seriously the best!

6. Get enough sleep

If you’re going to be getting up earlier, you need to be going to bed earlier too. You have to decide how many hours of sleep you need to work at your optimum level. I know, for me, I need a full 8 hours of sleep. This means that if I’m up at 5, I need to go to bed at 9. Most days this feels unrealistic which means I need to make some changes. Part of what I know will help me with my morning routine is establishing a well-oiled evening routine. More on that another day…

*     *     *

Making every hour of your day count is a difficult process. It won’t stay the same all the time. It’s continually evolving and changing with the different seasons in your life. However, you won’t believe the difference it will make in your mood, progress toward your goals, and your ability to take care of the little people in your life.

Morning Routine Vertical

Finding Contentment Through the Trials

Contentment

I grew up with an older brother that was probably comparable to many other brothers. John is 10 years older than I am.   With such a huge gap between us, he was more than mildly letdown that I turned out to be a girl. When I got a little older he would tease me until my blood would boil. “Does the baby need a baba? Does she need her diaper changed?” That incredibly annoying baby-talk tone still rings in my ears. I can’t lie and say it was all him; I was an incredibly difficult child.

Lacie & John

My brother and I didn’t become very close until I was an adult. I was always impressed at what an exceptional father he was; despite the fact he never had a great role model. He never needed a break from his two little girls. Never. I don’t know many fathers that would stay up all night with a sick baby without ever muttering a complaint. For as tough as he was on me, he was a sucker for those little angels.

John was the only one in my family who supported me when I decided to move across the country and get married. We had a heartfelt conversation and although he was protective, he still gave me his blessing, which meant the world to me.

Only months after that memorable conversation, I called him just to chat. He sounded different. I could tell something was wrong. He said he wasn’t feeling well and had thrown his back out. We had a short conversation and that was the last time I spoke to him before the bomb dropped.

After weeks of confusion and uncertainty, doctors finally discovered that John was suffering from a mysterious staph infection and his heart, among other organs, was quickly failing. They were scheduled to perform emergency heart surgery that night to replace one of his valves.

Nobody knew how serious the situation was but I knew I had to get home. My husband and I were driving when I called my mom the next morning to see how the surgery had gone and to tell her we were about halfway there. She was hysterical as she told me, between sobs and half-screams, that the doctor had just told her that John had suffered a major stroke and things looked “grim.” I had to pull over and my husband tried to hold me to keep me from convulsing. Every dark emotion that I had felt in my life suddenly flooded my body and I couldn’t do anything but scream and cry. Why didn’t I just fly home? Why didn’t I call him and talk to him before his surgery? What was I thinking living halfway across the country? How was my mom going to go on if John didn’t make it? He had never even met my husband yet! What about his little girls?

 John & Girls Fishing

Seeing my brother in a coma is an image that I wish could be erased from my memory. He was yellow, almost translucent, and swollen, with his head tilted back in order to accommodate the tube they had to insert in his throat. He looked lifeless. I had an overwhelming realization that I was never going to see my brother again. That he was never going to meet my husband and that his girls were not going to have a father to watch them grow up.

They say God works in mysterious ways. He allows us to endure a trial and then He blesses us with miracles and tender mercies. It would take an entire book to tell about all the miracles and blessings we received as a family. Suffice it to say that God brought my brother back to us.

Although he suffered considerable damage to his brain and has lost most of his physical capacity, the ability to walk, eat, or talk, he is still my brother, with all of his mental capacities intact. I take care of him everyday. I cherish the fact that we didn’t lose him that day when I thought for sure we had. He has even made miraculous improvements and recently found his voice and is able to communicate, albeit limitedly, through speech.

Maicee Hospital

My family has always been my most treasured possession. We have always been tight-knit and are even more so now that we have banded together to take care of John and his girls. My husband and I left a growing business in Texas. My sister sold her home for next-to-nothing. My mother left her home and transferred jobs. My younger brother is attending a university extension in our small community. All of these sacrifices were necessary in order for us to come together and make sure my brother has quality, 24-hour care at home, with his girls.

At times, it’s been extremely difficult physically, emotionally, and financially. We have gone through all of us living under the same roof, pooling our resources and helping each other graduate from college. We’ve been through pregnancies and births, changes in John’s care, and changes in jobs. Since then, I have become the primary caretaker for my brother during the day. I feel more connected and closer to him than ever before in my life.

Although it sure isn’t easy and even John and I argue sometimes, I wouldn’t trade my family for the world. I often have people tell me how unfair life is and how tragic my brother’s situation is. Sometimes I agree and other times I can’t help but think maybe this is the price I have to pay in order to be blessed with such an amazing and loving family. Maybe these kinds of things are what make families great. It breaks my heart that it has come at such a high cost for my brother, but this tragedy has brought us all together again.

Hospital Girls

Time is measured in our family on a different timeline now. It’s now “Before John got Sick” and “After John got Sick.” His experience has changed us forever.

We think twice now before complaining about things such as our weight, the taste of food, or how much we hate to exercise. We try to remember how blessed we are to have the ability to eat, exercise, or even walk. Contentment comes in these small gratitudes.

Finding contentment in life has nothing to do with material possessions, a striking physique, or the most prestigious honors man can receive. Contentment comes from true sacrifice, heartfelt gratitude, and genuine love for other people. Nothing has illustrated this better in my life than my brother’s experience.

I don’t try to explain why this happened or blame God for such a horrific trial for John and his girls. I don’t allow myself to replay it all very often or think about what might happen in the future. For now, I am content to hear my brother’s struggled but clear “I love you” and be exceedingly grateful that he is here and that I know he loves me just as I love him.

I Love You2

Book Review: Living Well Spending Less: 12 Secrets of the Good Life

LWSL Square

I recently had the awesome opportunity to be part of a book launch for one of my favorite bloggers. Ruth Soukup from www.livingwellspendingless.com is an inspirational blogger who is also a talented writer. After reading her book Living Well Spending Less: 12 Secrets of the Good Life, I was sure we could be best friends in real life. I loved the book so much that even though I received a free pre-published copy of the book, I still ordered it in paperback form. I feel like a loser because I wanted to write about the book on my blog before it actually came out at the end of December but I was so caught up in figuring out what in the heck I was doing with this blog that I just didn’t get to it. Now that I feel a little more comfortable with this whole blogging thing, I’m ready to introduce to you this incredible book!

I’ve admitted before that I’m a self-improvement junkie. I love to read and listen to audiobooks and programs. I was so psyched to be part of launching this book because I am so passionate about its contents. Ruth has a knack for hitting home with her powerful examples and use of words. While reading her section about a typical shopping experience at Target, I was literally laughing out loud and thinking how pathetic it is that I am EXACTLY the same way. I go in there for one thing and end up filling my trunk with stuff I felt like I NEEDED and then have to think of a way to justify it all the way home. It’s sad but now I know I’m not the only one who does this.

LWSL Book Quote 17

This book talks about 12 different secrets to help you make the most of your life. It offers lots of bible references that help drive the point home of how God has indicated we should live in order to be happy. One of the major points Ruth makes is that STUFF does not bring happiness. Although we hear that all the time and we may even profess that we believe it, don’t we all still suffer from the “I want” syndrome sometimes? It’s a good thing I live in a super rural community where the shopping literally consists of one, completely understocked Walmart. However, this book has inspired me to really focus on other things and being grateful for what I have. Ruth teaches that contentment is a choice. Sometimes I get in a rut thinking, “I’ll finally be happy when ________.” Is that ever really true? Whatever I’m waiting for might make me feel happy…for a while…until I realize there’s something else I need to wait for now in order to be happy. I don’t want to live my life like that. I want to be happy now and continue being happy in the future. That requires a conscious choice.

This book also inspired me to follow my dreams and realize that it’s ok to want to do something with my life in addition to being a mother. While my kids are literally my life, I want to teach them to follow their dreams and work hard for something great. Can I really do that if I am spending all my energy only on them 24 hours a day? Kids need to know that mommy is an actual person, with feelings, needs, and dreams just like them. While I would never sacrifice my kids for professional success, I want to be an example for them to do something creative and exciting in their lives. So I’m starting with this blog. I’ve always loved to write and since I graduated high school the only writing I’ve done is for academic papers or in my journal. It’s time I put that passion for writing to use.

I look forward to re-reading this book and for Ruth’s future books. She feels like a kindred spirit to me. Sometimes I try to tell myself that I don’t need friends now that I have my own family. The simple truth is that women need women, period. Reading Ruth’s book was almost like sitting across the table from her and having a friendly conversation.

 

If you decide to read her book, which you can find wherever books are sold, you will also have the opportunity to participate in her Secret 13 Essay Contest. The grand prize is an all-expense paid, week long Carnival Cruise for up to four people, including airfare. I totally entered. That post will be up on Wednesday 🙂 Let me know what you think of the book and if you have a blog, you should be part of the blog tour. Also, for a chance to win one of five $100 Gift Cards follow Ruth’s super easy challenge by snapping a picture of her book in or in front of any Target. Click here for more information on that challenge. Happy Reading!

7 Tips to Being a Great Gift-Giver

 

Present square2 

I’m not gonna lie, I’ve received some weird gifts in my life and wondered, “What were they thinking?” Avoid being that person who gifts the weirdest things that really have no meaning and instead be the other type of person that always gives the most thoughtful gifts.

1. Put some thought into it

This means you need to start ahead of time. Don’t be that person that runs to the nearest Wal-Mart on Christmas Eve, praying there’s something left to give everyone on your list. Start waaaayyyyy ahead of time and force yourself to pay attention. People, even the ones who appear to have everything, are constantly leaving unconscious hints about what they would love to receive as a gift. They may not come out and say, “For Christmas I would like _________” but they are saying it, just in a different way. Listen for cues like, “I wish _________” or “wouldn’t it be nice _________” or “someday _________”. These are great hints for people who are hard to buy for.

box2. Think outside the box

With the cues given above, the person may not be talking about an actual item that you might be able to purchase them as a gift. For example, my mom has pretty much everything. I mean, within reasonable limits, if she wants something she normally just gets it for herself. So it’s sometimes difficult to buy for her. However, when I listen to her and pay attention, she is always talking about making things that she doesn’t have time for, or fixing things that she can’t do herself. I have found that some of the best Christmas gifts I have given her have been acts of service by fixing something or refinishing something she already has. It can be tricky and you may not be able to make it a surprise (which is ALWAYS more fun if you can swing it). However, it’s a great way, and often less expensive way, to give to someone you really care about.

3. Don’t give something just because it’s what you would like to receive

You know that person who always gives you, and everybody else, jewelry? Or makeup? Or workout gear? Or home décor? Or horse-themed stuff? Who’s to say everybody likes the same things you like? It’s an easy way out because it takes a lot less thought. You know you like it, so she’ll like it too right? Unless you’re sure you two are that much alike, dig a little deeper.

4. Price doesn’t always equal value

You don’t have to spend a ton of money to give great gifts. Remember the old adage, “It’s the thought that counts”? It really is. In the end, nobody cares how much you spent on a gift if it is meaningful to that person.

 5. You can’t go wrong with  attaching memories to gifts

photo albumThe best gift, to date I think, that I’ve ever given my dad was putting our home movies on DVD for him. He had all of his photos and memorabilia burn up in a fire a few years ago and it was devastating to him. I figured out how to convert our VHS home movies to DVD on my own computer and he was touched to receive those as his Christmas gift. He still talks about it today. Anytime you can gift memories, people love that! Just make it meaningful and personal and you can’t go wrong. This is especially great for people who seem to have everything.

6. Sometimes less is more

Sometimes you want to go a little overboard but nobody likes to feel bad because they received something huge from the person they gave a keychain to. Remember that size and cost don’t necessarily matter. Meaning is what matters. Do I sound like a broken record here?

7. Last thing, make it appropriate and intentional

Don’t buy something just because it’s on sale and later decide who you might be able to give it to. No joke, my sister received an underwater scuba diving bag one year. She lives in Utah, has never been nor had she ever planned on going scuba diving. WHAT?! Who knows where that came from, probably the sale cart at some random department store. The point is, unless you’re planning on giving her a  ticket to a Caribbean cruise to go along with that bag, don’t do it.

Obviously, as I’ve repeated myself several times, it really is the thought that counts. Not just that you thought about that person and gave them something, but the fact that you put a lot of thought into what you gave that person. Gifts are a great way to show your love and strengthen your relationships. Don’t let a bad gift put a damper on a perfectly great Christmas. It’s not too late to return some things if you think you need to 🙂

Gifts Facebook