What Does This Time of Year Mean To You?

During this time of year, between Thanksgiving and the New Year, there are many different holidays that are celebrated depending on your faith or your family heritage. What does this time of year mean to you? Do you like it or does it make you feel stressed out? Do you have a strong sense of community or do you feel more alone than the rest of the year? Does it bring back fond childhood memories or does it bring feelings of sorrow and loss? I think over the years I have felt all of these various emotions at sometime or another during December.

If you go way back before the birth of Christianity; people celebrated holidays according to what they called the wheel of the year. Winter Solstice, which happens on approximately December 21st, was a celebration of the light returning. The days getting longer again. The wheel of the year was based on the farming year. This time of year was considered a time for rest and reflection. It was not a time to start new things, but rather a time to evaluate how the last year went and what to do differently when the Spring Equinox rolled around again and it was time to start preparing to plant the crops. That being said, many of our ancestors used this as a time to go inward. It is in such contrast to the busy hustle and bustle of the holiday season of today. For many this is the bushiest time of the year. Many people pick up seasonal jobs to pay for the gifts they have to buy. Holiday parties and get-togethers fill up all of your free time. There is shopping and baking to be done. Lists to make and check twice. Children are in holiday plays or other performances. It is all very busy and much more focused on community and others, rather than that inward journey.

Please be aware that if you are feeling like it is all too much, this just might be the ancestral roots within you. They may be calling to you to say; “shhhh, just be quiet for a bit now”. They may be asking that you rest, gather your strength, and prepare for the spring. Having clear communication with others, when it gets to much, can help you set boundaries for yourself around this. Have a dialog to clearly express what you need during this busy season. Perhaps you want to delay that get-together until after the first of the year, when your calendar is open. Maybe it is setting limits on gift giving or, as I said on a friends post, “giving the gift of not having to exchange gifts” with someone. You are not alone. Many people are feeling the stress and expectations this season places upon us. My hope for you is that with clear communication and firm boundaries, some of the stress of the holiday season can subside and you can return to reflecting on what does this season really mean to you. How do you best want to enjoy this season?  There is much beauty in this time of year. Find the peace to be able to enjoy it.

Thank you for reading my blog today. I love you! May the peace of this holiday season infuse you to the core, as if by magic.

*Photo was taken in our back yard

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Financial Wellness: An Interesting Side Effect We Discovered

My husband and I recently decided to work on our financial wellness. You may be thinking that finances have nothing to do with your overall wellness, but I strongly disagree. Our finances have a profound affect on us. They allow us to pay for important healthcare; such as acupuncture, massage, or even a visit to the doctor.  Having adequate resources allows us to buy healthy and nutritious food. Money even supports some self care activities such as going on a retreat, vacations, or yoga classes. Even without all the things that having some coin in our pockets can do for us, there is the stress that not having enough cash causes. When the bills seem to out number your income or creditors all calling, the stress level can get out of control fast. High stress levels are not good for us. They can cause anxiety, depression, high blood pressure and other illnesses including unhealthy weight problems. Gaining control of your funds is an important step to your overall wellness.

As my husband and I set out on our journey to financial wellness, we first had to get on the same page. We are grateful for the book, Total Money Makeover; by Dave Ramsey. Dave doesn’t believe in manifestation or the Law of Attraction. Interestingly, I feel it was my focus on manifesting financial abundance, that caused the Universe to bring Dave and his books to my attention. I am happy to agree to disagree with Dave on this point. Total Money Makeover inspired Marty and I to get serious about our finances and we started working on the steps Dave laid out in his book.

All of this was a new to me. I have done spreadsheets for bills and payments due but never made a plan for how to spend the rest of the money. It just never seemed like there was enough of it to worry about. However, not worrying about how to spend the rest caused overspending. This just made matters worse and financial stress higher. We downloaded the app, that has been developed to support Dave’s principles. It is called Every Dollar. Dave wants you to give every dollar coming into your household a home so you know where every dollar is spent. When we initially logged our October spending, we were shocked to see some of the ways that money was escaping from our pockets. There were a lot of little things we were spending money on that, quite frankly, were a waste. Money was dribbling away from us in little insidious ways. It was not big purchases that were doing damage to our bottom line. It was the few dollar here and a couple of bucks there.

Next, we developed a November budget and set forth to follow it as close as possible. It was the first time either of us had ever really budgeted that tightly. There were things that came up that we had to adjust another spot in the budget to expense them from. Everything needed to add up to zero at the end. There were a couple places where we placed too much money and a couple others where we did not plan enough.  In the end, we made it through our first month of budgeting. When we talked about how we felt during this first month of budgeting, we both agreed that we felt more in control of our finances and less stressed. The interesting side effect was, when we got to the end of the month and the next payday, we had some money leftover. It seems crazy but true. Somehow being on a budget, giving everything a home and watching where things were going; not only gave us the feeling of having more money but actually more money.

I am very grateful that my husband is the type of man who is willing to walk this process with me. It is truly a team effort. If you decide to start on a road of finance wellness, I wish you every success. That are many money gurus out there. Maybe Dave is right for you or maybe it is someone else whose process just seems to make sense and be the right tool you need to feel financial well.

Thank you for reading my blog today. I love you! I wish you a lifetime of finding the right financial tools for your personnel wellness, as if by magic. Just as mine came to me.

*Photo taken in Rome, Italy

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Silliness is Always a Good Idea: 7+ Ways I Have Added it to My Life

Do you like to be silly? It can feel very vulnerable to be playful and silly but it can also feed your soul and support your inner child. Let’s face it, there is a little kid hidden deep inside all of us. Here are some examples of how I have added some more play to my life. Trust me, even if it feels awkward at first, before long you will be laughing and not giving a darn what others think when they see you being goofy.

1. A friend and I recently drove up Mt Baker in Washington State. Along the way there was a big silhouette of Sasquatch. I excitedly ran up to him to shake his hand. My friend was not there to judge me but did manage to grab a shot for Facebook. Perhaps the cars driving by thought my behavior was a bit odd, but what they think of me does not impact me in the least. It was fun and we had some much needed laughs.

2. I invited a friend over for supper and decided to make it a theme meal. We had an inner child party; complete with sticky alien party favors, corndogs, and dreamsickles for dessert. It was a fun way to spend time with a friend while letting our inner children play and feel nourished.

3. Yet another friend and I went to a theme park together. It was busy time of year, when there seemed to be more work than hours in the day. There were big tubes for the kids to crawl through, on, and over. We got down on our hands and knees and crawled around in the play area like children; giggling and released a lot of the stress that had built up.

4. We try to have a family dinner once a week. For a recent family dinner we decided to have a tea party, complete with crustless sandwiches and fancy china. The kids had a great time but so did the three grown men around the table. They sipped their tea, held their pinky out, and laughed big belly laughs. They were a great example to the teenaged boy and younger children at the table that it is okay to be vulnerable and yourself.

5. When going for a walk, if I happen across a child chalk hopscotch game on the side walk, I cannot pass by with out hop, skipping, and jumping my way through it. It’s just plain and simple, feels great to be a kid at heart.

6. When my kids were teenagers we lived in a small rural community. There was not a lot to do. One night we just decided to crank up the music and dance the night away in the basement. Dance is a wonderful way to release pent up energy and be as silly as you want too. Those around you may get a good laugh and you will have some disco disco fun!

7. When Emy and I go the the BWCA, we bring kid’s blowup tubes. We push them down around our middles like pink and blue tutus and float in the clean cool lakes. We chat and play in the water like carefree little girls. It feels great to be so free for a little while.

The amount of silliness you can allow into your life is only hampered by your imagination and bravery. Play Clue by candle light, wear something fun like a big floppy hat, pop silly poses with statues, go to the park and swing as high as you dare, finger paint, or anything else your imagination suggests. It is a great way to have fun, release stress, and get some great big belly laughs going.

Thank you for reading my blog today. I love you! May your life be filled with laughter, as if by magic!

*photo was taken at our kitchen table

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12 Tips to Help Decrease Holiday Stress

It’s holiday time. Do you love this season or does it cause you stress? Are you worried about where all the money will come from to buy everyone that perfect gift? Are you worried about people not liking your gifts? I love the general good cheer in the air but with a renewed focus on our financial goals, the holidays can be a potential step backwards. Here are some tips to help you live within your means, enjoy the holidays, reduce your stress, and still show others you care.

Set realistic expectations for yourself – No one can be it all, do it all or attend it all. Be realistic with yourself, your time, your energy, and your money. Do not sign up for more than you can take on. In the past, I felt I had to be the best entertainer, prepare the yummiest meals, decorate until not a corner of the house was untouched, give the perfect gifts and attend all the events. Age and wisdom have taught me that is not only unrealistic but also unhealthy. Be gentle with yourself.

Make a budget– I love giving as much as the next person but buying someone a more expensive gift does not change how much I love them. Decide on a reasonable dollar amount to spend and stick to it.

Start saving now for next year– put a small amount into a Holiday savings account each payday so when the next Holiday season rolls around you will not have to go into debt to buy gifts.

Talk to people about gift giving– for years my brother and I would exchange gift cards in the mail. We finally spoke and decided to each get ourselves something from the other, rather than shifting money back and forth in the mail. Buying a gift for you may be causing stress for another, so by having a conversation, you may alleviate their stress and financial burden too.

Handmade happiness – there are so many beautiful handmade gifts that you can make to give others. Depending on what you are making to give, you may have to start early in the year to get them done, so not to cause yourself extra pressure to meet a short deadline. Do you knit, make “out of this world” fudge, write poetry or do cute crafts? All of these things can be very sweet and special gifts.

Initiate family gift exchanges – talk to family about drawing names for gift giving instead of a gift for everyone or agree on gifts only for people under a certain age. Be creative and communicate.

Make coupons for services– you can make coupons for gifts of services. Some ideas are, making a home cooked meal, shoveling snow, pet or child sitting, raking leaves next fall, painting a room in their home. Be creative and listen to the things they are wanting to get done. You would hate to hurt someone’s feelings by offering to fix something they don’t feel is broken. This isn’t about you telling them what needs to get done but rather doing something for them they have been wanting to get done.

Share the gift of time– talk to friends and family and ask about sharing the gift of time. Get together for a meal, a cup of tea, volunteer to help a local charity together or a visit to a favorite location. Set a date for after the Holidays and both promise to make it a priority. What better gift than the gift of time.

Meditate – the holidays can be stressful with commitments, planning, shopping, and cooking. Meditate to find your center and remain mindful in the midsts of the extra pressure you may feel.

Remember the reason behind this time of year– the holiday season means something a little different to everyone.  So remember what it means to you. Connect with that heartfelt space and take some deep breaths when you feel anxious.

Reach out for help – If the stress of this time of year seems overwhelming or loneliness is breaking your heart, talk to someone. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number is 1-800-273-8255. If you are missing a loved one, find a support group or person who can hold the space for you and just let you talk. Support groups, AA or other similar programs are a couple of places you can go to find support when it all seems too much. Remember you are loved, even when you don’t feel like it and you are not alone, even when it feels like you are.

Have fun! Find the joy in this time of year. There is a lot of it to be had. Live in the moment and enjoy seeing loved ones you don’t always get to connect with. Notice the good cheer in the air, all the extra seasonal events and the generosity that seems to flow through humanity. Look for the good and you shall surely find it.

Wishing you a most happy and loved filled holiday season. Take a deep breath and enjoy all that this time of year has to offer you!

Thank you for reading my blog today. I love you! May your holiday season be joyous and filled with love, as if by magic.

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Choices and Consequences

I remember when I was in college and a bunch of us were sitting around discussing what people in college discuss, totally random stuff. The question came up to name something we believe in. One of my friends answered without hesitation. “Consequences!” She said. That caused a lot of puzzled looks around the table. Now, a quarter of a century later, I totally get what she meant.

Life is full of choices. People talk about making the “right” choice, but how do we define that? Sometimes there is clearly a better choice but not always. Here is the thing, all choices have consequences. Some of the consequences may be positive and some will be negative. There is this duality in all things, like yin and yang. Let’s think about a couple of examples.

There is a project you need to get done for work or school. You plan to work on it this evening. When evening rolls around, your buddy calls and wants you to spend time doing something way more awesome than working on the project. You have a choice to make. If you work on the project the consequences may be:

  1. It gets done.
  2. You do a great job because you had uninterrupted time and could focus.
  3. Your buddy eventually stops calling because you are always busy.
  4. With the project done you have less stress, so the next time you hang out, you have way more fun.
  5. Your buddy totally understands and thanks you, because he gots something done on their to do list as well.
  6. You learn a valuable lesson.

Now let’s say you go hang out instead:

  1. You have fun.
  2. You are stressed because you know the project is still not done.
  3. You get less sleep in order to stay up and finish it.
  4. You don’t complete it on time or correctly and this gets you in “trouble”.
  5. Your buddy and you reach a new level of connection in your friendship.
  6. You learn a valuable lesson.

It is easy to see how both options have pros and cons and of course you could make other choices. Like splitting the time between the friend and the project or having the friend work with you on the project, depending on what it is.

This scenario, as with all the things that we have to make decisions on in life, has no “right” or “wrong” answer. No matter what you choose there will be consequences, both positive and negative in nature.

I encourage you to think about the possible consequences when making decisions but do not labor over them for too long. There is so much of the future that we cannot know. It is impossible to truly predict how things will turn out. Trust your gut. Rely on your intuition. If you can quiet your mind a bit, you will know which direction you are being pulled in. It will be the choice that has more peace and less stress associated with it.

Pay attention to which way your intuition is pulling you and visualize what the consequences are for those choices. This will help you to learn to trust your intuition and get better at making decisions, peacefully.

Thank you for reading my blog today! May your lifetime be filled with happy consequences and easy choices, as if by magic.

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Introvert vs Extravert; How to Find a Healthy Balance

How do you get your energy? What do you do when your batteries are down and need to be recharged? When your Life has been stressful and you just need some down time, what do you plan? Would it surprise you to know that how you answer these questions will vary depending on your “extravert” verses “introvert” tendencies?

I am an introvert and I know this about myself, that when my batteries need to be recharged, I need time alone. How very “peopley” the world is makes me tired. The idea of going to a crowded place seems exhausting to me. (This is probably made worse by the fact that I am also an Empath, but that is for another blog). My husband, on the other hand, is an extravert. He needs people and social time to get him charged up. Getting together with friends, always sounds like a good idea to him. He is a happy, “the more the merrier” type of guy. He has never met a stranger and authentically loves people.

Because of this I sometimes think introverts get a bad rap. People imagine introverts to be socially awkward, shy, and not very friendly. This is simply not true. Those attributes can belong to introverts or extraverts. Whether you are an introvert or an extravert really has more to do with where we get our energy from. I am a very social person. I enjoy public speaking and have lots of friends. I enjoy doing things with my friends and lead a monthly discussion group/class. However, when I get tired, more time with others will only cause me to feel more worn out. It takes a lot of effort for me when I am being social. It doesn’t mean I don’t need these social event or don’t have fun when I am at them. The opposite is true; I do need and want them. But it’s all about the balance.

If you have friends and family that are the opposite of you, it is always important to respect and understand their needs. If being at the mall around lots of people feeds you and makes you feel energized, understand and respect that for your buddy, it may be different. Just as I have to remember that my husband’s needs are different than mine. I work to help ensure that, in our time together, we strike a healthy balance between being social and spending quiet time alone. I have to remember that my need for quiet time should not stifle his need for social time and visa versa. We both need to be fed energetically just in different ways. So listen to what your friends and loved ones have to say about what and how they need to recharge their batteries.

So the next time you feel like you want to plan a way to reward yourself for a busy week, think if that is a night-in binge watching your favorite show or a night out at the local pub celebrating with a large group of people. Think about your friends and family members and how they seem to recharge. Finally, in your personal relationship, try an strike a healthy balance so that you both are getting what you need.

Thank you for reading my blog today. I wish you a lifetime of finding the perfect ways to recharge, as if by magic.

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7 Tips to Remain Optimistic When Stressed.

Stress is a part of all of our lives! Here are some simple things you can do to help remain optimistic even when stressed. It may not always be easy, but a shift in focus, will certainly not hurt.

1.      Live in the NOW! – When you live in the ‘now” you are not worrying about what is coming (what is past) or how to make it be okay.

2.      Count you Blessings – Looking at all the positive things (happening) in our life, helps us not stress over the things that are making us feel stressed.

3.      Remember you are safe – Everything happens for the reason but even those things, that we do not want to happen, often teach us and help us grow.

4.      Paint a picture of what you want – Keep your thoughts on the outcome you want, rather than the outcome you do not want.

5.      Don’t forget to breath – All too often, when we are stressed, we either hold our breath or breath into our shoulders.  Taking some deep belly breathes helps provide a calming effect.

6.      Remember that failure is just a chance to start over – Some people think it is the end of the world but this is not true. It is a chance to start over and try again. By recognizing that failure makes success sweeter, perhaps will make it less scary for you. You now know what “didn’t work”, that will help you move towards the way that does.

7.      The sun will come out tomorrow – Like the song from the musical “Annie” says, the sun will come out, tomorrow is a new day, and good things are just around the bend. Even when we can’t see the sun, it is still there.

It is not always easy to remain optimistic when stressed or when (crazy) things are going on. It will, without a doubt, improve your outcome however. Whenever possible try and keep your thoughts positive and look to a brighter future. It is coming for you.

Thank you for reading my blog today! May your future be filled with sunshine and happy outcomes, as if by magic.

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