By Jackie White
It’s Christmas, so don’t forget you need to: take Christmas photos, make Christmas cookies, go Christmas shopping, wrap the gifts, buy Christmas cards, purchase postage ,write out cards and mail, decorate the house, get the tree, decorate the tree, make holiday dinners, clean the house, host holiday dinners, attend Christmas events, prepare for St Nick’s day, participate in the Elf on the Shelf, arrange for Secret Santa happenings, watch Christmas movies, get teacher gifts, drive through the lights, go Christmas caroling, volunteer, go to church, make handmade gifts…
It’s All Too Much!
Last Christmas my friend told me she needed to mitigate the stress that Christmas becomes. She and I pledged we would be done shopping by December 1. I took the competition seriously and finished shopping and wrapping by the first week of December. I had several weeks left to complete all the other Christmas tasks remaining, but dragged them out so “I had something Christmasy to do during the season” What was I thinking? My friend continued to complete all other tasks but was frantically shopping up until the holiday. Neither one of the scenarios were ideal, but the challenge opened my eyes to the real sickness we both suffered from PPC Syndrome: Picture Perfect Christmas Syndrome. Listen, my friend, we don’t need to put ourselves through this!
What happens is many of us moms start early with Christmas shopping, planning, decorating and trying to bring to life a Picture Perfect Christmas! Why do we do this to ourselves? We think if we start early and stash away the gifts throughout the year we think this year will be on top of Christmas! What then happens is we don’t just stop there as we should, we think we can add even more to the holidays and it will be so much better. We then add on handmade Christmas cards, Pinteresty decorations, crafts and the list goes on! That’s where we get into trouble!
Believe it or not, more presents, more decorations, more activities do not translate into a better Christmas. I am guilty of thinking that if I just do more, especially as my children get older, than Christmas will continue to stay magical. I also have previously subscribed to the notion that if my holiday décor is Pinterest worthy than that equals a grade “A” Christmas.
The Stress is Real
Let’s peel back the onion on Christmas and really take a look at the frantic pace of the holiday. The season of joy becomes a massive list of things to do. Even the fun stuff like baking Christmas cookies or attending a holiday party becomes a list to check off. We make it into a race for the finish line rather than enjoying the specialness of the season. The tasks of the season are real and many times falls heavily on the mom. It starts early, what will be the perfect gift for my child this year? In October you are thinking about Christmas when Halloween hasn’t even happened yet?
When we don’t take time to slow down, the stress of it all can affect you physically. The increase in things to do and the desire to want everything to be perfect can put you, and specifically, your prefrontal cortex into overdrive. The brain must keep track of the multiple tasks that need to be done in a relatively short period of time. That feeling of being “burned out” is common. The pressure can even affect memory, halt production of new brain cells and cause existing brain cells to die. We also become more susceptible to falling ill because we are running ourselves ragged. This is serious, Girl!
The first step is recognizing we have a problem with overdoing Christmas. “Hello, I am Jackie and I am a Christmas Over-doer”. Secondly, we need a mind shift on what constitutes a happy Christmas. Ok, so I admit, decorating 7 trees in the house will not make Christmas better. It will just give me more work to do. One tree is perfect – make it sparkly and hang the family ornaments on it. Thirdly, we have to put a reasonable plan in place. Here are five ways we can do that:
1) Take care of yourself: exercise, eat right, drink water, get enough sleep
2) Prioritize what really is important to having a good holiday (then cut the rest of it out)
3) Start early and end early on things that don’t have a hard and fast date
4) Take time daily to check in with yourself to keep on track and avoid craziness
5) Get others on board with your new trimmed down plan. Recruit help with tasks!
I encourage you to make a plan and throw away the idea of a “perfect Christmas”. Christmas is so special just as it is. You just have to realize that it doesn’t need 10,000 bells and whistles to make it better. The fact is you deserve to have an enjoyable holiday too. Give yourself a gift and take time to slow down and take in the joy of the holiday season this year.
Wishing you a very merry un-perfectly wonderful Christmas holiday!
By: Jackie White
I know there are people like me out there. People you love the thrill of getting a bargain! Garage sales, thrifting or even grabbing something off the side of the road is like riding a rollercoaster as the adrenaline shoots through the veins! But if that is such a rush, sales on Black Friday are like jumping-out-of-a-plane rush! For bargain shoppers like me, this is Nirvana! That is before Black Friday became the watered-down version it is today. Now, it starts in October and the sales hit periodically up until the real Black Friday. Honestly, for people like me it’s just not as fun. It’s like the hunt for the deal doesn’t really exist anymore.
I remember back in the day when I would make sure I got the newspaper of Thanksgiving day and I combed it with anticipation. I would circle the deals and plot out my plan of attack. Each deal would carefully be input into my color-coded spreadsheet, so I’d know which store had which deal. Then my friend and I would get up at the crack and begin to hit the stores. We would line up with all the other crazies, who by the way, were very nice and seemingly loved the hunt as much as we did. The store worker would open the door like opening the gates to let the wild animals in the stores and we would “walk fast”, no running or stampeding anyone down! We would make our way to the deals with our own large shopping bags in hand. This was key to fast movement throughout the store because if you get a cart, you are stuck behind people. The big shopping bags help us move like gazelles across the aisles so we can knab the deals we came for! One rule to follow was to not get distracted by other things! Keep moving until you have the item you want in hand and then quickly move to the check out and then on to the next store.
We would do this all morning until the sun came up and when we had purchased what we came for, we would grab breakfast and gloat over the deals we got! There is no finer pride in knowing just how much you saved!
Today, I still Black Friday shop. I have to go out on Thanksgiving now if I really want to get certain “doorbuster” deals. It’s still fun, but by the time I do go, I likely have ordered much of the stuff I wanted that is on sale online. I won’t lie though, once Thanksgiving dinner is winding down, I do get another shot of energy knowing that I will be going out and hopefully will grabbing some deals and even possibly finishing my holiday shopping! We have even made it a tradition that my kids and I meet up with my niece and we hit the sales after Thanksgiving dinner.
Do I miss the old days of scrambling in the wee hours of the morning for deals? Yes, I do, but the positive take on this is that there are more opportunities to snag a good deal. Now, for you nay-sayers, this really isn’t about diminishing a holiday with materialistic needs. For me, I am just trying to stretch a buck and maybe purchase something I wouldn’t normally be able to purchase. I also wait to replenish things in my home at this time of year. Things like towels, picture frames, pillows, blankets and such because the prices are far lower than they usually are during the year.
The only thing better than Black Friday deals are the After-Christmas deals! For round two of bargain shopping, we scavenge what’s left over for wrapping, gift items or holiday items we can use next year. These deals are usually anywhere from 75 – 90 percent off retail price. It’s definitely worth it! The only trick with this strategy is that you have to remember where you have hidden your treasures and that you remember to pull them out for the next year!
I know for all you non-bargain shoppers, you think this is nuts, but for my people – the bargain shoppers they understand. The excitement of a marked down tag, the delight in finding something you want in clearance (Clearance is my best friend) and the holy grail of Black Friday deals speak to my fellow bargain shoppers like music to their ears.
This Thanksgiving holiday week-end, I wish you much happiness, time with family, joy of the season and for my peeps – dang good sales!
By Jackie White
Something New from SoulShine! SoulShine is all about living your best life, however sometimes life can get in the way of living your best life. One thing we hear over and over is lack of time makes it difficult to live your best life. Things like responsibilities, children, spouses, bills, jobs, etc. can be difficult manage at times. We will explore some of these issues and will provide you ideas and support in managing through some of the curve balls life throws at us. Today we are addressing aging parents and self-care.
Jenny, a full time teacher, travels about an hour each way to visit her dad in the memory care facility. Thankfully, most days Fred recognizes Jenny. They play cards and talk about the past. Both of Leslie’s parents are suffering from Alzheimer’s and she is spends 10-15 hours per week caring for them while working and caring for her own family.
These are the stories of two women, but it’s the reality of many women. There is a huge elephant in the room when it comes to how women’s lives are affected by their aging parents. This unspoken issue for women impacts a woman’s life fairly significantly. The burden of caring for an aging or ailing parent usually falls upon the daughters of these parents. Of course, we don’t like the word “burden” because our parents are not a burden. Our parents have cared for us and we will do the same for them, but the fact remains that it can be a hardship that many of us are not physically or mentally prepared for.
The statistics also support the fact that care for ailing parents is many times a woman’s “problem”. Let’s get familiar with the facts and find ways to lift ourselves up in these tough times. It’s important.
If you have ever been part of these statistics, you will know that managing all of these responsibilities and stress is physically and mentally exhausting. Frankly, sometimes it’s about just trying to keep your head above water. It’s hard to manage all of this without something suffering. One week it might feel like you have missed out on spending time with your kids and another time it might feel like you haven’t seen your spouse in forever! Even family activities and vacations can be dictated by caring for an ailing parent. The goal is to learn ways not to lose yourself in the care management.
Jenny and Leslie are two women currently caring for their ailing parents. Specifically, their parents have memory-related illnesses. They have been generous to share their stories to help us best understand the challenges.
Jenny travels about an hour each way to visit her dad in the memory care facility. Jenny is lucky to have other family members and friends also visit her dad weekly. Fred is 84 years old and had been diagnosed with vascular dementia. This type of dementia is similar to Alzheimer’s in the person’s memory is permanently impaired and continues to decline. In Fred’s case his memory impairment is hereditary and in the past was referred to as senility or hardening of the arteries. Fred’s memory decline has been made worse by smoking for 64 years. Thankfully, most days Fred recognizes Jenny. Jenny says they play cards and talk about the past. His concept of time is often confused. He asks who Jenny’s mom was - his wife, and other days he will remember her and that sadly, she has passed away. His memory has him believing he is in his 50’s or 60’s and is always shocked to find out how old he really is. Every week though, he does ask Jenny when he can go home to the house he lived when he was growing up. It’s heartbreaking for Jenny to break the news to her dad over and over again that he is home.
Leslie has a similar story, but the pain is multiplied because both of her parents are suffering from Alzheimer’s. Her father, Cliff, is in early stages of Alzheimer’s and her mother, Alice, is in late-stages. Her dad doesn’t realize he has a memory issue and yet cannot understand why his wife Alice isn’t acting herself. Leslie and her sister care for their parents, each spending 10-15 hours per week with their mom and dad. Leslie recently found a care facility that could take both of her parents easing some of the burden. She still feels she needs to visit frequently to make sure her parents are being taken care of properly. Leslie has had to find a part-time job that unfortunately is an underpaid job, but it allows for time she needs for her parents and for her husband and son.
Since Leslie’s mom is in late-stage Alzheimer’s, Leslie has spent time just holding her mom’s hand and learning to cue into any possibly communication her mother may be trying to convey. Leslie feels she has grown to be more compassionate towards the challenges of aging. Leslie has chosen to focus on the positive and states “Every disease we face with people, we have so many beautiful opportunities to grow spiritually and individually as we sit beside those who are dying whether it’s a short process or a long one”.
Both Jenny and Leslie are trying to carry on with life, working jobs and caring for children and/or their spouse. The exhaustive nature of caring for an aging parent, especially one with declining mental capacity, is demanding. They have put things on hold in their lives to get through this stressful time. The one thing both of these women do to manage all of this is to keep a positive outlook and also give themselves some grace. They realize they can’t fix the situation, or that they can’t be there 24/7. They have to let any guilt go and know they are doing the best they can.
How to Care for Yourself
Care-takers who are simultaneously juggling many responsibilities are at risk of suffering from depression, anxiety, chronic illness and/or decline in quality of life. It’s important to be mindful not to lose yourself in the quagmire of emotions and exhaustion. Hear me now, it is critically important to keep yourself on the list. Did you hear that? You can’t let yourself get lost in all of this, rather you need to know it is not selfish to care for yourself. Here are some ways you can start caring for yourself:
1) Be mindful of how you are feeling. Many emotions will rush over you and it’s ok.
2) Journaling about your feelings can be helpful to understand why you are feeling a certain way.
3) Get a massage. It might feel indulgent, but it also may be necessary to work out over-tight stressed
4) Take an afternoon for yourself to do something you like to do. Read, walk, knit, dance - whatever!
5) Exercise your body. It will help with relieving stress and will keep your body from getting too stiff.
6) Pray. In tough times and times where your loved one may soon be moving on, it can be very helpful to pray
and find comfort and guidance.
7) Eat healthfully will keep your body fueled properly to manage long hours or stressful times.
8) Remember the good times. It’s important to recall memories of when your parent was not ill. Write these
memories in a journal.
9) Keep talking to your parent. It might feel that they don’t hear you, but your words will not go unheard.
10) Put yourself in a time out. Sometimes when you feel overwhelmed, you need to take time out. Take a bath,
take a nap or take a walk.
11) Cry. It’s ok to cry. Let it out and feel the release of stress.
12) Ask or seek out help. We all need help. It is not a sign of weakness or disloyalty to ask for assistance.
13) Take time to laugh and enjoy life. Things can get tough, but it doesn’t mean you need to wallow in it, in fact,
just the opposite is true. You need to continue to find joy in life.
14) Smile. This may sound silly, but if you smile, you will feel better.
15) Be grateful. This might be a hard one knowing what you are dealing with, but there is always something to
be grateful for and you need to recognize those things.
16) If you aren’t feeling well, take care of yourself. You can’t take care of others if you are sick.
17) Connect with friends and family. Don’t isolate yourself. Remember a friend is a great person to talk to and
get perspective, but don’t fixate conversations solely on your problems. Enjoy talking about other things
18) Focus on positive self-affirmations will help you keep you strong and feeling good about yourself.
19) Take a few minutes daily to meditate. Meditation can reduce stress, anxiety and help you be intentional
about your time.
20) Be proud of yourself for caring for your parent. It’s not an easy task, but can be rewarding.
Life can get difficult sometimes. We have to deal with challenging things that we don’t want to, but taking time for some self-care will allow you to not lose yourself. It will also help you to be strong for those you are caring for.
Listen to Kenny Chesney's "While He Still Knows Who I Am" on the link below.
Facts about Alzheimer’s and Memory Related Disease
The facts are that 5.3 million people aged 65 or older are suffering from Alzheimer’s and other memory related diseases. Alzheimer's is a progressive disease, where dementia symptoms gradually worsen over a number of years. In its early stages, memory loss is mild, but with late-stage Alzheimer's, individuals lose the ability to carry on a conversation and respond to their environment. The pain of watching your parent disappear is almost unbearable, but not witnessing it is not an option.
For more information on Alzheimer’s go to www.alz.org For more information on being a caregiver www.caregiver.org. and for more life inspiration go to www.FindYourSoulShine.com
Know that even when dealing with life’s challenges you can still Shine On.
By Jackie White
Today’s Life Story is one that I hold close to my heart. This story is about a dear friend of mine, Jenny Moehn. She’s a teacher of reading, a teacher of theater, she teaches kids to be good people and most importantly, she teaches kids to believe in themselves.
Jenny is someone who has always lived her life in the most positive way. She takes a genuine interest in others and makes everyone feel like they matter. Her smile is infectious and can warm most any heart. These are some of Jenny’s strengths and they are exemplified in her life’s work. It’s unmistakable that Jenny is living her best life by living out her life purpose.
Oh, the Drama!
When Jenny was in fourth grade she attended a play of her friend’s sister. It was “My Fair Lady". Jenny still remembers that in that moment a spark was lit in her heart. She was bit by the theater bug. Years later, Jenny had the opportunity to participate in her high school musical, but for the first two years of high school, fear got the best of her and she opted to assist behind the scenes. Jenny finally conquered her fear and made it to the stage upon the insistence of her theater teacher. What she found was she absolutely loved it! That teacher, thankfully, gave Jenny the courage she needed to pursue her dreams.
As Jenny moved onto college all she thought about was wanting to be a theater major. The impression from her own theater teacher inspired her to want to teach others about theater. Unfortunately, there was a small catch to her plans. Her parents felt that teaching theater “wasn’t a real job” and they insisted Jenny choose something else. Jenny reluctantly did and spent her college years pursuing a degree in English. For Jenny there was no spark there. It wasn’t what she wanted to do and her grades reflected it. That’s when Jenny found the courage to tell her parents that she truly wanted to teach theater. Skeptically they agreed to give her the chance to turn her grades around by entering into the School of Theater Education. Jenny’s grades quickly turned from dismal to honor role. That’s the power of following your heart. Her passion was re-ignited and she felt her life was on the right track.
Jenny graduated with a major in theater education and communications education. She worked her first year out of college in a theater company located in California. For many reasons including the 1989 earthquake, Jenny left California and returned home to Wisconsin. There she took a job waitressing at a local sports bar. Her dreams of teaching theater went on hold, but this time was not all for nothing. During her stint at the sports bar, she met her future husband, Dan. Also, during this time an old friend’s mother called Jenny with an opportunity to work as an aid in the local school district. Jenny jumped at the opportunity and soon realized a passion she never knew she even had. That passion was teaching kids who were in the special education classes.
It’s funny how life begins to unfold in ways you could never predict.
Jenny didn’t waste any time and began to pursue a master’s degree in special education and later a cross categorical certification. She and Dan married and moved to Monroe Wisconsin and began their family. They have lived in Monroe for the last 25 years. Jenny currently works as a special education teacher at Monroe High School and has worked there for 17 years.
Jenny states that her primary objective in her role as a teacher is to help those who are challenged with reading. She knows how important and powerful it is for kids to know how to read. She has found that bringing the books to life by personally reading aloud to her students helps to get them engaged. Jenny uses her theater skills to help these kids with their reading and to learn to appreciate the wonder that can be found in the pages of a book.
Inspiring Others to Do Better:
Jenny says that teaching these kids makes life an adventure every day! She loves it all from the challenging student to the loving student. They are all wonderful in their own ways. Jenny uses her positive outlook and enthusiasm to work with her students to help them to believe in themselves as much as she believes in them. Some of the students she works with come from impoverished backgrounds and some have a negative outlook on their future, believing that their life will be very limited. This where Jenny’s real strengths come to light. She is a true inspirer of others to live their best life. She breaks through to these kids to get them to understand they have great possibilities in life! In fact, this is so important to her, each week she has her kids watch a story about an inspiring person and they talk through the person’s challenges. She uses this as a platform for her students to recognize their limiting beliefs and how they can work through their own life challenges. She wants them to know they need to not give up on themselves and that their future can be bright!
Seeing growth in her kids is the reward. When they choose to push themselves to make better choices, Jenny is proud. When they choose to be a good person who is doing right in the world, Jenny’s heart is full. Her ability to inspire these kids is a gift from God. It is truly her life purpose.
When the Timing is Right
Jenny’s first passion in life, theater, that she began to pursue back in California so many years ago has also found a place in her life today. Jenny has brought together her two passions, teaching and theater by directing the school’s play and musical two times per year. This is such a great example of how a person’s passions can be woven into their life.
Jenny says children who take part in theater programs learn so many valuable skills such as thinking on their feet, confidence, learning to trust others and being in the moment. The theater kids are also very accepting and this allows each kid to feel comfortable just being themselves. That can be a rarity for kids these days.
Jenny is passing on the favor that she received so many years ago when fear was blocking her from her dreams. Jenny is now the theater teacher who is encouraging her students to come out from behind their fear and learn to shine. Helping these kids realize their potential is the greatest reward.
Jenny looks back on her place in life today and although it is sure that she has touched so many lives by being an involved and caring teacher, her greatest accomplishment and pride is in own children Jessica age 26, Ethan age 23 and Grace age 21. She is reaping the benefits now of having raised good kids. Each are off on their own finding their life purposes and making their mark on the world and Jenny couldn’t be more proud.
One of Jenny’s roles in life is helping kids to live their best life. She is providing not only life skills but the inspiration and enthusiasm for these kids to see the possibilities. She is changing lives by teaching these kids to believe in themselves. What a gift! Jenny tells me she isn’t sure she has found her all of life purpose yet and that she feels there is more to come. Wow! I can’t wait to see what’s next!
This Life Story has more to it. Jenny also is living her most difficult role in life today by being the daughter of someone who is battling a memory-related illness similar to Alzheimer’s. We will discuss the challenges of having a loved with declining memory and how caring for an ailing parent can be possibly one of the hardest things you'll ever have to do. Check out that blog on November 25, 2019.
By Erika Fehrenbach Prell
As some of you may know, my 8 year old son, Liam, is quite the character. He is funny and witty but also very insightful. He is the best life coach as he completely harnesses the living in the moment part of life. Besides his love of life and fun, he is a true Wisconsin kid and loves cheese; his first full sentence was an enthusiastic, “I like cheese!” while at a cheese-making demonstration when he was almost two years old.
Most Saturday mornings, we make eggs for the kids in the morning. It’s usually me that is the short order cook but at times it’s my husband or my mom, if we are at their house. A few years ago, while eating our Saturday morning eggs with cheese, my husband asked Ethan and Liam, “What makes these eggs taste so good?”.
Liam confidently yelled, “Cheese!”
Adam responded, “No, something else.”
Liam again responded, “Hmmm...salt?”
Adam replied, “Nope. Love. Mom made the eggs with love, that’s what makes them taste so good.”
You could see the skepticism on his 6 year old face as he tried to grasp how love could possibly make the eggs taste good; he was very sure of his original answers of cheese and salt. Adam jumped in to clear it up by explaining that there are different ways to show love, including doing nice things for people or making their favorite foods. So, when Mom, aka me, makes eggs in the morning for everyone, it is a way to show how much I love them.
In true Liam style, he responded with, “That makes sense. But, the cheese and salt are good, too.”
This conversation happened about three years ago but is revisited nearly every week when eggs are made. Adam loves personal growth as much, or maybe even more, than I do, so, he often repeats a message for it to set in. In the beginning he would prompt the boys by asking, “what makes these eggs taste so good?”. And, Ethan and Liam would respond with, “Love”.
It didn’t take long for them to remember on their own and start branching out from the original conversation. Ethan, my very thoughtful and considerate-of-others oldest son, started thanking me for making breakfast, and now thanks me for every meal that I cook. Liam has commented several times, “These eggs are extra good today...must be extra love.”; of course this has typically corresponded when extra cheese made it into the mix. Both of them have explained to other egg chefs, usually their grandparents, that the ingredient that makes the eggs taste the best is love. One of the funnier comments from Liam was when we were discussing “dippy eggs”, which are our term for overeasy; it’s hard to beat a restaurant griddle for taste quality as compared to over easy eggs at home. Liam told me that our local restaurant over easy eggs tasted better but he knew there wasn’t as much love in them so mine were still better.
I know, adorable Hallmark-y story, right? I have a point. The first being, kids are always watching us and are way smarter than we give them credit for. Liam was 5 when this conversation was had and was firmly in the literalness of being a kid; love being the ingredient that made the eggs taste good, not cheese and salt, was a bit abstract. However, he totally got it once it was explained to him. Experiencing how Ethan and Liam both took this little lesson and re-applied it to other situations has been fun and awesome to watch. Give your kids a show worth watching.
The other point comes from the old adage “home is where the heart is”; I am sure you have heard this one. After this lesson from my kids, I have realized this is not completely accurate. It really should be, “Home is where your heart is, and, fortunately, you take your heart wherever you may wander.” This egg moment happened at home and taught all of us that you put love into even the smallest things for those that you care about. But, what’s awesome is that the memory and lesson goes with my kids wherever they go. Whenever grandma or grandpa or their aunt makes them eggs, they know there is love in them. It brings them home to where it started, with a conversation my husband started about cheese, salt, and love, but it goes with them. And, based on the conversations that have been had since that time, it is obvious they realize that all the small things are demonstrations of love as well. That, my friends, is the power of home and how simple things like cheese, salt, and eggs can bring you back to the memories and feelings of where true love is. Home.
Take those feelings of home wherever you may wander!
By Jackie White
There is a gift for you that is priceless. This gift can make you smile time and time again. It sometimes is small, but nevertheless the most powerful gift. It comes in all different sizes and forms and is always there for you. This gift is so life-changing, it’s hard to imagine how it can be overlooked. This beautifully wrapped gift sits upon the shelf for years and goes unnoticed. The funny thing is that where that gift sits, there are several other amazing gifts wrapped in ribbons waiting for you to give your family and friends. Yet, there they sit.
These gifts can change your life and those around you. If you just open the gift you will see the incredible things that are waiting for you. What is guaranteed is that this gift will bring you happiness and joy. This gift will begin to rearrange what is right in the world. It will spill out it’s positive energy and deliver hope, love and a smile. Your life will become fulfilled and the meaning will begin to show itself to you. The negativity in life, the sadness and want-for-more begins to fade away once this gift is opened. When you give this gift to your family and friends, it is doubly powerful in that they receive a ray of sunshine from you and you receive the warm feeling of giving and connection.
Give the Gift Away
We think about the gift on occasion, but do not stop long enough to unwrap it. It’s such a disservice to ourselves to not take the time to unwrap it. The gifts we have for others are so meaningful and powerful to them, but have very little power to us, yet we choose to keep them to ourselves. Why? How could there be such a powerful gift right here under our noses and we do not see it? We get used to walking past it, and we do not realize the value it has.
By now, you may be wondering what the gift is. The gift is free, yet its value is immeasurable. It sheds positive light on your life and fills you with feelings of happiness and love. It’s for you, and it’s for you to give away. This gift is called gratitude. When practiced regularly gratitude can and will change your life.
Tough Love So You Can Receive Love:
So, if this gift is so wonderful, why does it remain un-given so often? For many of us, life gets busy and we do not slow down enough to recognize what we are grateful for. Then, there is, unfortunately, the mindset that we think we deserve certain things in life and a thanks for it is not needed. Finally, being grateful may be uncomfortable because you feel vulnerable acknowledging that you received help from someone else. Here is what we have to do: get over ourselves! The reasons to not be grateful never outweigh the benefit of being grateful. Let me say that again: The reasons to not be grateful never outweigh the benefits of being grateful.
The fact is, humans need other humans. Connection to others is extremely important. Being grateful is a small, but powerful way to connect with others, make them feel good and make your own life happier. That is a recipe for a successful and fulfilled life.
It’s Time to Unwrap the Gift
The time has come to start unwrapping this beautiful gift for yourself. It will require that you quiet your mind for a few minutes and pay attention. It is also helpful to have a pen and paper ready to record what your gift is. Are you ready to finally open the most powerful, life-changing gift? If you are, then look into your heart and find what you are grateful for. Those things you hold near and dear to you are your gift. They are wrapped in gratitude, but need to be opened, otherwise, they are meaningless. When you take the time to recognize the things in your life with gratitude, these things, whether they are big or small, will fill you up. The fact is when you are grateful, it is almost impossible to be sad, mad or negative in almost anyway. That’s the power of gratitude.
But what about your family and friends? You know you have places in your heart that you are grateful for them, but if you do not tell them, it remains a beautifully wrapped gift that sits on the shelf. It’s no good to anyone if the gift just sits there, you must give it.
The best part of this gift of gratitude is that there is not a special occasion needed to give it. You can open that present everyday and give to yourself and give to others. You will feel and see an amazing transformation in life for the better. You will lift others up by showing gratitude for them and as a result you will feel a stronger connection with them.
Practicing gratitude is like exercising a muscle. You need to work on it every day and the muscle will become stronger and easier to use. Here are some ways to help you get started with a gratitude practice:
1) Get a notebook or Gratitude Journal to write in or use the notes in your phone.
2) Spend a few minutes everyday thinking about what you are grateful for.
3) Write down 3-5 things you are grateful for. Do not choose the same things every day.
4) Write why you are grateful for those things.
5) Think of others and why you are grateful for them and most importantly, let them know.
That’s it. It is that easy to infuse your life with the power of gratitude. I invite you to open your gift and share your gift with others.
In the spirit of gratitude, I thank you for allowing me to share this with you.
Reflections on Veterans Day - A Grateful Heart For Those Doing What Most of Us are Not Willing To Do
By: Erika Fehernbach Prell
I recently visited the World War II Museum in New Orleans while there on a kid-free vacation with my husband and two of our besties. I have been to several such museums but this one was truly remarkable. Instead of the typical facts and artifacts, this museum was an experience; you started by boarding a train where you were assigned a real life person to follow through the war. You could switch to a different one, if you chose to; I swapped my paratrooper for an Army nurse. Being a nurse myself, I was curious what she went through during the war.
At different stops in the museum, you logged your dog tag in to see what your person was experiencing. Added to this, there were many true stories of the war experience, ranging from every day life to acts of heroism in the forms of written letters, written stories, actual footage from the war, and interviews of veterans. Following a soldier’s journey as if it was your own combined with these other true life moments made for a very powerful and moving experience.
During this experience, my mind naturally drifted to the veterans that I know-my grandfather and his brothers who all served in WWII, including my great uncle who remains missing in action when his airplane was shot down over France, my uncle who served in the Navy during Vietnam, my husband’s college buddy who served in Afghanistan, and finally brother, Tim, who is currently a Navy officer. There is one consistent theme among these generations of servicemen. In the name of defending the freedom and choice of current and generations to come, they were willing to do what many of us are not willing to do. They put their futures on hold and their lives at risk to defend the ideals of this country and stand up against oppressors that jeopardize all that many of us take for granted-freedom of choice. Even in relatively peaceful times, as compared to a war-ravaged Europe during World War II, servicemen and women give up so much.
Let’s take a quick walk in my brother’s shoes during one one of his tours. When he joined the Navy ROTC in college, he earned college tuition in exchange for 5 years of service, which was to include 2 overseas tours. To an 18 year old, I am sure this seemed like a no brainer; I am sure it was appealing on many levels, here you had a career with great financial incentives and adventure. What my brother did not anticipate, I am sure, is where is life would be when his second tour came about.
He was fortunate to get an overseas tour that was not in a war zone; this was more like a civilian-type position, but, since it was overseas for an extended time, it would count as his second tour. This should have been met with equal relief and excitement, except he was engaged. My brother and now sister-in-law changed their plans and got married sooner than planned, and a few weeks after their wedding, Tim was off to Japan for 18 months. I don’t want you to miss that. Imagine that you are a newlywed. Instead of starting your life together like you always dreamed, two weeks after your wedding, you are sent halfway across the world for a year and a half! I can’t even imagine.
The original plan was for my sister-in-law to join my brother over in Japan, however, remember that huge tsunami that hit Japan a few years ago? Yeah, that’s when my brother was there; his routine stateside job turned into a huge humanitarian effort and plans for my sister-in-law to join him were impossible. My brother has had two other tours since that time, fortunately, none have been as long. But, as life progresses, he has to leave not only his wife, who is a full time nursing student and works part time, but also his two young sons.
This is not a unique scenario to our servicemen and women. Even in times of peace, our servicemen and women are required to leave their families and friends, their lives, to do their jobs. And, between deployments, many have to move from base to base, starting over each time in a new city every few years, uprooting themselves and their families and starting over from scratch. And, this isn’t even taking into consideration what these amazing individuals deal with during an active war.
It can be easy to gloss over Veterans Day, especially when an active war is, gratefully, not going on. Our past and current servicemen and women deserve so much more than just this day; they deserve our respect and gratitude for keeping watch and upholding our freedom of choice. They are doing what many of us will not, and for that, I humbly thank you all for your service and dedication!
When you see a veteran, give a smile and simply say, “thank you for your service”. Not just on Veterans Day, but every day that you see them proudly sporting the hats and emblems of their service to this country, their countrymen, and future generations to come.
The Physiology of Gratitude - How to Use The Most Powerful Human Emotion to Improve Your Mind, Body, and Soul
By: Erika Fehrenbach Prell
November is the month of gratitude and gratefulness. You hear it everywhere, perhaps ad nauseum, to be grateful for all you have and to practice gratitude. (Like how I threw a little Latin into the mix? Feeling fancy today!) And, the constant barrage of this important message might actually do the opposite; anyone else tune out when you hear the same thing over and over? Gratitude is too important to tune out my friends, and it should really be something that you practice all year round, not just in November when Thanksgiving shows up on the calendar.
Like many of you, I have heard the claims that gratitude is amazing for your health. But, I also happen to be a bit of a skeptic; call it my science nerd side but show me the evidence! So, I did a bit of research, and it was probably the easiest evidence-based search I have ever done. My browser lit up like the sky on Fourth of July with studies about how practicing gratitude can improve your health from every aspect, not only your body but also your mind and soul. And, get this! Studies consistently show that the positive effects of gratitude are experienced by both the giver AND the receiver equally! Gratitude is hands down the most powerful human emotion, and it is so easy to tap into it.
It’s in our nature, no matter how selfless you are, to want to know what’s in it for me; what will I get from this practicing gratitude thing to make it worth the effort. There is no shame in that game, friends, it’s just how we are wired; if something isn’t worth it, we won’t do it. Here are just a few of the many ways gratitude can improve your health:
And, as I already said, showing your gratitude to other people in your life allows them to experience the same benefits! There is no other human emotion that has this profound personal effect and is also so easy to pass along to other people.
How does gratitude work exactly? When you experience gratitude, the part of your brain referred to as the “bliss center” releases two powerful chemicals in your system, dopamine and serotonin. Dopamine and serotonin are responsible for making you feel happy; when someone is experiencing clinical depression and anxiety, these hormones are depleted and medications designed for these medical conditions help increase the levels of dopamine and serotonin. Dopamine and serotonin decrease stress by keeping you out of the fight or flight response and keeping the stress hormone, cortisol, from over-releasing. Brain studies have shown that practicing gratitude consistently increases the gray matter of your brain in the “bliss center”; you literally grow more brain cells in the positive center of your brain. You increase the wiring and firing of that area and can restructure your brain to think more positively, just by being grateful. How cool is that???
With all these positive benefits of gratitude, practicing gratitude is a #nobrainer. Here’s a secret, it is the easiest habit to start with the reward being instantaneous. As you practice gratitude consistently, the benefits compound. Here are 5 ideas to start practicing gratitude in your life taken from an article titled “The Neuroscience of Gratitude: How It Affects Anxiety and Grief” by Madhuleena Roy Chowdhury from PositivePsychology.com:
As always, shine on, friends!
By: Jackie White
There’s No Place Like Home
We all know there is no place like home. Dorothy of course may have said it first, but most would agree. For most of us, home is not a place, it’s a feeling. It’s a feeling you can feel in your heart. Its memories are woven into who we are today. Its imprint is significant and cannot be undone. That’s why when many us of think of home, we go right back to our childhood home. In our minds, we are kids again and we feel at home. The nostalgia of childhood conjures up many firsts like riding a bike, having a sleepover or leaving for college. The walls of your childhood home hold the memories and stories of a life gone by. Those memories and childhood experiences in many instances been orchestrated for you by your mom. She created and nurtured you through good and through the bad times. Her love was breathed into all that was home. As a result, the love of a mom is almost impossible to separate from the feelings of home.
The ability to create a home filled with love is one of the superpowers moms possess. Moms are the true CEO’s of their homes and their vision is steeped in the memories in the hearts of their children. Many moms are juggling a million things and may not even realize the impact their direction has on the family. The impact is real and is felt through her actions and love and thus defines how the family experiences home. It’s a fact that her love and care will overflow into the little hearts that she is raising and when those babies grow up, they will continue to feel that love.
Love is What It Is All About
It’s in the meal she cooks, the hug she gives, the words of encouragement she says or in the safety she provides. It’s the little things and it’s in the big things. It’s in all things. It’s just really all about love. Moms, just let your love shine through and your child will remember that. You don’t need anything fancy or a picket fence for your home. It just takes one thing and that thing is love. Your family will know that your love built their home when they look back and feel the love in their heart.
You Can’t Go Back
For most of us, it isn’t possible to return to our childhood home. The hands of time can’t be reversed and the details of the memories fade. But what does remain are the feelings and if only in our hearts we can go back home and remember the love that built our home.
A Poem for Mom:
Your Mother is Always with You
Your Mother is always with you.
She's the whisper of the leaves as you walk down the street.
She's the smell of certain foods you remember, flowers you pick and
perfume that she wore.
She's the cool hand on your brow when you're not feeling well.
She's your breath in the air on a cold winter's day.
She is the sound of the rain that lulls you to sleep, the colors of a
rainbow. She is Christmas morning.
Your Mother lives inside your laughter.
She's crystallized in every teardrop.
A mother shows every emotion .......... happiness, sadness, fear,
jealousy, love, hate, anger, helplessness, excitement, joy,
sorrow... and all the while, hoping and praying you will only know the good
feelings in life. She's the place you came from, your first home, and she's
the map you follow with every step you take.
She's your first love; your first friend, even your first enemy, but
nothing on earth can separate you. Not time, not space...not
Thank you to all the moms who have put their heart and soul into building a home that will remain in the hearts of their children forever.
Day of the Dead. Honoring the Souls Before Us by Writing Our Own Legacy and Living a Life Well-Lived.
By Jackie White
In America, we just celebrated Halloween, a holiday that is rooted in ancient celebrations honoring the souls in the spirit world. Around the world cultures pay respects to those who have passed in celebration and remembrance. The Day of the Dead, All Saints Day and All Souls Day are some of those celebrations. Some may view these celebrations as macabre, but it is really a celebration of remembrance and reverence for those souls who are no longer with us in the physical world. It is also an opportunity to look at our own lives and think of how we might be remembered one day.
The Day of the Dead
In Latin American and Spanish speaking countries they celebrate the Day of the Dead or el Dia’ de los Muertos. On this day families welcome back the souls of family members for a celebration and reunion of sorts. They believe the border between the physical world and the spiritual world opens to allow the souls of the dead to visit and feast, drink, dance and celebrate the reunion. Gifts of favorite foods are left on gravesites and offerings left in homes for the beloved souls.
Beautifully decorated skull masks are worn and sugar candy skulls are commonly eaten that day. Elaborate alters to honor those have passed are impressive and interesting. The alters are intended to help guide the souls back to their homes. The alters can vary in design but have some of the same elements such as pictures of those who have passed, flowers, different levels which represent the different levels of Heaven, Purgatory and Earth. These are the steps the soul must take to ascend into Heaven. Pan de Muertos (Day of the Dead Bread), candies and candles are just some of the elements you can find in one of these sacred alters.
In Italy on November 1 and 2 people celebrate All Saints Day and All Souls Day. La Festa di Ognissanti celebrates all the Catholic Saints. Recognized as a public holiday in Italy and schools and businesses are closed accordingly. This holiday is also called All Hallows Day, or the Feast of All Saints. For Catholics this is a holy day of obligation which means it is a required day to attend mass. It is a solemn day where families get together to attend mass and visit the cemetery. Sometimes mass is held in the cemetery or a procession from the church to cemetery takes place. For weeks ahead of time, the graves are meticulously cleaned and decorated in preparation. As with any Italian celebration, food is always an important part and this day is no exception. Traditional foods of this holiday are Ceci con Le Costine (Chickpea soup) and Il pane dei morti is a sweet bread made with raisins, cinnamon and chocolate. All Saint’s Day is not only celebrated in Italy but also in Spain, Mexico, Philippines, Croatia, Haiti, Germany, Poland, Ivory Coast, Portugal and Guatemala are only a few of the countries also celebrate those who have passed. For some excellent images of these celebrations check out this NBC article: https://www.nbcnews.com/slideshow/all-saints-day-brings-living-dead-n676576
On November 2, Italian’s celebrate All Souls Day (Giorno dei Morti) is celebrating loved ones who have departed. An important act of remembrance on this day is to visit the graves of those who have passed. They bring offerings of chrysanthemums and light candles in honor of their dearly departed. This occasion is far from somber event of All Saint’s Day. It is a time to celebrate and remember the lives of those who are gone. They even talk with their family members as if they were still here in the physical world. Some believe the souls return to Earth on this day, so an extra plate is set at the table for them to feast as well. Children who have been good and have remembered those who have passed in their prayers will receive gifts of toys and sweets hidden around their home on November 2. Many other countries also celebrate All Souls Day or incorporate honoring their relatives who have passed in celebrations like the Day of the Dead.
These celebrations are not celebrations of death, they are celebrations of life. It is a time to pay reverence to those who have departed and to celebrate the legacy they have left for those who remain. It is a great reminder to pay respects for those who have pioneered the stories our family history. Those who have walked before and set an example, whether good or bad, with lessons we can take away for us to live our best life. So, upon the occasion of the Day of the Dead, All Saints Day or All Souls Day, take a moment to pause and reflect on prior life journeys that have come before you, thank them for their time here on Earth and the lessons that you may have learned from them. It’s an ideal time to examine the way you are living your life and the legacy you will leave for those who come after you. Are you setting an example of a life well lived? If not, it’s never too late to really begin living and celebrating the life you have been given. With that, I raise a glass in the words of my Sicilian grandpa and say “salute” to honor those who have come before providing guidance and inspiration for us to live a life well lived.
Jackie White has been writing about life and its ups and downs for many years. With a degree in Industrial Psychology and a life-long student of personal development she is intrigued by how each individual chooses to live their life. Jackie feels strongly that truly living your best life is imperative to attaining peace and fulfillment. SoulShine was borne of her desire to inspire and teach others to live their best life. This is her mission and her dream.