By Jackie White
This is the time of year when everyone is talking about goal setting. We all want to wipe the slate clean with the new year and really accomplish those resolutions. It’s all so energizing at first and then it falls off and we go back to doing what we always have done. So, what if we turned this goal setting thing on its ear this year? What if we took an unconventional approach of looking at goals?
Today I want you to be 7 years old. I want you to go back to a time when everything was a wonder. Really get into this thought process, look around and see the absolute magnificence of the world. Nature is mindblowing in itself with it’s blue skies, the twisted branches of the trees, shimmering lakes and the amazement of a sunrise or sunset. Now, shift your attention to what has been man made. The tall buildings standing high over the landscape or the roadways that carry people in cars are feats of engineering skill. We can talk on hand-held devices that provide communication to others who are worlds away. The imagination to think of these things is staggering! If you were 7 and you looked at what the world had to offer, you would see the magic in it all. As adults we see how logically we have gotten to where we are today, but as a kid, it all seems like magic.
And it is.
I know, you are an adult and you don’t believe in magic. Well, hear me out. The magic is in the thoughts and inspiration that dreamed up all that we see and experience on a daily basis. Someone thought of developing a tire, then a car, then the roadways then the connection of the roadways to other cities, which by the way were dreamed up in someone else’s mind. Think about musical scores that were written out of someone’s inspiration or paintings that are works of art we admire. There are teachers who have touched our souls and bus drivers who have brightened our day. The magic is that the creative ideas and expression that once lived only in a person’s mind have now been released. These talents were never meant to stay in a person’s dreams. They were put there to share with the world.
Your dreams are a gift from the Universe. They are as unique as you are. They are the things that interest you and that spark excitement in you! They are what your imagination can conjure up. Ask your 7 year old self about what is in your imagination. You would hear amazing magical ideas! The creativity at 7 is bursting out of you like rays of sunshine! That magic is still in you. It is the hopes and dreams you have for your life. Many of us adults, shove those dreams to the back burner in favor of what logical practical adults do. We think because we are grown ups and we do not play in the realm of dreams and imagination. This is where we really took the wrong road. We have to get back to the magic in ourselves. We have to return to what lights a fire in our soul!
So, you want to be a nurse or maybe a restaurateur or a mechanic? You are thinking what is the magic in that? The magic is that it sparks something inside you. Something unique to you. When you follow your magic, people can feel it. They know you were meant to be a nurse or a restaurateur or mechanic! It always shows when people are following what is their heart. And if others can feel it, you better believe you will feel it. You will feel aligned with what you were always meant to do.
Hopefully you are now seeing and feeling that your magic lies in your dreams. The dreams of what you have always wanted to do or be. Once you begin to pursue those dreams and goals you will release excitement, fulfillment, feelings of contentment and feelings of being true to who you really are. You will finally have a knowing that you aren’t ignoring the magic has been inside of you. You will feel inspired and energized to be on the journey of chasing after your dreams!
Making Dreams Become Goals
To be successful at achieving your dreams, you must make it a goal. Goals are dreams with a plan. You must have a plan to make your dreams come true. Because we decided this year is going to be different, let’s take a look at goal setting and goal getting in a new and exciting way. Jon Acuff in his book “Finish”, speaks to framing our goals in an unconventional way to set ourselves up for success!
Begin looking at your dreams differently. Know they are the magic inside you that you are meant to share with the world. Your special talents can inspire others to live their magic too! Take in Jon Acuff’s unique way to follow your dream’s journey and decide that this year you are going to make your dreams come true!
For more help on crystalizing your goals and setting forth a goal setting plan, join our DreamChasers community and get your DreamChaser Goal Getter Success Guide below.
By Jackie White
She sits on the streets under a blanket shivering. If it wasn’t bad enough that she was there, so were her five kids. It just had to be the first snowfall of the year too. The baby wasn’t even a year old and the oldest was only 14. No matter what it was better than the beatings. She had escaped and they will figure out a way to survive.
The statistics are bleak. 50 – 80 percent of homeless persons are fleeing domestic violence. The choice to stay in a violent home or face the streets is not an easy choice.
The next night she found refuge in the waiting room of the emergency room. There she was referred to receive some help. That night the stars aligned and LaVonne and her children were connected to some unlikely help. Through these connections they were temporarily housed in an apartment of a Good Samaritan’s home. With a roof over their heads and heat, things were starting to stabilize a bit. It was only days before Christmas and even though they were off the streets LaVonne was bracing for a desperate holiday. That’s when LaVonne’s luck began to change.
A local cub scout pack heard about the plight of 5 children who were recently homeless and were likely to not have a Christmas. They volunteered to sponsor Christmas for the family. Adults organized what was needed and wanted by the family. The scouts and their families fell in line to make sure LaVonne and her children had the best Christmas ever. The cub scouts began by going through their own things to see if they could donate gently used toys, clothing, books and shoes, boots and coats. The cub scout pack then decided to dip into their pack funds they had raised and filled in the gaps of what was needed. Scout families also donated diapers, wipes, food, toiletries and other needed items.
This scout pack had a community service night every year and this year was extra special. The scouts were honored and determined to help make this family’s holiday bright. The scouts showed up with arms overflowing with items for LaVonne’s family so they could be wrapped for Christmas. The items soon filled the designated tables. There were not only gently used items there were brand new coats, shoes, grocery cards, diapers, toys and even a bike for one of the kids. The outpouring of love was unbelievable! The boys wrapped each and every gift carefully and made Christmas decorations for the tree. Everyone in the room that night could feel the power of giving. Each child’s face was thrilled to think of how surprised the family would be to receive all of the beautiful gifts. The parents were equally as inspired and the energy in the room was buzzing! When the pack discussed the family’s plight of experiencing homelessness to finding a home, there were even some tears shed. They were all truly affected by this family’s situation. The cub scouts were old enough to know that what they were doing was making a huge difference for this family. They beamed with pride.
The day came to deliver the presents to LaVonne and her family. The den leader’s van was packed to the gills. It took 4 people to unpack the car and put the gifts under the tree. LaVonne and her kids were speechless. The thoughtfulness of including needed clothing items, winter jackets, boots and diapers for the baby were enough. The toys, books and gift cards were icing on the cake.
That holiday season will likely not be forgotten by anyone who was a part of coming together to support that family. The power of giving is undeniable. The benefits are not only felt by the receiver but affect the giver in profound ways.
This holiday season give yourself and your family a gift and take some time to do something for others. Children can learn early how to help others and by doing so, you lay the foundation of a lifetime of giving. Here are some ways you can give back to your community:
Ways You and Your Family Can Get In To The Spirit of Giving
Donate a gift from a Holiday Wish List
Donate to Toys for Tots
Donate food to a Local Food Pantry
Make Blessing Bags for the Homeless
Make cards for the elderly in nursing homes
Make cookies for local fire or police
Deliver Meals on Wheels to the homebound
When you give to others, your heart can’t help but to expand and you too will feel the love of giving.
Happy Holidays and Shine On!
By Jackie White
Oh, those happy shiny people with their cute coats and mittens catching snowflakes on their tongues and singing the joys of the winter wonderland. Who are these people? How did they become happy winter lovers? How? Are you one? Help me understand. My view of winter isn’t positive. Ok, let’s not candy coat it, I just plain hate winter. I know, I said it. Sorry. Not Sorry.
I am usually a person who sees the positive side of things or as I like to say, the sunnyside of things, but winter is a challenge for me. I see white, grey, dirty snow that covers the bleak landscapes and colorless tundra. I see hassle. I see pain. The pain on my face because the cold is hurting it. My entire body posture changes when winter appears. My head is tucked downwards, my shoulders caved in because I am so cold and I cannot see anything but my feet as I shuffle as fast as I can from my home to my car to the location I am going to. I do not look up, I just shuffle back and forth and look at the ground.That’s all I see and experience during winter. Winter places blinders on my vision and on my soul. And the truth is this year winter actually made me cry. You say, oh! don’t be so dramatic Jackie! Well, damn it, I am!
Let me state my case against winter:
I have a theory that some of us just were not made for winter. Our bodies react violently against the cold. We immediately are “chilled” to the bone, no, we are actually FROZEN to the bone! We just can’t get comfortably warm and it doesn’t matter if we are outside or inside. We dread, absolutely dread going out in the cold. Some of you say,that people like me just aren’t dressed properly. Nope, believe me, we are. We just can’t wear enough layers to get warm. I pull out my fleece in Octoburrrrr and I don’t shed that layer until May. I am trapped in polar fleece for half of the year. I see my friends wearing cute little outfits and I look like the Michelin Man because I have so many layers of clothes on. It is not unusual for me to wear 3-5 layers of clothes everyday and I have been known to wear hats and scarves indoors and occasionally I may even wear a down coat indoors. I am a candidate for those sleeping bags that you can actually wear! Yup, that is really how cold I get during winter and winter where I live lasts almost half the year! Ugh.
Snow and Ice:
Now, let’s talk about snow and ice. Yes, it is different from the cold, but just presents in another form of hassle. It needs to be shoveled, scraped, brushed off, salted and removed before regular life can happen. It’s another job to do and it requires you to do it in the cold and I might mention, in the dark because there is no freaking sunshine in the winter! Ok, so yes, there is sunshine sometimes, but those days are the “cold days” because there is no cloud cover to keep the Earth warm. Ha! “Cold days”? Let’s be clear, those are the BITTERLY cold days. See, there is no winning here
Let’s talk about the fun winter brings about. I am not talking about skiing, sledding or ice skating. Which by my standards are not fun anyway because they involve the winter. I am being facetious when I refer to winter fun. There is no fun in the dismal winter time. Here are just some of the “fun” things you get to encounter if you live in the north during winter.
Do you see the anger this woman is feeling when she clobbers the snowman? This is how us Winter-Haters feel most days during the winter.
8 Reasons to Hate Winter
1.Frozen Car Doors: Sometimes you get lucky and your car doors are frozen shut and without having a remote start you are trying to de-ice your locks so you can even get into your car. Have you ever had to crawl out of a window of your car because the door is frozen shut or had to climb out of the back hatch of a car because none of the doors or windows would open? I have. So much fun.
2. Iced Car Windows: We can’t talk about cars and winter without mentioning half inch thick ice frozen to your windshield. That will require getting into your car somehow and starting it up to try to warm up the glass. You then take a frickin’ ice pick and try to chisel the ice off your windows. I can’t think of a better way I like to spend 35 minutes of my life. Happy. Happy. Joy. Joy.
3. Slippery Inclines: Here’s another fun thing. If you have ever lived on a hill and you try to walk to your car, it is very likely that you will slide...slide all the way to the bottom of the driveway. Have you ever tried to climb back up an iced driveway? Doesn’t happen, so then you get to walk in the ankle deep snow to get back to the top of the driveway. That’s when you finally reach your car and you can’t get it open because IT’S FROZEN SHUT! Oh and by the way, your feet and ankles are now wet and cold due to climbing Mt. Everest back up to your frozen car. That’s what you call tons of fun.
4.Snowed In: You know it’s going to be a bad day when you open your door only to find a foot of snow is blocking your way out. Not that you really want to go out, but life sometimes insists. You then try to figure out how you will be reaching your shovel to try and shovel your way out. You guessed it, you have to plow through the snow with your body to feel around for your shovel and when you are good and wet and cold you can then shovel out. Good times.
5.Black Ice: Have you ever slipped on black ice and for those of you Southerners, black ice is ice-covered surfaces that are invisible to the eye. I have slipped on it and my car keys have gone flying into a snowbank and I couldn’t find them...until spring thaw! Driving on black ice is also a joy that usually winds up with spin outs and ditch diving. More fun stuff.
6.Grocery Shopping: How could grocery shopping be affected by winter? Well. if you have a cart full of items and you are trying to get through the parking lot to your car you will find very quickly that grocery carts aren’t meant to maneuver through the snow. I have had full carts flip over in the snow leaving me to pick my groceries up out of the slush in the parking lot...in the dark! Why in the dark? Because I told you, there is no sunshine! One other note: when it’s going to snow the grocery stores are insane with people stocking up in case they get trapped in their homes by the snow. Jolly good times.
7.Driving: I referred this before by mentioning black ice, but there are far worse things than black ice. How about “blizzard-type” conditions, white-outs, unplowed roads, unsalted roads and idiots who think they can drive normally in winter conditions. These crazy drivers are usually trucks or SUVs who think they are invincible to the slippery conditions just because the have “4 wheel drive”. Wrong-O. White-knuckle driving in poor conditions is always a favorite pastime.
8.Random Hassles Brought with Winter: Scarves freezing to your face, wet hair freezing and breaking off, frozen pipes that burst, steamed over glasses, frostbite, legs that have been so cold they are painfully itchy when begin to thaw out, homebound children because the weather was too cold to go to school or outside, higher heating bills, getting a $130 ticket for not shoveling your walk within 24 hours of a snow, longer commute times and insane amounts of profanity spewing from my mouth! Wintertime is just a dream - isn’t it? More like a nightmare if you ask me!
Will She Ever Shut Up?
Nope. I try to minimize complaining, but not completely stop complaining about winter. Why? Because it’s my hobby! I have nothing else to talk about from October to May, so just let me have my slight bit of complaining now and then. I’ve tried Hygge and intentionally telling myself it’s not so bad, but guess what? It is that bad!
Wait a minute, there's an upside!
I can feel the energy from all you winter lovers. I know you are trying to send me the great positive vibes of winter delight and I thank you for that. However, I am old enough to know that winter isn’t my jam. Sometimes that’s the way it goes. However there is an upside.
I do have one favorite part of winter and that is when it’s over! I am overjoyed when the first glimpse of spring shows it’s happy face. The first robin makes me hopeful warm weather is on it’s way and I rejoice in the colorful buds that begin to appear. I can smell the air again (cold air doesn’t smell) and I shovel my lawn off just to get a glimpse of the brownish green grass below. I can go outside again! Yay!
On this first day of Winter, I hope for your sake that you love it. If not, you can join me in counting down the days until it’s spring again...FYI: 88 days and counting, Friends!
Shine On (no, seriously shine on, so you don’t freeze!)
By Erika Fehrenbach Prell
We hear it everywhere but do we really understand what it’s all about?
Self-Care is one of the most important things you can do for yourself, but, unfortunately, it is often the most neglected. I get it; finding “me-time”, the often used phrase for self-care, is usually last on our list as busy mom’s after taking care of everything and everyone else. Throw in that you might feel “me-time” or self-care is selfish...bring on the mom guilt.
Who has been on an airplane? Remember the part about the oxygen mask? In the event of a change in cabin pressure, an oxygen mask will release from the overhead bin; please put your mask on first before assisting other passengers. (Did I nail it or what?) There is a reason for this; if you do not have enough oxygen going to your cells, you are useless in helping other people. This is the perfect analogy, my busy mom tribe, for the mindset reset you need to have on self-care; to take care of others, you must first take care of yourself. Like oxygen is needed by your cells to function at their best, daily self-care is needed for you to function and live your best in life.
The basic definition of self-care is “the practice of taking action to preserve or improve one’s health” but a better definition is “the practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness, particularly in times of stress”. Taking an active role in protecting our well-being; that powerfully illustrates the importance and necessity that self-care is. I would add that it is important to participate in daily self-care to benefit your whole self-mind, body, and soul-and not just in times of stress or disease when you are forced to take a break. Not to mention that taking care of yourself has profound effects on your mental and physical well-being; decreasing your stress can improve heart health and other disease processes, self-care can increase your feelings of gratitude and joy releasing those mood-elevating hormones called endorphins, and the list goes on.
This might surprise you as much as it surprised me; there are actually 5 categories that fall under self-care. The self-care categories are physical, emotional, psychological, spiritual, and professional. There is a good chance you are doing something in one or more of these categories that would classify as self-care but do not realize it. A simple mindset shift of recognizing you are doing something for yourself to actively take care of yourself might be all you need to start getting the benefits of self-care.
I can hear you all through my internet connection, “I get it. I get it. I need to take care of myself. But, what am I supposed to do? How am I supposed to do it? Where am I going to find the time?”.
Whoa, let’s put a hard stop on the limiting belief that you don’t have time for self-care. I am not suggesting you block several hours per day to dedicate to yourself; but, if you have the time and desire, go for it....this is a judge-free, guilt-free zone. When something is important, time can always be found. So step one, you need to realize that taking care of yourself is the most important thing you can do for yourself, your family, and all the commitments you have in your life. Self-care puts you on the path to feeling your best, resulting in being your best so you can give your best.
Step two is to think about what kinds of things make you feel recharged, happy, joyful, and content. This, dear frazzled moms, is your self-care list. This list is as individual as you are; what recharges you may completely stress someone else out. Want a great example? Jackie loves to scrapbook and craft; she makes the time to go on scrapbook weekends with friends, too. I’m willing to bet this is one of her self-care recharge buttons. Me? Not so much; scrapbooking and crafting stresses me out a bit, therefore, it is not on my self-care list. As odd as it sounds, playing on my rec league women’s soccer team is one of the items on my self-care bucket list; I love soccer, and I make time for this even if it means I need a babysitter. It's that important; that's putting self-care as a priority and fitting it in, no matter what.
Step three is recognizing that what you are doing is self-care. Remember when I said that you are already doing things that are self-care but aren’t recognizing it? This is what I am talking about. Anything you are doing to benefit your health? Self-care. Any boundaries in place for your workplace? Self-care. Reading or listening to a book that you enjoy? Self-care. See what I mean? You are already doing self-care. But, by recognizing that you are doing it to recharge yourself, for “me-time”, as self-care, that is the slight mindset shift you need to make. Why? This keeps you in the moment, allows you to recognize that you are actively doing something to take care of yourself, and allows you to tap into the full mental and physical benefits that self-care offers.
Final step, and this is the most important, like Nike says, "Just Do It". You need to make time every day to do something for yourself. You are worth it. You owe it to everyone in your life that you care for and everything in your life that you have made commitments to take care of yourself so you can be your very best.
Still need a few simple ideas? Check out our 30 Minute Mind-Body-Soul Jumpstart Tracker. These are 6 simple habits that definitely count as self-care!
By Jackie White
Every holiday season I look forward to watching one of my very favorite holiday movies, “Elf”. Sure, it’s funny and entertaining, but to me it’s also a reminder to live life with more fun and joy.
Buddy the Elf is a simple character whose naivete of life is refreshingly honest. He is true to himself and finds joy in everyday things. He is not afraid to show his true feelings and wear his heart on his sleeve. Much of what we say and do is dictated by the way we think society wants us to act, but what if we could just add a little more Buddy into our lives? Wouldn’t that be fun?
You don’t have to pass through the seven levels of the Candy Cane forest, through the sea of swirly-twirly gumdrops, and then walk through the Lincoln Tunnel to learn to be a little bit more like Buddy. Here are some simple reminders to live life more joyfully – like Buddy:
Be Curious: Buddy has a curiosity about the world. He wants to try out the revolving doors, the escalator and coffee. He doesn’t always like it or get it, but he is willing to learn about it and try. Getting curious about your world will open up worlds you never even knew existed!
Spread Joy: Buddy is constantly trying to bring joy to those around him., He says “The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud so all can hear”. You don’t have to sing it, but spreading joy to others is a great way to bring happiness into your own life.
Make Others Smile: Buddy wants to help others and make them smile – A classic quote of Buddy’s is “Smiling's my favorite”. This is another way to brighten your day. Just smile and others will smile back. It’s contagious and the oxytocin released from smiling is mood lifting.
Belief and Faith in the Magic of Life: Buddy doesn’t just believe he knows that Santa’s magic is real. He also knows that Santa’s presence is undeniably powerful. In life sometimes there are things that are magically powerful. Feelings like love, acts of random kindness or faith in a power greater than ourselves are some of those things.
Compliment Others: Making others feel good makes you feel good too. Buddy makes a woman’s day by saying “You’re so pretty your face could be on a Christmas Card”. He also says to the waiter in a café: "You did it! Congratulations! World's best cup of coffee! Great job, everybody! It's great to be here." By complimenting others you can turn a person’s day around. You never know what someone is going through and giving a compliment might just be the spot of happiness that person needs to hear.
Do the things You Love in Life: Why don’t we do more of what we love? Buddy says "I planned out our whole day: First, we'll make snow angels for two hours, and then we'll go ice skating, and then we'll eat a whole roll of Toll-House cookie dough as fast as we can, and then to finish, we'll snuggle." Make the time to engage in the things you love to do.
Follow your Heart. When Buddy sees he doesn’t fit in and that his calling was not to make toys, he takes off for a journey to discover who he really is. It’s important to examine if the life you are living is the one you want to live. If not, you need to follow your heart.
Take Joy in the Little Things in Life: Amongst many other things, Buddy tells his brother “So good news, I saw a dog today”. Sometimes noticing the face of a dog or a smile from a stranger can turn a whole day around.
Have fun! Buddy doesn’t have any trouble having fun. "Francisco! That's fun to say! Francisco. Frannncisco. Franciscooo.". Make time to have fun every day!
Love Without Conditions: Buddy loved his family and friends without restriction. He felt the love and let them know. “I love you, I love you, I love you!” Don’t forget to do this!
Be Creative: Buddy answers the phone with this creative statement:" Buddy the Elf! What's your favorite color?" Think differently about situations and find creative answers to your problems or everyday issues.
I hope these ways to see life creatively inspires you to live a little more like Buddy. Oh yes, I almost forgot, don’t be a “cotton-headed ninny-muggins” and miss out on living a life of joy, happiness and meaning!
Today’s blog is from our guest blogger Terra Morris. Besides being a talented writer, Terra is a wife, a busy mom of 3 amazing kids, works outside the home and still makes time for the fun stuff in life!
It’s me. I’m that mom. The one that graces your facebook feed with photos and antidotes about little elves that visit during the Christmas season. I”m the one that you laugh at in memes. The one you roll your eyes at as you virtually comment about not having enough time to do the laundry, much less move an elf every night of the week. I’m the butt of the joke, the “overachiever”, the one that is often ousted from the mom groups. However, despite the backlash, I’m okay, because it’s me, I’m “that mom”, and I love every minute of it.
About ten years ago when my oldest child was only 3 or 4 years old, my mom excitedly gifted our family “The Elf on the Shelf”. It was a new toy/book combo that she found in Chicago that hadn’t been heard of here in Wisconsin (at least not in our neck of the woods). The first time I read it with my two young children, they giggled and laughed at the excitement of this little guy visiting our house playing a game of “hide and seek” every day. At the time, I never could have imagined what that simple white box truly held inside of it.
My kids were 100% on board with the idea of this little elf. They had “wide eyes” at the thought that Santa could actually have “spies” right here in our home. The idea that this little elf could go back and forth to the North Pole and report on how they were behaving gave more depth to the meaning behind the lyrics, “He sees you when you’re sleeping. He knows when you’re awake. He knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake”. My kids were on their best behavior that first Christmas season with the elf that my son (not so creatively) named Mr. Jingles, watching over them. However, I noticed that even more than having good behavior, they had a light and excitement that could only be classified as magic. Yes, I’m talking about the kids, not little Mr. Jingles. The kids were truly all aglow as they woke each morning with curiosity as to where Mr. Jingles would be sitting that day.
Yep sitting. That’s all that Mr. Jingles did that first year. From the fireplace mantle to the kitchen counter, to the book shelf… he sat. Every night, he moved easily from one location to the next. I’m sure that 30 seconds was more than enough for him to make his nightly journey. Enough for Mr. Jingles, enough for Santa, and clearly enough for my kids. Honestly, I can’t tell you when the turning point was for Mr. Jingles. When the comfy simple life he was leading in our home changed to an extravagant adventure. But it happened and once it did, he could never go back to being just the “Elf on the Shelf” or on the mantle or on the counter. He was an interactive fun loving being with a lively personality and sweet serious side. His magic somehow grew and in turn so did the magic within my children.
Mr. Jingles took on a life of his own in the following years. He could be found skiing down Mt. Elfrest, fishing for everything from swedish fish to compliments, and baking cookies with Julia Child. He was busier than a mom during the Christmas season (cough cough). Through it all my children were taking detailed mental notes; sharing the stories of their family elf, Mr. Jingles, to anyone who would listen. They shared long stories with Nona and Papa over Sunday lunches. We spent extra time in line at the grocery store as the cashier “oohed” and “aahed” over the creativity and craziness of their elf’s daily adventure. It got to the point that people began to search out my children to inquire, “what did your elf do today.” No one was immune to their storytelling because they explained their elf in such a way that MADE you believe. It was very subtle, but as Mr. Jingles’ popularity grew, so did his magic.
That is until 2011 when our household was shaken. “Why Oh Why” screams ricocheted off our walls and I’m sure throughout our neighborhood. There were tears and more tears until tiny eyes had nothing left to blink away. It was pure chaos that lead to an abundance of pouting that I am sure more than disappointed Mr. Jingles and dear old Santa Clause. It was a day that should have been joyous. As a matter of fact it actually started out that way; joyous I mean.
Mr. Jingles had arrived in our TV room that morning with popcorn and treats in preparation of the highly anticipated, “An Elf’s Story: The Elf on the Shelf”. It was a new movie that was to air for the first time on CBS that evening. All was right in the Morris household as the kids and I sat cuddled together on the couch, eyes glued to the tv screen. Then just a mere 2:51 minutes into this 23 minute movie, the camera casually scanned to a group of elves; both boys and GIRLS appearing on screen. This was the moment the world stopped turning. The moment my five year old daughter threw Mr. Jingles the darkest of shade. The moment our beloved Mr. Jingles lost a little bit of magic simply because he was a boy.
The following year the weight of our elf’s arrival grew heavy. After the blow from last Christmas’ shock I had to wonder ”Would Mr. Jingles be accepted into our home?” “Would his magic continue to grow?” Needless to say Mr. Jingles is a pretty smart little guy. On arrival day we found him in a hot air balloon that had crash landed into a tree in our backyard. He brought with him was his annual arrival letter detailing the happenings of his “off season”. Surprisingly, the highlight of that letter was news that he had gotten married! Beside Mr. Jingles in that makeshift hot air balloon, sat the beautiful (to be later named by my eldest daughter) Snowflake. The magic meter rose, almost bursting through the roof. The married couple’s adventures were double the fun; creating scenes of love and friendship and mischievousness that rivaled those of Mr. Jingle’s as a single elf. As the old saying goes, “two elves are better than one” (or something like that).
A couple of years later Mr. Jingles and Snowflake brought a friend with them on an arrival day; Carmella Dolly (named by my youngest daughter). I can almost hear the eye rolls from here, but as I said in the beginning, I’m well aware that I am “that mom.” Having three elves wasn’t a part of some master plan to create the most elaborate of elfin shenanigans. Nor was Carmella Dolly’s arrival in response to the need to repair a child’s broken heart or the loss of some magic in our home. She arrived because of the need to carry on a magical tradition. The magic that still fills my house beginning each morning after Thanksgiving until December 24th. The magic that from my youngest (still young enough to believe) to my oldest teenager (who stereotypically should be hiding Mr. Jingles away from suspecting eyes of friends and strangers alike) still thrives and lives in our home.
For me,The Elf on the Shelf isn’t about coming up with the most creative pose or scene. It isn’t about the number of likes or comments on social media. The purpose of the Elf on The Shelf (or ELVES on the Shelf in my case) is what I really found in that white box 10 years ago. It’s the laughter while brainstorming ideas with friends over a (in person or virtual) cup of coffee. It’s the detailed stories my children share about their elves during the summertime. It’s my 14 year still looking for the elves each morning with his sisters (never once questioning their existence). It’s the excitement that has radiated off my children for the last 10 years and hopefully many more to come. It’s about the magic of the memories. Memories that I hope my children will one day not only share, but also carry on with their own families and children.
The true reason we went from one to three elves in our home is so each of my children could have an elf of their own once they are grown; Mr. Jingles, Snowflake and Carmella Dolly each belong to one of my three children. They don’t exist to merely “spy” to see who is naughty or nice or to create some form of morning entertainment. They exist to create wonder, excitement, and continued memories for my children and their future families. Maybe one day their elves will sit on their shelves, read bible stories in their personal library, go camping under their stars, or build snowmen out of their toilet paper. Maybe the magic will continue to grow and be shared with their family, friends and grocery cashier. Just maybe.
It’s because of those “maybes” that being “That Mom” is the best kind of mom I could ever think of being.
Creating magic can be as simple or as detailed as your elf’s heart’s desire. Honestly, some of the simplest of scenarios are the kids’ favorites. However there are a few in our elve’s history that have a special place in my heart.
Elfin Cafe - Breakfast Served All Day - candy eggs (Candy Nation) served to elves and barbie dolls with one elf working the stove
Camp Kikiwaka - Camping scenes are an annual tradition but the elves change it up every year. They always bring a new pair of socks (Target Dollar Spot) used as elf sleeping bags One year their camp was based on one of the kids’ favorite TV shows, “Bunk’d”.
North Pole Library - Our elves love to read. Sometimes they read from the bible or from some elf sized books. This year they were found on top of the bookshelf with little books for the elves to read (little lamps from the Dollar Tree- reusable).
Bathroom Bowling is an annual tradition with our elves. Bowling set and ribbon for bowling lane (Bowling set from the Dollar Tree reusable)
Reindeer Design Factory - Sorting noses (skittles) and creating scarf and antler decor (Michael’s Craft Store)
By Erika Fehrenbach Prell
Ever hear the phrase “age is just a number”? Or, “act as old as you feel”? These are how I have always felt about age; it is all about your mindset or viewpoint on your age! I have always tried to find the right balance of living younger than my actual age by trying new things and being open-minded to adventure and opportunity combined with the wisdom of learning lessons from experience. Spending time with my kids and seeing the world from their perspective definitely helps to keep that spirit going!
I saw this great quote that sums it up perfectly:
This is an amazing mindset and perspective that will serve you well! That is, until you do something that reminds you of your actual, chronological age. Anyone near 40, or over, knows exactly what I am getting at here.
You line up at the top of the slow hill like Chevy Chase in “Christmas Vacation”; you are going to show those kids how to really get this sled going! You hurdle your middle-aged self down the icy hill, and of course, you take that jump the kids made. This is fun! You feel like a 10 year-old again!! Then, you make the mistake of going home and sitting down on the couch. You attempt to get up but your body rebels. You are so stiff and sore that you can’t even move; you didn’t even know you had muscles to hurt in those areas.
Apparently, 40 is NOT the new 20 when it comes to body-pounding activities, or, let’s be real, playing any kind of sport you haven’t attempted in years without ample stretching before hand. AMIRITE?!?
Before you over-Google, remember WebMD is NOT a real doctor, or hobble to the nearest Urgent Care, here are the typical first steps for this type of insult. The exception here is if there is an obvious deformity or serious discoloration, then, do not pass Go or Collect $200 and proceed immediately to a medical professional. These conservative treatments should give some relief nearly immediately, which confirms this is not a serious injury.
Steps to Recover from Sledding for Adults
And, perhaps, the most important...
Come to terms that you do not bounce back like a 7 year old. There are great things that comes with aging but body resilience is not one of them. This does not mean you can never sled again. It just means you should, perhaps, go a bit slower...and maybe pre-stretch.
P.S. Tis the season to start thinking about goals for the New Year. Looking for an easy solution to start some new habits? Snag a copy of our 30 Minute Mind-Body-Soul Jumpstart for 6 super simple habits that you can build on throughout the year to benefit your health and wellness!
By Erika Fehrenbach Prell
Ever hear the term “snowball effect”? The idea behind this metaphor it is that you start with a small snowball at the top of a hill. It’s small, harmless, insignificant even. You start to push the snowball down the hill. As it goes, it becomes bigger as it picks up more snow, and it gains momentum as it goes faster and faster down the hill. Faster and faster, bigger and bigger, until it is this giant mass of snow hurtling to the bottom. This can be a metaphor for events happening in life; ideas or situations that start out small and insignificant but pick up momentum and speed, building on itself, almost taking on a life of its own, becoming seemingly impossible to stop once it is started.
This, my friends, can happen with holiday traditions, if you aren’t careful.
Let’s be real for a second. I love holidays, and I love traditions. And, the marriage of holidays and traditions can be magical, but it can also be too much. It starts out simple enough. You come with a set of traditions with culture, spiritual, and family specific roots. Then, you marry or start a relationship with someone that comes with their own set. Suddenly, you have potentially doubled your traditions and expectations on your time during the holidays. Your snowball has started to go down the hill. But, it’s not too bad yet.
Then, kids come along; they might be your own children or your siblings children. Now, there is a tiny human calling the shots due to schedule or location. Layer in that you have a new family unit and might want to start your own traditions. Meanwhile, you have grandparents, aunts, uncles, and extended family with their own agenda. If you don’t set clear boundaries and expectations, that snowball is picking up speed.
You start searching Pinterest or scrolling Insta for the best ideas for holiday traditions. You start adding in extras like Elf on the Shelf because it’s so cute. Look at this wrap a holiday book for each night in December to read at bedtime...perfect! Breakfast with Santa, check! Reindeer at the local garden store...we’ll be there! You don’t want anyone to miss out on something fun! Still pretty easy, it’s just the three of you.
Your family grows. You start realizing the snowball is spiraling out of control. You have to repeat all the traditions you have been doing with your first child because they now expect this is part of what you do during the holiday. You have guilt that you need to keep it fair for the younger child so you bring back outgrown traditions or have to double your current efforts. Not to mention, as kids grow older, you start having school and possibly church programs as well as extracurriculars like sports or music lessons. All the while keeping up at work and work commitments. And, you want to see your friends...and, oh geez, some “me” time would be great. When was the last time I made it to the exercise class I signed up for? Ugh...you feel the shadow of the giant snowball coming at you!
Am I speaking directly to your soul right now?!? Here is a plan to deflect that hurtling snowball and take back your holiday:
Write down all the things you think you need to do before Christmas. Just get it out on paper.
Here are a few more tips that might help you take back your holiday!
By Jackie White
Have you ever read a book or seen a movie that changes how you see the world? That story for me is The Polar Express". "The Polar Express" was originally a book, that somehow I missed, however, I am so grateful for discovering the animated film that has become a tradition in our family. If you haven’t seen "The Polar Express" it is about “a doubting young boy (who) takes an extraordinary train ride to the North Pole, (and) embarks on a journey of self-discovery that shows him that the wonder of life never fades for those who believe”. The story written by Chris Van Allsburg exquisitely describes really the heart of what Christmas and life is about. It is one of those stories that stirs your soul and is meaningful on any day of the year.
It’s genius that "The Polar Express" story revolves around the Christmas season because Christmas is a great time to reflect upon the year past and the year to come. It is a time when people seem to be more connected and empathetic towards each other. We are thinking of others as we wrap a gift or send a card. We are lending a hand to help those less fortunate than ourselves. The mood is light and sans the hectic commercialization of the holiday, there seems to be more love. Because hearts and minds are more open at this time of year, I can almost feel that we are more connected to the deeper meaning of the life we all are experiencing.
That is what I love about "The Polar Express". The story follows the boy looking to figure out if he believes in Santa. I look at it as the story we all follow and that is; what is it that we believe in? The gift to me is our life. We all have been given that gift, but it’s what we believe that will either propel our life forward or what will allow it to stall out. If we are given a golden ticket to ride like the boy in The Polar Express and that ticket is our life, what are we inscribing on it? If you have seen the movie, you know that each passenger has their ticket punched with a word that describes their lot in life. What word would you inscribe on your ticket? What will your journey be? What do you believe will unfold in your life?
These are all great questions that can be summed up in one word: Believe. Such an important word that can be interpreted in so many different ways. Chris Van Allsburg, the author states that “The Polar Express is about faith, and the power of imagination to sustain faith. It's also about the desire to reside in a world where magic can happen, the kind of world we all believed in as children, but one that disappears as we grow older”.
What we believe in is core to how we conduct our lives. If we use our imagination like Van Allsburg suggests, we can board the train of life and choose the route our journey will take and what the final destination may bring us. Life is anything we can imagine. We are all creators of our lives and we can choose how we want it to be designed. It’s our choice.
It is a delight to look at children during the Christmas season and see the wonder in their eyes. Their belief in magic and possibilities in the world is endless. As adults, we replace the magic with logic and by doing so, we lose the belief in possibilities. I challenge you to take the opportunity this season to get in touch with the wonder of the world and see if you can’t rekindle some belief in what could be possible in your life. Could you laugh a little more? Love a little more? Give a little more? Appreciate a little more? Live a little bit more? The answer is yes. Yes,you can, if you just believe.
Believe that you can live the life of your dreams. You can be the person you want to be. This is your one chance to ride. Along the way, fill your journey with realizing your dreams, creating a life of possibilities and sprinkling it all with joy, laughter and lots of love. If you choose to travel down this track, the destination will be a place of fulfillment and happiness.
“At one time, most of my friends could hear the bell, but as years passed, it fell silent for all of them...Though I've grown old, the bell still rings for me, as it does for all who truly believe.”
"The Polar Express" book or movie is a great story to read/watch no matter what age you are. I highly recommend checking it out and see if it doesn’t inspire you to look inward to what you believe about what your life is about.
Finally, my hope and wish for you this season is to use the magic of Christmas to renew what you believe. In the words of the song “Believe”:
“Believe in what you feel inside and give your dreams the wings to fly. You have everything you need, if you just Believe”.
Holiday Season Survival 101 - Check Out These 10 Simple Ways to Reduce Stress in Your Day-to-Day Life
By Erika Fehrenbach Prell
The holiday season is upon us, and, with that inevitable comes stress. As if the holidays aren’t enough, there are other stressors coming at us from every direction-school programs, church programs, end of year work deadlines, school projects and finals. Then, there is this work party and that neighborhood gathering and fitting in traditions like cookie making and caroling and Christmas movie watching night and seeing Santa. Add in the tree getting, decorating, shopping, and wrapping. Don’t forget the Christmas cards requiring an Insta-worthy photo, ordering the cards, stuffing and addressing, and a trip to the post office for the annual purchase of postage stamps for all that snail mail. My blood pressure is going up just writing this, and I barely scratched the surface on this end-of-year layered with holiday cluster of crazy!
Let’s be real; our fast-paced culture already exposes all of us to unneeded stress in our lives. Then, these holidays have a tendency to ramp it up a million degrees. Uncontrolled stress can have damaging effects on our bodies and can contribute to many health problems, including high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. One of the best things you can do for yourself to take back your health is learn how to control your stress level. With the holidays being a huge contributor to our feelings of stress combined with looking into the new year for ways to “do better”, stress reduction should be one of everyone’s goals. Here are 10 simple ways to reduce stress not only this holiday season but also in your day-to-day life!
Take a deep breath.
This activates the rest and relaxation part of the nervous system, instantly taking you from revved up to on the road to chill.
I know, this one sounds crazy. Stress activates the fight or flight response. If you are really defending your life, you aren’t going to stop for a meal. So, stress shuts down your digestive tract. By chewing gum, you stimulate the opposite response in your nervous system, shifting you from fight or flight to sit and chill.
Get your laugh on.
You aren’t stressed when you are laughing. Laughing releases those good-old mood-elevating endorphins, making you feel good.
Practice mindfulness and meditation.
Being present in the moment helps you stop stress and activates the rest and relaxation part instead. These can help you have the right perspective and mindset on the situation; choosing, for instance, to be excited rather than overwhelmed.
Get moving with exercise.
This might seem counter-intuitive. Exercise actually helps lower the stress response by releasing endorphins, your body’s “feel good” chemical. Think of it like you are literally “burning off” the stress response.
Scent is a powerful sense. There are many stress-reducing scents like lavender, orange, sandalwood, or rose that can trigger the calming side of the nervous system.
Limit your caffeine intake.
Caffeine revs up your body by increasing heart rate and triggering the fight or flight response. When you are under stress or heading into a stressful season like the holidays, try decaf coffee, tea, or water instead of coffee and soda.
Write it down.
Journal your stresses. Brainstorm how you would deal with them or develop a plan of action. Often, the stress is in the unknown or unexpected so, having a plan, will help make you feel more in control and decrease stress.
Focusing on the positive things in life helps shift away from the fear and negativity. Really want to get the gratitude going? Combine this with #8 and start a gratitude journal. Writing down a few things every morning that you are grateful for will start off your day with a positive and uplifting mood and spirit. It’s nearly impossible to be stressed with that mindset!
Surround yourself with those you love.
Spending time with those you love, and who love and support you, makes you feel a sense of belonging and self-worth. This can trigger your body to release oxytocin, which is a natural stress reliever in your body. And, isn’t this what the holiday season is really about anyway?Here’s a bonus suggestion that will serve you well; practice saying no. You read that right. We all have a tendency to say yes too much. You have a limited amount of time, energy, and resources to give to the world. Know your priorities for where to use up these resources. Saying yes to something that is not in alignment with your priorities means you have to take away the focus from what is. It is okay to say no to something good in order to have the means to say yes to what is great.
Pick one or two of these ideas to start your “destressification” journey. Most of these “destressification” strategies help improve other areas of your life like your mindset or physical health. This isn’t a coincidence, my friends. Total wellness is when your mind, body, and spirit are in harmony. Stress is one of those mega-disruptors that messes up all three. So, the strategies to de-stress will often benefit your whole self. That’s why stress is so destructive, and why taking the time to learn how to de-stress yourself is worth every ounce of time and energy spent. Booting stress from your day-to-day life leaves you joyful, grateful, and at peace. Doesn’t that sound like the best way to enjoy your holidays as well as every day of your life?
Erika Fehrenbach Prell is passionate about inspiring and educating, others on their path to complete wellness-mind,body, and soul. This desire led Erika to the helping profession of nursing, and she obtained her Master's Degree as a Nurse Practitioner in 2007. Erika specialized in cardiac surgery, largely influenced by her personal experience with heart disease. While she loved working with this population, her heart's desire has always been to impact lives on a larger scale and from a proactive, not reactive, place. The universe answered when her path crossed with Jackie and SoulShine was born. Erika finally feels she is walking in her purpose and is excited for this journey to unfold.