Wednesday, April 29, 2015

April Day 29..."Lean on Me"

"Lean on Me" 

Ever have one of those days where you felt like leaning on someone, even if only for a few minutes? Sometimes that's all we need to feel connected, cared for and that things will be ok.

Today, allow yourself to lean on someone or let someone lean on you....for a kind word, some encouragement or a chuckle.
See how it changes your day.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

April Day 26....Sending Love

"Sending Love"

Have you had the experience of going through your day, and someone pops into your head? Maybe it's a person you haven't thought about in a while and for seemingly no reason, they are suddenly in your awareness, either as an image, a scent or a feeling . One of my favorite things is the pre-phone call where I get a sensation of someone, the phone rings and it is that same person. The other day, on a whim, I picked up my cell phone only to have it vibrate in my hand and I saw the caller was the friend I had just wondered about. Our intuitions are providing information to us all the time and when we are in a quiet state, it is easier (in my experience) to pick up on all it has to offer.

Today, ask yourself who could use some kind and caring thoughts. See who pops into your awareness and then send well-wishes their way. They will pick up on it and it might be just what they needed. 

Saturday, April 25, 2015

April Day 25...Picnic In Style

"Picnic in Style"

When was the last time you had a picnic? For me, picnics bring to mind memories of summer, lots of food, enjoying the outdoors, and gathering with friends and family, plus a few ants tossed in. They can also be quiet times in the garden, having a snack and listening to the birds.

I like the idea of picnics as it means doing something a little out of the ordinary, changing things up a bit. Novelty is what adds the interest and variation to the everyday experience. Somehow, it was more fun to eat sitting on a colorful blanket on the grass (or the adjustable blanket if it was at the beach) in the shade under some giant tree, dragonflies buzzing overhead.

When my kids were little, I'd often suggest a picnic and it was met with big cheers. They'd all scamper off in search of everything we needed to have a great picnic- blankets, snacks and of course, the really important stuff like a jump rope, ball or little trucks and cars. If it looked like rain (or snow), we set up our picnic somewhere in the house. Any way we had that picnic, it was something that appealed to us in a big way and made the day more fun.

Whatever a picnic means for you, allow yourself to enjoy one this week, either by yourself, with a pet, or with others. Choose a setting, bring a few nibbles, enjoy the experience. 

Choose to delight yourself.


Friday, April 24, 2015

April Day 24...Pay It Forward

"Pay It Forward"

Have you found yourself the recipient of a pay-it-forward experience? How good did it make you feel knowing someone wanted to do something unexpected for you? I see more examples of this each day....people doing little things for others, often for strangers. What inspires people to do these random acts of kindness? Not sure, but I know it added something special to my day when someone in the car in front of me paid my toll booth fee in New York.

As we go do these little things for others, it can be that tiny bit that adds a bit of sparkle to their day.

Fridays would be a good days to consider doing a pay-it-forward to brighten someone's day. Think how it will brighten yours, too.


Thursday, April 23, 2015

April Day 23...Celebrate the Little Things

"Celebrate the Little Things"

Who doesn't love a celebration? What comes to mind when you hear that word? For me it means things like special food, toasting someone, lively music, exchange of gifts, surprises and perhaps dancing or games of some kind. All in all, good stuff.

We come up with any number of reasons to create a celebration (Hey, it's Friday!!!) including birthdays, anniversaries of just about anything, milestones, and special accomplishments.

How about celebrating something simple...things we come across every day, something so ordinary we may overlook appreciating it fully?

As I rummaged through a cabinet recently, I came across an assortment of birthday candles. I figured, why wait until a "BIG" occasion to use these little candles? A mini celebration was born.

As I sipped my afternoon cuppa, I put a candle in my little piece of savory shortbread I'd baked the day before and took a moment to celebrate a simple ritual I do ...simply savoring the moment.

What will you choose to celebrate today?

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

April Day 22...Doodle It!

"Doodle It"

How many times have you wanted to jot something down while you were enjoying a meal? Maybe it was a flash of insight or some other tidbit you had to capture and pin down before it escaped you.

A lot of great ideas began as doodles on a dinner napkin. I read once that the Avanti designed by Sherwood Egbert, was a result of sketches he had doodled while on a flight out of Chicago.

At a recent meeting I attended, several people told me the only way they survived office meetings was to doodle their way through it, on everything from scrap paper and memos to cocktail sized napkins. One guy was even drawing the other people in the meeting who were nodding off. Doodling at office meetings has probably saved some people's sanity. It seems to be growing in popularity and is an entertaining way to stay awake at dull meetings or to pass the time while awaiting a restaurant meal.

For today, doodle on a dinner napkin while you are having a meal or a cuppa, even if it is at home. Use a pen and allow yourself a minute to draw whatever pops into your head. Who knows where it might lead.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

April Day 21 Extreme Close Up

"Extreme Close Up"
How many of us really see the little things? They are absolutely everywhere, but many of us find ourselves so busy with our lists and work and errands, etc. that our pace doesn't allow for noticing the little things.

A trip through the supermarket many years ago with my then-toddler allowed me the opportunity to notice things I normally would have overlooked. That little guy walked next to the cart and proceeded to point out all the electrical outlets that were, for me, at knee level or slightly above. His fascination for all things electrical had him locating all plug outlets everywhere we went. It was like taking a field trip with a mini engineer. One day, he pointed upward to show me an escaped helium balloon hugging the ceiling. Who would even consider looking at the ceiling while sorting through which apples to buy?

I continued to have millions of chances to notice tiny things in the environment such as a praying mantis on a rock (have you ever noticed how incredibly small their eyes are and the ease with which they swing their heads around to look back at us as if to say, "You lookin' at me?"). Other little things have captured my attention like finding a heart shaped stone, coins in a car park, or an usually colored leaf.

For today....stop and take a close look at something you'd usually walk by without really taking notice...the bark on a tree, a cloud formation, a spider web covered with water droplets, the color of the greens in your salad, or my recent favorite, a flower, with all its delicate forms and colors. Tiny miracles.

What other world will you get to see by slowing your pace and changing your focus?

Monday, April 20, 2015

April Day 20...Spending Time in Water

"Spending Time in Water"

What is so magical about being in or near water? We begin our lives floating in water, protected until we are ready to emerge into the world. Until then, we are free floating, kicking and turning every which way, creating ripples and waves of movement across our mothers' bellies. Suspended in liquid, we change in each moment until the day of the big arrival on dry land and then we are welcomed with a big slap. Yeah, nice after that relaxing existence of weightlessness for nine months. Welcome to reality.

This mystical connection to water compels many of us to seek being nearer to it whenever possible. The arts fest I attended last summer took place near a river and attracted hundreds of thousands of people. In one area, fountain jets intermittently shot water about eight or ten feet into the air, prompting kids to dash between the streams of water. I heard great squeals of delight from the kids as the adults watched from the sidelines.

Proximity to water is a big attraction for many of us...the lure of a beach, lake or river calls us. Maybe being near water connects us back to our beginning, feels good and provides us with an opportunity to let go of resistance that can take the form of negative thinking, rumination or general irritability. Nature offers delightful ways to soothe ourselves.

Want to see the positive effects water can have?  Watch a baby splash in the kitchen sink, preschoolers playing in a sprinkler, or even the sight of a dog frolicking along the shoreline at the beach.

Today, really enjoy being around water in one way or another and remember, the shower, a kitchen sink full of dishes, and the gentle bubbling of a fountain have all been the starting points of inspiration that became novels, paintings and new musical compositions. Being in water sets us free, for the moment, and opens the window for whispers of inspiration to reach us. Play in water today and see what comes your way.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

April Day 18... Playing with Clay

"Play with Clay"

Stopping at a supermarket recently to pick up a bottle of glue, I spied a display of Play Doh next to the magazine rack. Amazing to see what is available when standing in the queue. 
One can for only 88 cents. How could I pass up such a deal? Impulse purchase marketing strategies aside, I grabbed one.

Once home, I pulled it from the can, squeezing that irresistible and familiar softness. Of course I had to deeply inhale that signature Play Doh scent. I was instantly 8 years old, ready to sculpt something amazing. The most forgiving of art materials, it allowed me as a kid to create and recreate an infinite number of times. A fish became a turtle which became a dog which  then turned into a fat snake and finally, a stack of pancakes, complete with butter pats.

A nearby fork created decorative patterns and for a short while, I was a real sculptor, making the clay do whatever I wanted. It made me feel powerful, creative and inventive, almost invincible. It also was somehow relaxing and when finished, I'd smash my latest creature and pop it back into the can for the next time I felt like watching it go through the whole transformation process again.

I ran across a study that described how some people have benefited immensely by manipulating clay. Playing with clay, it said:

1. Reduces stress levels 
2. Clears and relaxes an overwhelmed brain 
3. Promotes a feeling of  well being 
4. Provides an opportunity for having fun

Next time you see Play Doh, or something similar, grab it or better yet, make your own with one of the many recipes available online and let your inner kid-sculptor come alive.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

April Day Brighteners......#14 Sniff Something Wonderful

"Take a Sniff of Something Wonderful"

How often have you smelled something and been instantly transported to another time or place? I remember sitting once at a dentist's office, flipping through a magazine and running across one of those scratch n sniff type foldouts, an advert for some kind of fragrance. There were several scattered throughout the magazine and by the time the receptionist called my name, the waiting room smelled like the perfume counter in a department store. As I was about 10 at the time, I remember wondering why they didn't have chocolate, peppermint, lemon, coconut and peanut butter smells in there rather than women's perfumes.

For me, the scent of Linden trees and bread baking takes me back to when I was six years old, accompanying my grandmother to the nearby neighborhood bakery. Although I usually avoid using the present moment to delve into ancient history, experiencing a pleasant smell is always a bit of a treat as it reminds me of a happy time.

For today, take a few minutes to really take in a scent you love. This could take the form of a flower, freshly ground coffee beans, the gentle fragrance of jasmine tea, a cinnamon candle, or a fresh lemon peel. Open a spice jar and see where the scent takes you.

Monday, April 13, 2015

April Day Brighteners.......Day #13 Talk to a Kid

"Talk to a Kid"

I feel fortunate to have plenty of opportunities on a daily basis to talk with kids. What I enjoy most about this is:

1. They light up when asked about what they love to do
2. They are focused on the present moment (about 99% of the time)
3. They share ideas that are way outside the box
4.  They often tend to look at life through the lense of optimism, joy, and fun.

In a short video I recently watched, when kids were interviewed and asked the question, "If you could change anything about your body, what would it be?"

The delightful replies were things like..."I'd have wings so I could fly over my neighborhood," and "I'd have super strong legs to jump over the tops of trees," and, one of my favorites, "I'd have a mermaid tale."

Talking with a kid is a fun way to add a bit of something special to the day....

Sunday, April 12, 2015

April Day Brighteners.....#12 Mini Mind Vacation

"Mini Mind Vacation"

As a kid, I remember seeing an ad on tv that made quite an impression on me. A very tired and overwhelmed woman stood in her house, surrounded by barking dogs, screaming children and ringing telephones. She threw her hands up in the air and yelled, "Calgon, take me away!" I waited to find out what Calgon actually was and how it would manage to take her away from all that noise and chaos.

The next image was the woman reclining in a scented, bubble filled tub, eyes closed and relaxing. That was her great escape? A bunch of soap that foamed up so big, it looked as if she were sitting in a cloud?  It's a nice idea I guess, disappearing into a foaming bliss, but also rather impractical, especially when I'm nowhere near a bathtub or a big supply of soap while I am at work.

I've found a way to give myself a few minutes to slow down and relax and without all the work. This would probably work well just about anywhere, except when maybe driving a car or operating heavy machinery.

Day 12..........Close your eyes and take a mini mind vacation.

1. Take 3 slow, deep breaths

2. Close your eyes and select a place to visit (mountains, beach, forest, or any place that's enjoyable to the max)

3. Experience that special place with all your senses...can you feel the sun or the rain? What can you see? What smells are in the air? What sounds do you hear? Can you sip or nibble on something you really like?

4. Revel in it for a few minutes and when ready, bring yourself back to the present. See if taking that little holiday made your day a little more peaceful.

Where will you choose to travel today?

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

April Day 8 "Show your style"

"Show your style"

Ever notice someone who dresses a bit differently than everyone else? Maybe they are wearing something splashy, unusual or just downright bold or bizarre? Little kids often do this when they go out dressed in some outfit they selected themselves. I love it when I spot one who is wearing something like a combo of a pink dance leotard and tutu, a faux cheetah jacket and miniature cowboy boots over purple fuzzy socks. These little guys often get compliments and smiles on their  creative fashion combinations. They probably do not care what other people think and are too busy being themselves and having fun to notice anyone's reaction.

Did you have a favorite outfit as a kid that made you feel like a million bucks when you wore it? The outfit that didn't get washed that often because it wasn't off your body long enough to get through the wash cycle?  It's funny how wearing a certain item can really make a big difference in the way we feel. It was a most delightful grocery shopping excursion for me years ago when my then-5 year old daughter wore her snake costume to the grocery store. Heads were turning and smiles all around as she hopped through the store, exploring everything as a fuzzy, green snake.

Years ago, when I began working with kids doing art in the schools, I decided to revisit the idea of weird and wild clothes. I figured I could get away with it. My favorite outfit was one I made myself...I spent hours sewing and constructing it and the day I showed up in purple lobster-covered green pants with matching sweatshirt and lobster earrings, I got the big scowl from my boss and the thumbs up from the kids. This very special outfit was reserved for work only and I have to say, I felt pretty awesome wearing it.

For today....wear something that makes you feel marvelous...could be anything from your favorite shirt, to wild socks to a piece of jewelry or a wild and crazy hat...some item that lets you show your own unique style....and makes you feel like a million bucks.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

April Day 7 "Snuggle with your Pet"

"Pet Snuggles" 
I discovered early on, as many people have, that snuggling up with pets is pretty wonderful. There is a ton of scientific research out there which has produced long lists of the many benefits of actually doing this, but all that aside, it just feels great. 

When I've had a crummy or difficult day, I stretch out on my bed and within minutes, I have a pile of cats lying all over me, purring loudly. It was just what I needed....

I've been able, throughout my life, to get up close and have some snuggly moments with quite a variety of animals I've had the good fortune to interact with, including cats, dogs, birds, goats, sheep, horses, donkeys, pigs, chickens, hamsters, mice, and even fish. To spend some quiet moments with these creatures was truly something special and very memorable.

It reminds me we are all connected and it almost makes time seem to disappear. Animals can comfort us just when we need it most, they are always glad to see us and they make wonderful companions to be with while out in nature.

Take a few moments today and  really appreciate being able to snuggle with your pet, or share some time with an animal you enjoy. You'll both benefit.....

Monday, April 6, 2015

April Day 6 "Snail Mail"

"Snail Mail"

Just last week, a relative from the UK sent me a large parcel of chocolates...just for fun. She wrote me to say she got great enjoyment buying all those English and Scottish candies from cheerful vendors happy to hear their sweet wares were headed on a long journey overseas. 

I swear I actually FELT all the happiness that went into that package...her intentions to surprise me, the shopkeeper's chuckles, and the candies and cookies themselves.

As my kids went through the box, I considered how many hands had contributed to everything that had gone into this parcel....from the box maker, to the people producing the newspaper that provided padding, to the confectioners and bakers who made all the chocolates and biscuits, and the postal and delivery people who moved that box until its final destination on my doorstep.

In this day of electronic letter writing, it is extra special to receive something that arrives via snail mail. This postal system that began as life-risking Pony Express, now goes faster and further than ever.

Day 6......Snail Mail

Today, write someone a note or card, let them know you are thinking about them and send it via Snail Mail. Imagine how they'll feel when they open their mail box.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

April Day Brighteners....#5 Close Your Eyes

"Close Your Eyes"

Many studies show that the body cannot distinguish between what is real and what is imagined. Remembering something pleasurable causes the body to create a cascade of feel-good chemicals. Conversely, if we remember something unpleasant or downright awful, the body's chemistry recreates how we felt at the time and we end up reliving that experience numerous times and feeling really crappy because of it.

Today, play with this little exercise and see how it makes you feel. I do it quite often and it leaves me feeling pretty good.

Day 5....Close your eyes

Close your eyes. Visualize someone you feel you can appreciate (human or animal). See them in your mind's eye and tell yourself 5 qualities you like about that someone. Rinse and repeat.

For this, I choose 2 indiviuals: My cat Lacey, and my friend, Mark. The qualities I admire in Lacey are:

1. The way this tiny cat loves to snuggle with me when I'm reading
2.  Her innate sense of time, giving me "the big stare" at exactly 5:15 every day, letting me know it is tea time (dinner)
3. Her gentle purring and how good it make me feel to hear it
4. How she enjoys tossing around and chasing a catnip-stuffed toy mouse
5. The way she reminds me to live in the moment

The qualities I admire in my friend, Mark....

1. His great sense of humor
2. Dedication to his family
3. His love of Nature and frequent ventures in the great outdoors
4. His love of animals, especially the dog who accompanies him on hikes, bike rides and fishing trips
5.  How he is a caring friend to many

Doing this little exercise can be addictive as it can lead to feeling good any time you do it.


Saturday, April 4, 2015

April Day Brighteners.....#4 The Eyeball Factor

"The Eyeball Factor"

As I stood recently in a local art supply store, I saw a display holding small tins of stick-on Googly Eyes, all ready to adhere to almost any surface. I used to love these as a kid and stick them on just about everything, from arts and crafts projects to pencils and match boxes. Adding the tiny eyes brought the object to life and made it look irresistibly goofy and fun.

"Make something come alive," it said on the side of the tin.

I grabbed one of the tins and throughout the week, added the little flattened eyes to any place I felt needed a lift. 

Day 4....add some eyeball fun

Today, add some eyes to something that usually doesn't have eyes....extra points if it is out in public someplace lots of people will have the opportunity to see (and enjoy) it. Give someone a reason to smile.

Friday, April 3, 2015

April Day Brighteners....#3 Add a tiny sparkle

"Add a tiny sparkle"

Someone asked me the other day how I feel about routines.

The upside:  Easy to keep track of things
                       Can provide a sense of stability and comfort

The downside: Can get monotonous
                           Feels too repetitive

When we were babies, everything was new and it propelled us into continual exploration and discovery of things that appealed to all of our senses. As adults, some of us (including me) might have the tendency to grow resistant to change and do whatever we can to avoid it at times.

Like many people,  I like that bit of variability and uncertainty that snap me out of going through my days on autopilot.  I knew I needed more change recently when I started feeling like the character Bill Murray played in the film Groundhog Day. 

Day 3....Write a very short happy note to someone

Why not add some change to your day and someone else's by leaving a small post it note for them to find in an unexpected place? Maybe you could tell them how much you appreciate some unique quality they have (amazing storyteller, funny, provocative, snappy dresser, creative, bizarre, extraordinary chef, etc.) or just draw a doodle of some kind. It might be just the little thing that adds a tiny sparkle to their day.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

April Day Brighteners....#2 Mini Massage

"Mini Massage"

Months ago, I found myself in the fingerprint office of the local school system, getting the mandatory check required before working in the schools. The fingerprint guy filled out all the paperwork and then gently took my hands, proceeding to roll each of my fingers across the pad of the machine. The scanner rejected each of the attempts and he ended up having to roll each finger  8 to 10 times. 

It felt so good to have my fingers handled like that, I just decided to enjoy the whole process. In fact, if it had to go on for an hour or so, I'd be ok with that. Here I was, in this office, getting a hand massage. What a great way to start my Monday morning.

Weeks later, I got the results in the mail. 

"We're sorry to inform you that we were unable to process your application due to the quality of the prints. You will need to submit another set of prints."


And back to the fingerprinting office I went to enjoy another round of fingerprinting relaxation.

"This doesn't happen often," the guy reassured me as he proceeded to go through the entire process again. The machine was still not approving many of the scans, so it took quite a while to complete. I decided to simply revel in and enjoy the sensations.

Touch has powerful effects on us. Research indicates it offers the several benefits including:

Lowering blood pressure and cortisol levels
Reducing stress
Contributing to a sensation of well-being

We snuggle babies close, give each other hugs on greeting and slap high five's in celebration. And how great is it to snuggle up with our pets? Everyone benefits.

Day 2: Give a mini massage

For today, give someone (human or animal) a one minute mini massage. Work your magic and add a little sparkle to their day. It may be just what they needed.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

April Day Brighteners...# 1 Ask a Question

"Ask a Question"

Happy April! 

Did you remember to say "Rabbit, Rabbit," before your feet hit the floor this morning?  Doing this (I was told at 12 years old) would bring me good luck all month.  Fly out of bed too quickly and forget to do it? No problem, the second chance came on day 2 with saying, "Tibber,Tibber."

This month will be small bits on Day Brighteners, little things to add fun to your day or something you can do to brighten someone else's day.

Day 1. Ask a Question

Years ago, I discovered a little thing I liked in one of SARK's books. She discovered magic in asking herself a question, and then going to a bookshelf (in her home, someone else's home or, one of my favorites, a local book shop). Grabbing a book she felt drawn to, she would then open it to a "random" page and read the first few sentences that popped out and grabbed her attention. Voila! There was the answer to her question.

Some of the questions I've asked in the past are things like:

What do I need to know right now that will.....?

What do I need to let go?

What is the best way to create change for myself right now?

How can I have more fun?

What gift can I offer someone right now?

I love doing this.  Whatever showed up for me was exactly what I needed at the time. Sometimes, it was almost eerie how well it fit. Try this today and see what happens.....
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