Tag Archives: holidays

The Season of Gratitude

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Has anyone else felt that the holidays came at the blink of an eye this year? It was fall, and suddenly it is full-on Christmastime. I hope my American followers enjoyed the Thanksgiving holiday as a time to relax, reflect, and spend time with family and friends. My holiday wasn’t necessarily relaxing, but I am happy that I made the most of spending time with family and friends throughout the week – from Ohio (Cleveland and Columbus) to Michigan (Royal Oak, Rochester, Bloomfield Hills, and Detroit!).

While it has been easy for me to get wrapped up in the hustle and bustle of the season, from travel planning, to shopping for gifts, to decorating my apartment, I wanted to make sure to spend time reflecting. After all, the holiday season for me is the season of gratitude. I wanted to share a few things that make me feel especially grateful this year and hopefully they will inspire you to think about what you are grateful for as well!

First, I am grateful for creativity. Throughout the fall I have had a huge craving for the arts. If I see or think of something creative, I want to try it! I made candles with my neighbors, which is surprisingly much easier than you would think. You collect old jars you have around the house, melt wax in a pan, pour wax into the jars, and mix in your favorite combination of scents from essential oils or spices (fun fact – turmeric is a great spice to color your candle), and voila – you have a candle! I also painted freestyle with my neighbors in our own version of a “wine and paint” party. This is much more budget friendly and intimate way to paint with your friends – you get to choose the wine, paint at your own pace, and be at the comfort of your own home! I practiced flow painting with family during the Thanksgiving – which was so much fun and also therapeutic. What could be more fun (from an arts perspective) than mixing paint with Elmer’s glue and water, combining colors in a cup, and pouring them onto a canvas in whichever order you would like? You would be amazed how quickly you can look like a professional artist through flow painting! And most recently, I decorated a gingerbread house with my dad so that we could share enjoying the Christmas spirit even though we live far apart. Through all of these experiences, I have found that the arts are one way for me to focus my mind on the present. It helps clear my mind even for a short moment – which frees up space for me to problem solve and reflect in my daily life. It is very rewarding to see the outcome, a tangible and visual example of my work. I look forward to continuing the arts in the new year!

I am grateful for home. I have realized how important it is to have a home – and I don’t mean a physical location. My apartment in Greenville feels like home with all the memories from loved ones, including furniture from my grandma, decorations from my travels, warm candles, and photos of important people in my life. Spending time in Michigan with family feels like home, because my loved ones make it home. Even as my relatives have moved locations, I still feel at home when we are all together. It is the sense of togetherness that makes a place home for me. I can say that my heart feels its best and the most complete when it has a sense of “home.”

I am grateful for flexibility. There is no better feeling than when I have options and I don’t feel “stuck” – whether that means in my life decisions, my daily schedule, or my travels. Flexibility and free time are incredibly liberating and are helping me as I plan for the future. I feel lucky that my job allows me to have work-life balance – to flexibly schedule my commitments at work and at home. I just started the book, “The Power of Now,” and through that I am already realizing that time is imaginary and we should never feel stuck in a situation. Everything can be much more flexible if we separate ourselves from time pressures and worries and focus on the present and what we truly want. I have a feeling I will write a post about “The Power of Now” based on how much it has inspired me in just the first 50 pages of the book.

I am grateful for friendship. As I have moved every year since officially being an adult, and often multiple times per year, I could not be more grateful for the friendships I have made along the way. New and old friends along the way have helped me explore new places, laughed with me on the good days, cried with me on the bad days, and reflected on life. Together we have shared experiences that have helped me grow and prepare for the next phase. I can honestly say I don’t know where I would be without them – thank you to everyone who has been a friend along the way – can’t wait for more adventures together!

What are you grateful for? I hope these reflections help all of us remember to pause and think about the season of gratitude. May the holidays bring you much happiness, joy, and peace this year!

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Embrace Joy

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With the holidays upon us and the end of the year approaching, I wanted to set an intention for this holiday season. Over the past few days, I have had a few experiences that have reminded me to embrace joy. While Thanksgiving last week encouraged me to pause, reflect, and express gratitude next to family and friends, the Christmas season is inspiring me to embrace joy.

embrace-joy

Source: The Dill Loop

On Monday, I had dinner with my university’s director of corporate and foundation relations, who is like the brand ambassador for joy. She lights up every room she enters, finds connections with those who surround her, and shares joyful stories that express her love and hope for the world. With the life experience that she has, it could be easy to be cynical and pessimistic, but she has reminded me that a joyful attitude can surpass any life circumstance at any age. She has become one of my role models and mentors who I aspire to be like now and into the future.

Last night, I attended my favorite hot yoga class in Columbia, SC, and my yoga instructor encouraged me and the other yogis to find joy in our daily lives. She reminded us that the first step in finding joy is letting go of what doesn’t serve us or what brings us down, and then to be grateful for everything we have. She invited us to set an intention for a yoga practice, which inspired me to set an intention not only for the class, but also for the coming weeks. My intention is to embrace joy. Thinking about the past few decades of Christmases, I have found that this season reminds me each year that magic exists. I think back to my childhood days of making a Christmas list for Santa Claus, singing Christmas carols at school, decorating Christmas cookies, and spending the holidays with loved ones. While many of the traditions have changed, the feeling of magic and joy still remains. So far, I have embraced joy by decorating my apartment for Christmas to help brighten the gloom of taking final exams over the next couple weeks. I look forward to attending a Cookies and Kegs party this weekend for a study break with my classmates. I am trying to find little ways to embrace joy each day to help me get through the daily grind of the student lifestyle before my holiday break begins.

As we all face our daily routines over the next few weeks, I hope that we can make an effort to embrace joy and let the holiday season be as magical as it was when we were children. Regardless of whether we celebrate any of the December holidays, the festivals and decorations can remind us to take the time to find joy in the world around us.

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Source: etsy.com

 

Happy Holidays from inspirNational!

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As we travel near and far throughout the year and especially this holiday season, may we remember that “life brings us to unexpected places, but love brings us home.”image1

Moving to South Carolina and soon to France have both been unexpected for me, but very exciting at the same time! I have started the holidays in Virginia and Ohio, and now will be home in Michigan for the next couple weeks. I look forward to starting the new year Parisienne style! Wishing you, your family and friends a joyful and relaxing holiday season. See you in 2016 with more exciting inspirNational insights from around the world!

InspirNational Insights from Senior Citizens

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Holidays bring families together and are one of the unique times that we spend with multiple generations. As I go through transitions in my life, I seek insights from those older than me based on their life experiences. With Easter weekend behind us, I focused on the senior generations (my grandparents and their friends) for some wisdom. When I think about how many changes I’ve faced in my quarter-century life, I can only imagine how many changes the senior generations have faced, in terms of their families, friends, careers, health, technology, and societal trends. I find it interesting that my generation, the one preparing to climb the corporate ladder, the future leaders of business, government, and healthcare, are so focused on the climb and comparing ourselves to others. While I am equally guilty of this, I think it’s time to take a step back and think like the senior generations. Over the weekend, I was reminded of the priorities and mindset of many senior citizens, which I describe below:

  1. Protect and be grateful for your health. Health is the only aspect of life that guarantees we can live. I find when I ask my grandparents how they are doing, they first discuss their health and say some variation of “I am grateful to be alive.”
  2. Put your relationships (family, friends, significant others) above all else. The people in your life are who will share your happy moments and your challenges with you and will be there for you when you are in need. Visiting two nursing homes this weekend reminded me that what brightens the seniors’ days is not how successful they were or how wealthy they were, but how many family members and friends they have to enjoy the adventure of life.
  3. Take each day as it comes. There is only so much planning and anticipating we can do. While planning for the future is a good idea, dwelling on fears about the future is a waste of energy and instead we should focus on finding joy today.
  4. Do what makes you happy. Only you know what that means and only you can control your mindset about what each day brings you. As the old saying says, money doesn’t buy you happiness. It may be your family or friends, your hobbies, your career, your faith, etc. Regardless of what brings you happiness, make sure it is part of your daily life no matter what life stage you are in.
Source: Pinterest

Source: Pinterest

I hope we all can appreciate these thoughts and seek wisdom from the generations older than us, who have interesting stories and important life insights to share. Interested to learn more? Check out this Daily Mail article.

Holiday Reflections

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And just like that, the holiday season is over! I’m sure we have all had some time to reflect over 2014 and dream about 2015 and beyond (or if not, I hope this post helps us begin the reflection process). I had a wonderful two weeks celebrating Christmas and New Year’s with family and friends. Below I am sharing inspirNational insights from my holiday celebrations that I would like to remember throughout the new year:

  • Discuss and share your new year’s resolutions with your family and friends. For the first time ever, I spent time reflecting and planning for 2015 with friends and actually wrote down my resolutions. I also divided my resolutions into categories (career, health, and relationships) to help me stay organized. By sharing them with my peers, I feel more accountable and having goals will help me turn my vision into reality.
  • Simplify your life. Think about what matters to you most and focus your energy in those areas. Avoid distractions and prioritize your daily tasks and expectations to help reduce stress and promote a positive lifestyle. I drank a Trader Joe’s beer called “Simpler Times” over the weekend, and the great name reminded me of the importance of simplicity in life. Throughout 2015 I hope to simplify my life by staying organized, decluttering, and prioritizing the activities and relationships that bring me the most joy and fulfillment.
  • Be grateful and share your gratitude with those closest to you. As we all know, life can change with the blink of an eye, so it is important to appreciate the things and experiences we have. This reminds me of a powerful quote – “You don’t know what you have until it’s gone.” – so we should be grateful for all that we have today. It is also important to express gratitude, whether that means saying “I love you” often, spending time with our loved ones, or giving gifts.
  • Maintain holiday cheer throughout the year. December holiday decorations help us feel spirited and festive, but when January rolls around and we take them down, we often lose the holiday cheer. If we think about it, though, the premise of the holiday season is to spend time with the ones we love, reflect on the year, and indulge in our favorite treats. We can maintain this holiday cheer by continuing to plan family and friend get togethers and continuing to decorate. I plan to have winter themed decorations until the next big holiday in order to avoid the winter blues and keep the holiday cheer alive.
Source: Flickr

Source: Flickr

I hope these holiday reflections inspire us to begin the new year in a positive light. Happy 2015!

Rethinking Holiday Gifts on #GivingTuesday

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In the spirit of #GivingTuesday, I am sharing one of my favorite holiday gift guides I have seen this year.

Source: Thunderclap

Source: Thunderclap

Melibee Global, a resource for international education and study abroad news, information, resources, and advising, wrote The Alternative Holiday Gift Guide 2014, with creative ways to give sustainably this holiday season. The guide suggests the following:

“1. Give experiences, not things. Consider how you can support your local community, through gifts such as memberships to museums or parks.

2. Share what you’ve got. Examples might include volunteering, donating to charities, or fundraising.

3. International innovation. Melibee offers a variety of tools that encourage international and cultural knowledge and growth. [Note: Given my interest in international education and my inspirNational blog, I love this idea!]

4. Red and green. Think ecological and environmental. Check out your local library for a used book sale. Support local charities and organizations by finding vintage, kitschy, and sometimes antique pieces at charity shops and thrift stores such as Oxfam, Barnardos, Salvation Army, and more. Buy from local artists and craftspersons and shop for handmade gifts at art and craft shows, galleries, or stores that showcase local artists’ work.”

Read the full Alternative Holiday Gift Guide 2014 here.

I now feel inspired to think twice about my holiday purchases and am reminded that the spirit of giving does not have to be tangible. I look forward to refocusing my energy this holiday season to share experiences with loved ones.

If you are traveling throughout the holidays, my Guilt-Free Souvenir Shopping post may also provide good ideas for how you can purchase souvenirs or gifts while traveling without feeling remorse.

I hope this provides food for thought for you this #GivingTuesday and as you are shopping throughout the holiday season!