Looking at ourselves and the world through the lens of the 21st century.

Monday, November 29, 2021

Homemade Christmas Cards: An Easy Craft for the Holidays

Hi there! It’s Cindy again, and after all the serious discussions about goal setting and grief, I thought it might be time for something light-hearted and fun. So this week on the podcast we’ll be talking about Christmas cards, and we set up a poll on the Modern Musings Facebook Group. We want to know whether you send cards or letters at Christmas, or is this a tradition you have long since abandoned? And for those of you who still send cards, or would like to start, I’ve put together a little post about some simple cards you can make yourself.

Making your own cards can be a fun way to spend a fall afternoon, and it doesn’t require a lot of experience or supplies. The two cards I have for you today are super easy and require very few supplies, so they are perfect for a beginner card maker. And, of course, an experienced card maker can dress them up any number of ways if they want something a bit more challenging. 

Tip: If you are a beginner, start small. Choose to make only one or two of each design and once you’ve done those you can decide whether to make more.

To get started, you will need:

  • 2 card bases, any color (you can make two from one piece of 8.5”x11” cardstock)
  • 1-3 pieces of Christmas themed patterned paper (1 piece for Card “A” and 3 different pieces for Card “B”)
  • Coordinating green cardstock, approx. 2”x4”
  • Brown cardstock or ribbon ¼” or ½” wide by 3½”
  • Coordinating ribbon to match patterned paper
  • Sequins, rhinestones, enamel dots, stickers, or tiny buttons 
  • Star shaped sequins, rhinestones, enamel dots or stickers
  • Scissors
  • Adhesive or glue

Christmas Tree Card

This first card is a modified version of one I sent out to my friends and family 10-12 years ago, and it’s still one of my favorites.

To begin, fold your card base in half and burnish the folded edge with something hard like a bone folder or the back edge of your scissors. If you are using 8 ½” x 11” cardstock to make your card base, cut it in half to make two 8 ½” x 5 ½” pieces; this will be your two card bases. Fold the long edge to make a standard A2 card. Set one aside for the second card.

Cut one piece of patterned paper to 4” x 5¼”. If you like a wider card border, you can cut it to 3 ¾” x 5”. Adhere the patterned paper to the center of the card front with glue or adhesive tape runner, leaving an even border around the outside edge. Adhere the brown strip of cardstock to the center of the card about ½” from the bottom of the patterned paper.

Cut the green cardstock on the diagonal from one corner to make two triangles. Set one aside for a second card. Cut one triangle into four chunky blocks. Adhere these to the brown trunk starting with the largest block about ¾” from the bottom of the trunk, moving upwards with successively smaller pieces and leaving about ¼” or less between the blocks.

Tip: Lay the four blocks out to see what they look like and get the proper spacing, then glue each one down when you are satisfied with how they look

Decorate your tree with sequins, rhinestones, enamel dots, stickers, or tiny buttons as desired. 

That’s it! You did it! You made a Christmas card!

Packages Card

For the second card, you will take the second card base and burnish the folded edge just like you did on the first one. Using the three coordinating patterned papers, cut three rectangles measuring 1 ¾” x 3”, 1 ½” x 2”, 1 ½” x 1 ½”,

To stack the packages, place a line of glue or adhesive on the bottom edge of the smallest piece and lay the middle piece on top of it, overlapping by up to ¼”. Then place a line of glue or adhesive on the bottom edge of the middle piece and adhere the largest piece in the same way. 

Once your three pieces are stacked and your glue is dry, you can add the ribbon. Adhere one end of the ribbon to the back side of the patterned paper so that the ribbon is right side up when you fold it over the front of the packages. Wrap it around the packages and adhere the other end to the back of the packages. 

Adhere the packages to the card base. If you’re good at tying bows, you can add one to the top of the packages for a little extra flair.

Tip: This card works great as a birthday card, too! Just change up the patterned paper!

That’s it for the cards. I hope you enjoyed making them, and if you want to see more of my cards and projects, you can check out my Crafty Neighbor blog and Instagram pages. But if you like the look of homemade cards but don’t want to make them yourself, check out my Etsy shop! And don’t forget to tune in to our podcast starting Wednesday when we talk about this tradition.

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Pro Tips for PowerSheets®

Hello, Christen here. This week I want to show you how I, and many others, take my PowerSheets® to the next level. I am super stoked about setting up the first section of the book, where I will dive into my thoughts and ask myself what is important to me and what I want to accomplish in 2022. The program itself is a fantastic tool, and it has really helped me propel forward with my dreams and aspirations.

Through trial and error, I have identified one key factor that makes it as successful as it is, which is daily use! When I use the PowerSheets® workbook daily, by checking in and reading my daily, weekly, and monthly action items as well as my overall goals, I tend to have far more success. In addition to checking in on your “Tending Lists”, as they are called, I recommend a couple of other tools to keep you organized. These methods will help you stay engaged in the workbook, and bring it into your everyday life.

Color Coding with Pens and Washi Tape
One of the things that I was most attracted to about PowerSheets® was that I had seen many others using their very own color coding system with markers, pens and stickers. This allowed them to use a separate color to compartmentalize their goals within different areas of their lives. In the PowerSheets® workbook there are some places where the designer, Lara Casey, has used corresponding colors and there are plenty of places where you can add your own splash of color. Lucky for me, I already had a color coding system in place with my MacBook. On iCal, I have certain calendars in their own color, for example work and home life, so I can easily see what areas of my life might be over-scheduled and I was able to carry that over to my workbook and continue the flow. Below you can see where I have used the color coding system to keep things organized in my calendar, and these are the same categories that I work through in my PowerSheets®.

Washi Works Wonders
If you want to give it a little pizazz or want to change the colors that are already established on some of the pages, you can go all out and make it your own. There are endless things you can do with color coordination.

My next tip… is a Brush Tip
I keep a separate bundle of markers just for my PowerSheets®. I absolutely love the Tombow brush tip markers. They are dual sided pens. you can write with them as well as use the brush tip to write in script or as a highlighter.. I love using these in my day planner. You are going to find that things on your tending list might need further planning out. Dedicating the time for the action items gives you that extra structure to make it to the end goal. When writing the action items into your day planner in their respective colors really does give you perspective and makes those items jump out at you, so you can’t miss them!

Have it out and take it with you!
One thing is for sure, you have to pick up your PowerSheets® Book and use it every day! In that regard, it is very much like a day planner. Daily use, lots of notes, and eye-catching color are several ways that make a day planner successful. PowerSheets® run on that same principle. If you don’t actively reach out, pick it up and affirm your daily, weekly and monthly objectives, it will not do you much good at all. If you struggle with utilizing the workbook every day like I did, you will notice that once the month comes to an end many of the tasks you had eagerly planned out were left forgotten or only half completed. Since the action items that are performed at those intervals can possibly slip your mind, it is extremely easy to lose focus on the main goal. My suggestion to champion this is to always have the workbook available to grab and use. Think about it as something that you need in order to get through your day. I keep my day planner open to the current week, so I don’t miss anything important. I need to check it everyday. I keep my power sheets workbook tucked right under my day planner. I always take it with me if there is a chance that I might be staying overnight somewhere so that I can continue tracking and building the habits that I established as part of the daily action items. In the past I have just used a cute book bag or laptop bag to carry my workbook with me, but this year I just couldn't resist the matching zipper bags that were available on the Cultivate What Matters website. The best part about the matching bags, is that I have one for my pens and stickers too, so I will always have them and can quickly grab them when I am on the go. You don’t have to have the bags, but they sure do make it cute!

Seeing is Believing
Posted on my wall, right above my desk is a piece of paper with my goals written out. Is it color matching? You betcha! There are 8 blocks, one for each goal, with the goal written on the block. I kept it as simple and plain to see as possible. I guess you could say that it is a vision board in its most rudimentary form. It took very little effort to make, and doesn't require deep thought or any symbolism or flipping through magazines to get my point across. I simply just wanted a fast reminder of the exact wording of my goals for 2021. Be on the lookout for a demo for a refreshed version for 2021!

If there is one thing that I wish for you to take away from all that I shared today, I hope it is to understand the importance of using the PowerSheets® on a daily basis. Just like a newly forming habit, the PowerSheets® workbook needs to be cultivated by repetition and a serious heart. I got my husband into using a daily planner two years back and we are still working on building that habit with him - it doesn’t come naturally for everyone. Don’t kick yourself if you have days when you forget to use your PowerSheets®, just open it back up, refocus and keep on going! I can guarantee that you will see some wonderful, positive changes in your life!

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Finding the Fire

I am new to the subject of PowerSheets®. I recently received my first ever PowerSheets® goal planner for my birthday from Cindy. We can all agree that for most, 2020 was chaotic and I’m not proud to say that I didn’t come out of my quarantine a more well-rounded/creative person as most of my friends did. It was a very dark and revealing time for me. At the end of the year, Christen took me aside and introduced me to a creative outlet I could bring with me into 2021 which was the idea of creative goal setting.

PowerSheets® teaches you that to live your passion, it means to live for something worthwhile, knowing that it may cost you something. Living your passion is making bold decisions and enduring challenges, but experiencing the happiness that it brings you afterward.

When you are first setting up your PowerSheets®, it asks you “What makes you come alive?” When you use these worksheets, you really have to sit down and think. It takes goal setting to a new level. 

First, let’s break this down: what makes you come alive? When I see this, it makes me think, what gets me up out of my chair/bed and motivates me to live my day. What are my passions? PowerSheets® then asks you a series of questions to come up with the right answers. When answering these questions, keep your one word in mind. In a previous blog, I told you my one word is “inspire.”

PowerSheets® asks you if you’ve lost your passion. If you haven’t, that’s great! Make a list of your passions and motivations. If you have, begrudgingly admit it. I admit for several years I lost my passion for most things. I decided at the beginning of 2021 that I would get back to me and I DID.

Once you’ve answered that question, PowerSheets® asks you how you feel most days. Lately, aside from school, I feel tired, but I also feel like every day is a new day with new possibilities and new opportunities. Yes, I am overwhelmed and exhausted, but the day still brings possibilities. So back to that first question, what fires me up? What makes me excited?

  • Education: I believe that everyone deserves an equally great education.
  • Love: I love LOVE...definitely, a hopeless romantic.
  • Family/friends: I couldn’t live without them.
  • My cats: a huge motivation for me because they are my fur babies.
  • The Boyfriend: as of this week, we are three months and going strong.
  • My students: they motivate me every day in so many ways because I want to inspire them to be their best selves.
  • Reading/Books: one of my favorite pastimes is reading.
  • Makeup artistry: one of my new hobbies has been eye makeup artistry. I am still in the experimental stages.
  • Writing/blogging: yes, this blog is motivating, as well as the poetry I actively write.
  • Coffee: another one of my favorite things to do is try new coffee spots around the DFW area and post about them on my Instagram blog @Ms.Garvin.Writes.
  • Cooking/baking: I am a huge fan of the show Top Chef and Food and Wine Magazine. I am always looking for new recipes to try. Years ago, when I was living with my mom and grandma, I would experiment with recipes. My grandma called it “gourmet” cooking because I cooked things that she didn’t normally eat like French Onion Soup from scratch.
  • The Arts: without the arts, where would we be as a society?
  • Trying new things: this is a broad category, but I am a life-experience junkie. I am always on the lookout for the next cool thing to try, whether it is a new restaurant or staying in a hotel treehouse (bucket list), I want to try it.
  • Living a healthy lifestyle: this is a big one for me. Over the last three years, I have lost around 200 pounds and endless amounts of clothing sizes. I want to keep it off as well as maintain an active lifestyle.

Once you have your power list of motivations, you can begin your PowerSheets® journey. What are you passionate about? Let me know in the comments.

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Monday, November 22, 2021

Take Our Little Survey!

 Want to be part of the conversation? Please take this little survey about Christmas Cards, which will be the topic of an upcoming episode!

Power Planning with PowerSheets®

Two weeks ago, we shared with you how we use a word of the year to enhance our lives. Rather than setting resolutions that will soon be broken, we choose a word to name our focus, and then incorporate it into everything we do. But having a power word is not enough. To manifest a better life, we can’t just think about what we want for the new year — we need to have a plan. This week, we are talking about building on that one little word by setting goals to cultivate our best life, particularly through the use of PowerSheets®.

I will admit, I’m pretty much a newbie to PowerSheets®. My friend, Brandi, tried to introduce them to me many times over the years, but I was reluctant to add yet another “hobby” or something more to keep up with, and I really didn’t understand the value of buying another “planner” or a bunch of worksheets. I felt like I already knew how to set goals and make task lists. But then our friend Susan introduced me to vlogger Cindy Guentert-Baldo (see links, below), and everything changed.

Cindy Guentert-Baldo can be found on YouTube.com. The videos I started with are 2021 Goal Setting – PowerSheets Prepwork and 2021 Goal Setting – My 2021 Goals.

Cindy has a YouTube channel where she shares her adventures in planning and goal setting — mistakes and all. But before you head off to watch her videos, let me warn you, CGB has a penchant for dropping the “F-bomb”, so if you are highly averse to cursing, Cindy is not for you. If you can get past that, or if you just don’t care, then you really should watch these videos I’ve linked below; Cindy has a great way of explaining the whole process while she walks you through her own work in her PowerSheets®. (And for the record, no, I’m not offended by cursing; I just warn you because I was caught completely off-guard by it in my first viewing.) She’s actually quite funny, and I enjoy watching her videos a lot.

I think I mentioned in our One Little Word® podcast that my word of the year for 2020 was “clarity”, and I started out (pre-COVID) with the intention of doing some deep soul-searching. I was at a crossroads, and I felt like I had no direction. But setting my sights on clarity and working on my OLW project just wasn’t enough. So many things changed, and the time I thought I would have to meditate and examine my navel just never came to be. By mid-January, I was already drowning in the responsibilities of caring for my mother who has dementia, and by March we were dealing with a world-wide pandemic that not only decimated my career as a travel agent and crafting event planner, but also wiped out my husband’s income as well. We were in a full-blown crisis. Needless to say, “clarity” did not do much for me that year except to make me realize that clarity isn’t something that just comes to you — it’s something you have to “Explore”.

Brandi bought my first PowerSheets® Intentional Goal Planner as a gift, and when I opened it, my first thought was, “Oh, geez, this is going to be a lot of work.” It took me a couple of weeks to get up the nerve to start working in it, but I took my time, watched CBG’s videos, and eventually got into the swing of it.  I think I caught up to the rest of the world in late January, and after that, I started happily setting and refreshing goals on a regular basis. The whole process has completely changed my outlook on goal setting, and has made a huge difference in my life.

PowerSheets® is unlike anything I’ve ever done before. Designed by Lara Casey, PowerSheets® takes you from the most basic brainstorming techniques right up through monthly, weekly, and daily action plans called “Tending Lists”. It’s all part of the “Cultivate What Matters” community that’s all about positive and powerful change in our lives and around the world. According to the website, the idea is to “uncover what truly matters and do something about it,” and “this powerful goal planner will help you set, plan, and track progress toward the goals that matter most—big or small, the things you’ve always wanted to do.”

I was hesitant at first, but as you can see, less than a year into this process, I am a full-blown proponent. I found the in-depth worksheets to be straightforward, practical, and convenient. The goals I’ve set using PowerSheets® have enabled me to start a family game night, plan several family campouts and outings, sell my mother’s house and get her settled into a long-term memory care facility, begin the process of rebuilding my travel business, pivot the focus of my crafting business into something much more enjoyable and sustainable, clean and reorganize my home, and focus more time and energy on my health, writing, crafts, and other forms of self-care. In short, it’s been pretty amazing. The whole system is so easy and effective! 

Whether you have one goal or many, big dreams or little plans, I heartily encourage you to take a look at PowerSheets®. You can see an unboxing video of my 2022 PowerSheets® workbook on my YouTube site. Now is a great time to get started for 2022, and you can go at your own pace. It’s a great way to manifest what you want in your life and really cultivate what matters most.

Cultivate What Matters® and PowerSheets® are the trademark of Lara Casey Media. You can learn more about both at CultivateWhatMatters.com

Saturday, November 20, 2021

How We Grieve and Why It's Different for Everyone

Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and earlier this week, Amber opened a discussion on grief during the holidays. In our podcast, I shared a few things my family did to lessen the sadness of missing a loved-one during important family holidays, while Christen talked about working through a holiday, and Amber shared her personal experience with holiday grief on the blog. Dealing with grief is such an important topic that I wanted to dig a little deeper -- I want to continue the conversation about how people grieve and how we can help each other through the tough times.

Let us start by talking about what grief is, and how we experience it. Many people think that grief and mourning are the same thing, but they are not. Mourning is the outward actions that we take when we have a loss; grief is the internal thoughts and feelings we experience. Likewise, people often mistakenly attribute Elisabeth K├╝bler-Ross’s 5 Stages of Death and Dying to the stages of grief, but in fact, her research was about people dealing with their own deaths. According to psychologist and author Dr. J. William Worden, there really are no “stages” of grief because grief is not linear. His model is a set of “tasks” that a grieving person works through to find the way back to some level of function and normalcy. These tasks can occur in any order, or even concurrently. Sometimes, in the process of grieving, a person will go back to one or more tasks repeatedly. The tasks are:

The most important factor in this process is time, and there is no specific timeline for grief. Every person’s response to it is different and quite subjective. But the idea is to work our way back to a level of function as we move forward. Charles Jacob, a psychologist and teacher at Sacred Heart University, says, “Eventually, we just start trending back to normal.” He says that the real key is to get through the pain and then to derive meaning from all of it that “doesn’t leave us feeling completely hopeless.”

One of the best things, besides time, to help with grief is to share it. Experts agree that talking with friends and family, and telling stories about our loved ones is beneficial. It can even be helpful to talk to strangers, thus the growth of online grief support groups and the trend of pop-up “grief cafes,” where participants join a group of strangers over coffee, cake, and, of course, lots of talk about death.

WebMD’s “19 tips for coping with holiday stress and depression” includes tips like:
  • Make realistic expectations for the holiday season.
  • If you are lonely, try volunteering some time to help others.
  • Limit your drinking, since excessive drinking will only increase your feelings of depression.
  • Try something new. Celebrate the holidays in a new way.
  • Spend time with supportive and caring people or contact a long-lost friend or relative and spread some holiday cheer.
One group that has an especially difficult time with death and grieving is children. Kids of different ages deal with grief differently, and it is often done in spurts because their brains simply cannot tolerate more. Moreover, children will continue to grieve in different ways as they age and mature, continuing into their 20’s when their brains are fully developed. Mila Ruiz Tecala, LICSW, Center of Loss and Grief in Washington, D. C., tells us that when “children are not helped to grieve at every stage of their development, they experience cumulative losses.” Unresolved grief has been shown to create a higher risk of depression, unemployment, smoking, over-eating, lack of appetite, and risky behavior, and has links to immune disorders, hypertension, cardiac events, and cancer.

No matter the age of the child, the experts agree that it is important to make sure they know that it is acceptable to show emotions and talk about the person who died, and that it is okay to be sad.

To help children during the holidays:

If you have more tips on dealing with grief, we’d love to hear about it. Please join us as we continue this conversation in the Facebook group.

Thanks for sharing!

For more information about grief cafes, please visit the following websites:

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Alone for the Holidays

Hi everyone, it’s Christen here. This week, we have been discussing grief and loss during the holidays. Most of the time, when we think of loss during the holidays, we are considering those times when we lost a loved one due to death, or a relationship ended near the holidays. While I was thinking about this topic, I remembered a time when I was alone during the holidays, but it was not because I had lost a loved one; it just so happened that my work schedule conflicted and I was not able to partake in the holiday fun. It is not as heartbreaking, for sure, but it can really leave you down in the dumps. 

Being the work-aholic that I am, I tend to find myself already booked up and committed to work things during the holidays. I keep my nose to my keyboard often, and am always looking for extra ways to make an extra buck. With that being said, sometimes during the holidays, I am working two jobs if one comes available. One year, I had this awesome opportunity to work for Boston Market, a homestyle rotisserie chicken restaurant popular in my area. They offer a special Thanksgiving meal that can be preordered, and picked up ahead of time, even on Thanksgiving Day itself. Knowing that I had restaurant experience and call center experience, a family friend of mine had offered me a temporary position to follow up with the previous years customers offering them the opportunity to place their orders again. I was excited to take up this job and did it for several years. 

One year though, my little brother, Steven, was in college at Texas A&M and was not going to be home for Thanksgiving. His college always played a football game on Thanksgiving Day, and it is a big deal for Aggie fans to participate in the game. He was in the Corps of Cadets and they marched the field during halftime. The Aggie parents of the students have a huge Thanksgiving day tailgating party, and my parents were not going to miss this opportunity to join in on the fun! My parents made plans to head down south -- a 3-hour drive to celebrate with the other Texas A&M fans. I was not able to take time off from my job the day before to head down there with my parents, which left me home alone for Thanksgiving. 

At first, I was a little disappointed that my parents would “abandon me” for Thanksgiving, seeing as I had never spent that holiday without them, but I quickly got over that, because, let’s get real, it’s not all about me. Missing out on Turkey Day with my folks did give me the chance to decide what I wanted to do, and that really made me feel like an adult (I was in my 20’s - so you know, adulting was a new concept). At first I felt rebellious, and decided that I was not going to celebrate thanksgiving because I did not “have to” for once in my life. Then I decided that I didn’t want the day to go to waste, so I offered to work that day too! I ended up working on my very first holiday. If you have ever had to pull through shift work on a holiday, you know what it is like. There is almost like an extra special team spirit about it. Yes, you all look each other in the eyes and know that you are going to make it through this day, and muster through it, so you can get home to be with your family.

I am grateful for the experience that I had with my work family, and I never take for granted the fact that there are those out there that do end up having to work on the holidays, and I was especially happy the next year to be with my family again. I think next time, I may find other fun things to do besides working if I can help it!

Monday, November 15, 2021

Four Christmases

Hey this is Amber Garvin with my first official blog post and I’m here to talk about grief during the holidays. The subject is hard for me because I don’t have a family in a traditional sense anymore. Both of my parents have recently passed away, and I am newly divorced. So, in a sense,

“Grief is like the ocean; it comes on waves ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim.” – Vicki Harrison.

The holidays are coming, and it is not my favorite time of the year. In the past, I looked forward to November and December. Not just because I am a teacher and I get some much-needed time off work but also because I got to spend time with my family. I come from a very traditional family. On Thanksgiving, we had turkey and dressing at my Maw Maw’s house sitting around my great grandmother’s table eating family style. My family always had at least four kinds of pie on Thanksgiving as well. After dinner, we would play board games with football playing in the background. My mom, cousin, and I also have November birthdays, so we usually celebrated our birthdays on Thanksgiving as well.

Christmas was a big deal in my family also. Every year, we picked out a real Christmas tree from the local tree farm and we decorated it together as a family. I’m an only child so it was just my mom, dad, and me. Every year my mom and I also made Christmas cookies and candy together to wrap and deliver to extended family and friends. Christmas was my mom’s absolute favorite time of the year, and she went out of her way to make it special for everyone throughout the years. Her favorite thing to do (and she did this well into my adult life) was play the role of Santa for my dad, Maw Maw, and me. In the early hours of Christmas morning, she would fill the family stockings with various knickknacks and would place bigger presents under the Christmas tree. I remember the Christmas after I became a teacher, “Santa” surprised me with office supplies for my classroom. Around noon on Christmas Day, my whole family would gather at my Maw Maw’s house, and we would have a family gift exchange. These gifts were usually handmade, or food related of some kind. Food gifts were also a huge tradition in my family. Every year, my mom was always the one to pass out the gifts as well. The holidays were special.

My dad died in 2017 and in 2018 my mom died just a little over a year later. The Christmas after my mom died, I obsessively tried to fill her shoes as “Santa.” I went over the top with gifts and baking. In my grief, I tried to make it seem like there weren’t two giant holes in the holiday. In the year after my mom’s death, my ex-husband and I fell out with the rest of my family due to grief and differences of opinion. In 2019, I had decided to forgo the holidays and my then-husband, and I took my Maw Maw to a casual diner for a Christmas lunch. We didn’t exchange presents at all that year.

The last picture taken with both of my parents: Christmas of 2016

In 2020, amid the pandemic, I had a lot of time for clarity and self-reflection. I was finally able to deal with my grief over the loss of my parents. My ex-husband and I had also separated right before the holidays as well. 2020, was looking to be another year of holiday avoidance. At the same time, I didn’t want to avoid them. I was ready to take my grief head on and channel it into something more positive. The holidays are overwhelming as it is but adding grief to the mix can make them unbearable for most. In November of 2020, I began to make amends and my extended family was happy to welcome me back into the fold. Once I became open to trying new things, I realized that I wasn’t as alone as I thought.So, in 2020, I started new traditions with four Christmases. 

The key to coping with grief is to not completely abandon your old traditions. Last year, I decided to mix old traditions with new traditions to see where I would end up. The week before Christmas, I made around 200 Christmas cookies to wrap for family and friends, then on Christmas Eve, I began a three-day long trek across Texas to get my holiday groove back. 

I started in Carrollton with my Modern Musings family. Cindy and Christen have been inviting me to their family Christmas for years but this year I completely immersed myself into their traditions of gingerbread house building (my first one ever), Christmas caroling, and Christmas Eve pajamas. It was like we had been having Christmas together for years and I was grateful for the love that my Modern Musings family has shown me. Next, I went to my hometown of Vernon and spent Christmas morning with my childhood friend Stacy and her family. For dinner, I went to my cousin Stephanie’s house. I had not seen her and her family much after my mom’s death. Some of my extended family I was seeing for the first time in two years, but it was like I had never broken tradition. My family welcomed me back with open arms and open hearts. We had dinner, played board games, and exchanged food gifts. My cousin Steven even showed the family his new hobby of axe throwing, which may just become a new family get together tradition. Finally, I was invited to my extended cousin Lavonna’s house the day after Christmas for a family get-together that I have never attended. 

I went through many stages of grief in the years after my parents died and my marriage fell apart. For a long time, I was scared of new traditions and opted to avoid the holidays altogether. I realized that aside from hurting myself in avoiding the holidays, I was also hurting the extended family and friends that wanted to see me and experience their traditions with me. My takeaway is that it’s okay to start new traditions after tragedy. It’s okay to keep old traditions. It’s okay to combine traditions to whatever works for you. For the longest time I avoided the people that loved me because I was grieving, and I was being unfair to myself. I’m not sure what I will do this year for the holidays, but I take comfort in the fact that so many people have been there for me in the past year, and it makes me feel less alone and more hopeful for the future.

The holidays are hard when you’ve lost loved ones, but you are not alone. What are your favorite holiday traditions? Have you experienced the same things that I have? I want to know. Comment below or e-mail me at info@modernmusings.net.

Saturday, November 13, 2021

The Magic of Words

Hey, this is Amber and I want to ask you one question: How can one word impact your year? As an English teacher and a writer, words are, in a sense, my life. Words can be a powerful thing. They can lift a person up or they can bring them down. Words can be magical and they can be detrimental. Choosing one word to motivate you can have a lasting impact that will set the tone for your year.

Years ago, when I first started teaching, I was looking for an enlightenment exercise to do with my students in January. Later, I will talk about the goal-setting exercises that I do with my students in January, but in the process of teaching my students goal-setting, I ran across a book by Jon Gordon called “One Word that Will Change Your Life” (linked below).

Jon Gordon’s idea came as an alternative to the endless New Year’s resolutions that people make every year. Instead of making resolutions, you pick one word to drive your year. The word is meant to be a motivational power word to impact all the dimensions of your life: mental, physical, emotional, relational, spiritual, and financial.

So, I challenge my students to come up with ONE word to drive their year every January. Afterward, we do activities and writing assignments that incorporate our words. One thing that Gordon talks about is making a sort of vision board or painting with his word and hanging it in his house to remind him of his yearly motivation. One of the activities that I do with my students incorporates their words and I add them to the classroom word wall. Students have to make a small poster/vision board incorporating their words. They cut out or print pictures that inspired or had to do with their word. After implementing this in my classroom, I also choose a word and make a vision board of my own for the classroom. We will be talking about Vision Boards in an upcoming “Goals, Girl!” episode as well.

My word for 2021 was “forward” indicating that I am always moving forward in my life. After a long, few years of moving backward, I decided that I never wanted to move back again and always move forward.

My word for 2022 will be “inspire” because I want to inspire people by sharing my past experiences on this blog and our podcast.

I look forward to hearing from you. What is your one little word?

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Thursday, November 11, 2021

One Word - 365 Days of Change

 One little word. Sometimes one little word is all it takes to change the course of history. Yes. No. Maybe. Stop. Go. Attack. Retreat. Or change an attitude. Live. Laugh. Love. Dream. Be. One little word can even change your life. Forgive. Believe. Learn. Begin. Heal. So much is carried in those words. Such power. Such potential for change. I’ve witnessed the power of words in many ways, and have seen the results – in myself and others.

My personal experience using a power word started with a 365 art journaling project inspired by a crafty friend. You can read more about it on my Crafty Neighbor Blog. Christen and I decided to try a word of the year project, but turn it into a 365 project to work in our art journals. 365. I’ll let you think about that for a moment. We wanted to do an art journal project EVERY DAY for 365 days. We came up with 365 prompts, then started making pages that tied our word of the year to those prompts. It was hard work, and I can bet you already know how it turned out. I made it through about May, or maybe June, and then it just fizzled. 

Was it a failure? Oh, heck no! I feel like it was a great success. My word for that year was heal and through daily art journaling, I did a lot of healing. And even though I wasn’t working on that project every day, I was still working on it – I am still working on it, and will continue to do so. I’ve tried to keep up with posting the pages from that art journal on my Flickr.com account. Feel free to browse the album, or check out the CraftyNeighbor365 group to see what others have done with this project.

Over the years, I’ve picked other words, done other projects, and found ways to incorporate the word into my life. I chose words like organize, simplify, and heal (I’ve used that one several times over). The words helped me focus on what I wanted to create in my life, where I wanted my focus to be. Mostly I just worked on my own. I found projects that were symbolic of the word or that helped me through the process of living that word. Then a friend introduced me to Ali Edwards and her “One Little Word” project, and the real magic started to happen.

Yes, I know I’m starting to sound like a total fan-girl for all things Ali Edwards, but sometimes a designer just speaks your language, and Ali surely speaks to me. The video introduction on the One Little Word page is powerful, and says far more eloquently what this project means to me each year. It is profound, complicated, and intense, and it has brought me so much acceptance and peace. 

I do the project a little differently each year. Some years I buy the class, some years I buy the kit, sometimes I’m in a 6” x 8” album, or (this year) the softcover journal. The process is part art and part journaling, but there are really no hard and fast rules about how to do it. You could approach it from a completely photo-journalistic perspective, a serious written journal, or all art and collage. My work tends to be a combination of all three. Is it good art? Good writing? Good photography? Does it have to be? NO! This is a project for me and really no one else. This is for my growth, my benefit, and no one else’s.

If you'd like to see a flip-through video of my 2020 One Little Word project, visit my YouTube account here. So whether you take on a 365 project, join Ali’s “One Little Word” workshop, chant your word in a unity circle, or use it in some other imaginative and resourceful way, consider what your word might be. What word could take you from where you are now to the person you want to become – the person you are meant to be? What word could propel you, sustain you, and empower you? What is your “one little word”, and what will you do with it next? Leave us a comment…we’d like to know!

5 Ways to Manifest Your Best Life

Hi there, and welcome back! Since we have been heavily focusing on goals and planning, I thought we should discuss manifesting. I love this ...