Pumpkins

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving

As we dive head first into our turkey pants, deep conversations with loved ones, and all things fall/cozy/rustic…remember just how good it feels to give all the Thanks.

I’m Thankful & Grateful for my beautiful Family, gorgeous Friends near and far and all my Readers – Thank You for being part of my journey.

Happy Thanksgiving

Wishing you all a very Happy Thanksgiving – sharing and creating memories with the ones you love.

Happiness

A New Way Of Life

Hygge – the Danish not-so-easy-to-define word for happiness, coziness, nostalgia, and contentment – is a big part of why Denmark is consistently ranked as one of the happiest places in the world. We, as Canadians, on the other hand, seem to be on a constant pursuit of happiness, yet don’t rank anywhere close to the Danes. What gives?

Maybe – just maybe – instead of pursuing the classic Canadian dream, minimalism, capitalism, or whatever new fad is trending, we should instead pursue the tried-and-true notion of hygge. We know it works, so why not? We’ve got nothing to lose.

Luckily, incorporating aspects of hygge into your life is easy because you get instant gratification. That’s because one of the most important principles of hygge is living in the moment. So all of these things will make you feel good right now.

Ready to embrace hygge and live like the Danish do? Here are things you can do to add hygge to your life:

Dim The Lighting

Hygge is all about the lighting – warm, deep, dim lighting. The fluorescent and intense overhead lighting that has worked its way into our Canadian homes and offices just doesn’t work for the Danes.

In fact, for them, the ideal lighting comes from fireplaces and candles. The yellowish glow, the flickering, even the noise adds to the feeling of hygge.

So open up the fireplace tonight and pull out some candles! And if you’re an anxious worrier like me, don’t stress! There are battery-powered candles that give you the exact same effect, but without the fire hazard…and they’ve got timers!

Make More Soups

Hygge is achieved through simplicity and indulgence. If it makes you feel cozy, even better. If time and thought has been put into its preparation, you’ve got triple the hygge! So what better way to experience (or intensify) hygge, than by making a homemade soup.

So pull out your crock pot and make a stew that will simmer all day. The smell will be amazing, the soup will taste delicious, and you will be indulging without getting too indulgent (if you know what I mean).

Dress To Impress And Be Comfortable

We, as Canadians, are obsessed with dressing to impress and too often it comes at the cost of our comfort. So time to put your thinking cap on and find a way to embrace comfortable clothing without making yourself feel like a slob (because you need to feel comfortable too!).

If you really want to channel your inner hygge, you can start by investing in a really, really comfortable pair of socks. The kind of socks that almost classify as slippers. The ones that you can’t wait to get your feet into after a long day. Those are hygge.

Read A Real Book

Your comfy socks are on, your stew is simmering in the crock pot, so now it’s time to read by yourself…the old fashioned-way.

Get a real book – not your Kindle, phone, or iPad – and read in your favourite cozy nook. Turn your phone off. Let this just be time to relax your body and stimulate your brain.

Read whatever you want. Fiction, non-fiction, romance, suspense. Whatever YOU want.

And don’t feel like it has to be a new book! Pull your Harry Potter collection off the shelf and reread your favourite parts. Grab your favourite classic and reread it one more time!

If It Brings You Joy, Add It

By now, we all know the Konmari Method of cleaning your house – if it doesn’t bring you joy, get rid of it.

Well, the hyggelig (Danish for hygge-like) way of cleaning your house is similar, but with one very important twist – if it brings you joy, add it.

Yep, you heard me right. You now have permission to pull your cat figurines back out of hiding, find those horrible pants with holes that everyone (except for you!) hated, and fill your home with things you love.

Be Active Outside

We all know that exercise is good – it makes you healthy, happy, clears your head, blah, blah, blah. So we schedule an hour here or there to go for a run or take a cardio class.

Unfortunately, that’s not the key to happiness…or hygge.

To add more hygge to your life, you need to make exercise fun – like, so fun you don’t even call it exercise. And it needs to happen outside.

So go for a hike, make a snowman, explore the beach, ride your bike.

Doing this doubles your hygge. Here’s why:

There’s something special about being outside. Fresh air and nature are important elements of hygge, so spending a lot of time outside doing something fun will create instant hygge.

The doubling occurs when you come home. You’re tired, but satisfied, so your mind and body will want nothing more than additional hygge. You won’t even have to think twice. Just put on your comfy socks, make a cup of hot cocoa, and settle into your cozy nook for the next chapter of your favourite book.

Make Your Gifts

Giving someone a gift is always a good way to bring happiness to your life as well as theirs. To take that happiness to the next level (the level of hygge), make a gift for them.

I know this is intimidating. Even more, I know this is time-consuming. But THAT is what makes homemade gifts so hyggelig – for both you and the person receiving the gift. A ridiculous amount of time is typically put into making homemade gifts, which adds a lot of thought to the present, but also gives you time to do something out of your normal routine. It’s a break for your mind and body.

Start A Tradition

One of the biggest components of hygge is that warm and cozy feeling that comes with something nostalgic – like waking up on Christmas morning or spending the day preparing for Thanksgiving. These traditions pair naturally with hygge…so why not make more of them?

Whether you start a completely new one (like a special family vacation in the middle of spring) or just build off of one you already have (like adding a mid-day family movie to Christmas), adding a new tradition to your life will definitely increase your hygge exposure.

And the absolute best part of this hygge addition is that you’re spreading the hygge-love to the family and friends that will be joining you.

Attend More Social Get-Togethers

One of the easiest and quickest ways to add hygge to your life is to simply attend (or hold) more social get-togethers.

Strong relationships help make hygge happen, so spending time with friends and family sets you up for more and more happiness.

If you want the most hygge possible, try to keep the gatherings to a small number of people (4-6). This makes the get-together more intimate and you’re more likely to let yourself relax.

Vacation More

I know this is easier said than done, both because of the cost and the time. But THIS (paired with the next section below) is possibly the biggest – and most impactful – difference between the Danish and us.

You need to vacation more. Your hygge depends on it.

It does NOT need to be expensive. It does NOT need to be elaborate. You don’t even need to necessarily go anywhere! Just take time to vacation.

This doesn’t mean take a few days off from work to catch up on chores, finally get your car detailed, and schedule that doctor appointment you’ve been pushing off.

You need to do something fun, new, and relaxing. Something with your family, friends, or just alone. Something that will give you a warm and fuzzy feeling when you look back on it.

Work Less

I know – you can’t vacation more if you work less. You can’t even work less if you don’t vacation more.

Except that you can. And you have to…at least, you do if you really want to create hygge in your life.

What I mean by “work less” is this:

Leave when you say you are going to leave. Don’t stay late. When you’re home, stop working. Prioritize your non-work life the same way you prioritize your work life. Take sick days when you are sick. Set clear expectations with your employer (they may surprise you!).

This may not happen overnight, but again, it is one of the defining characteristics of the Danes and one of the biggest reasons they experience so much more happiness than we do.

So for the sake of hygge, don’t blow this one off! Even if it can only work its way into your 5-year plan, it will be worth it.

I hope you’re able to incorporate at least a few of these hygge ideas into your life! Come back and let me know how they work out for you.

Happy Birthday

Happy Birthday Mommy

Mommy

Beautiful Momma 

Dear Momma,

I originally just wanted to write you a private note.

But then I decided I wanted the whole world to know.

As many people as possible.

All of the good that you have done for me and the joy and beauty you have brought, instilled, nurtured and tended in my life: all that which one can never ask for or expect, but for which their lives have been immeasurably blessed.

You taught me to be independent, to not give up in the face of adversity or people saying no.

You taught me it’s okay to be flexible and to follow my dreams, no matter what obscure corners they may lead to.

You taught me to be kind and have empathy on those around me.

You taught me to care for all of God’s creatures and to see beauty in the small things around me, whether it be the blush of a rose or the soft velvet of a rabbit’s ear.

You taught me it’s okay to have spunk and a funky personality: that is perfectly okay to “follow the beat of my very own drum.” You never pushed me to fit any mold or be anything or anyone else but me.

You taught me to laugh.

You taught me to smile and find humor in the flippancies and quirks of life.

You taught me to seek God and have faith, even when I’m not sure of all the answers myself; you demonstrate to me every day the importance of the journey and the search.

You taught me to challenge that which I saw as wrong; you taught me to never be a silent witness in the face of evil.

You taught me to be a citizen of the whole world, and not just the small corner I happen to call home.

You taught me to care for others.

You taught me to struggle past the status quo, even when it hurts; you taught me to push myself beyond ordinary to truly realize the beauty and potential of God’s creation in me.

You taught me the importance of honesty.

You personified integrity and purpose in all of your actions.

You taught me to work hard.

You taught me the beauty of languages and the opportunities that await us when we cross beyond the borders of our comfort.

You taught me humility.

You taught and encouraged in me a sense of adventure; you let me spread my wings to soar and perhaps to fall even when your own heart was probably clenched with fear.

You taught me the importance of being kind to all people and reminding them how special they are.

You taught me someone’s station, race, or place in life does not determine the colour of their heartbeats.

You never, ever, ever taught me any hint of racism, sexism, religion-ism…you taught me the beauty of an open mind and an accepting heart.

You breathed to life in me from the flickering spark of possibility and inherited genes a fighting spirit that will never say die, a spirit that drives me forward each day.

You taught me to be the passionate, strong-willed and fanciful creature that I am, for I follow in your footsteps; the cold reality of the ground may not always bind us, but my God how the sear of heaven’s sun tinges and inflames our souls.

You taught me loyalty.

You taught me the importance of our roots; the Families we always return to and the heritages we carry forward into the future.

You taught…me to be me. Everything that is good; everything that is right; everything that you admire in me and seek to encourage; I tell you that this comes from you. A child is the product of her parents and the values they instill in her; without your basis and foundation, I could never be half of what I am today, and for that I Thank You and bless your footsteps; you have given me such a multitude, abundance and bounty of gifts such as I can never hope to repay.

Mommy Bear

My Whole Heart

Momma, you are a joy. My life has been so rich and beautiful, and I have been so loved and treasured, because you are my Mom. I wish there was a better phrase in English to express the kind of love I have for you, but I love you, so dearly. Happy Birthday Momma.

Flower Field

Who Knows What You Might Spark In Someone Else’s World

Some mornings, you wake up and you just know it’s going to be a hard day.

Yesterday morning, well before the fog of sleep had lifted, I sat on the couch gawking at the TV screen, tears rolling down my face.

Now, just to be clear, crying isn’t anything out of the ordinary for me. I’ll be the first to admit that I cry a lot.

I cry during Disney movies or even when listening to music; I cry when others have been wronged or treated unjustly, when people or animals are abused, and when strangers are sad or struggling. I cry when I read the vitriol that people like to spew at one another behind the veil of the internet where they think others won’t attach their names to their sinister petulance.

Why, then, is it so easy for us to continue to treat each other unkindly? To point fingers, assign blame, and never so much as raise our eyes to the mirror?

How is it so easy for us to forget that our words matter just as much as our actions? That the attitudes that we put forth into the world are contagious, and so we must very carefully curate and cultivate those attitudes?

I do my best to be kind. I do my best to approach every situation with an open mind and empathy. It’s not always easy, and believe me, I don’t always get it right.

But I aim to be a little bit better every day. To react a little less harshly to the things I don’t understand and the viewpoints I don’t agree with, and to ask questions so that I might understand a little more.

We have all become cynical.

We’ve become cynical of each other and of the world. We are not sure kindness exists anymore, and so we resist from doling it out ourselves, assuming (wrongly) that it will never come back to us anyway.

Sometimes, I’m not sure kindness exists anymore myself.  If it does still exist, it’s sure as heck no one’s top priority.

But the funny thing about kindness is, it starts with us.  We cultivate it, we give it, we spread it. It’s contagious. If I want more kindness in my life, it must first come from within.

When we cultivate cynicism, we spread cynicism.

When we cultivate contempt, we spread contempt.

When we cultivate intolerance, we spread intolerance.

We have nothing to be gained from spreading these ideologies, and everything to lose.

But there is nothing to be lost from cultivating and spreading kindness, and everything to be gained.

In this individualistic society, we’ve forgotten how to take care of one another, and we’ve forgotten why it’s even important. Who wouldn’t be cynical in a society comprised entirely of strangers?

So, today and every day after it, for the sake of humanity, be kind. Be kind to yourself, be kind to others. Even when you don’t want to be, and even when you are angry or sad.

It’s all we can do, and it just might make all the difference.

Coffee

Vietnam’s Signature Drink

Every country has its signature drink. In Ireland, they’ve got Guinness. In Belgium, they’ve got hot chocolate. In Scotland, they’ve got whiskey. And in Vietnam…they’ve got coffee.

Any coffee-lover who travels to Vietnam is sure to fall in love with the country’s unique, heady version of the classic drink. A cup of Vietnamese coffee starts with locally-grown, darkly-roasted beans. The grounds are brewed in a French-style drip filter, which makes for an especially strong ‘cuppa joe’. Condensed milk is added for sweetness, and the lot can be poured into a glass of ice when you’re in the mood for refreshment.

Here’s a guide to help you order the perfect cup:

Cà phê sữa đá – iced coffee with condensed milk

Cà phê sữa nóng – hot coffee with condensed milk

Cà phê đen đá – iced black coffee

Cà phê đen nóng – hot black coffee

While Western tastes have been grounded in Italian-style coffee – venti, anyone?! Vietnamese coffee is distinctly French. They introduced it along with the banh mi baguette in the 1850s Vive Le France! And the drip-style coffee method emerged soon after. It quickly became a national love affair.

Father’s Day

Happy Father’s Day

Life is a precious gift. There are no guarantees.

This Father’s Day hug your Dad a little tighter; savour the moment a little longer. If you have grievances, let them go and return to love. Appreciate the time together, because you never know how long you’re going to get.

To all the awesome Dad’s in the world…I am sending you a wave of love from my heart. Thank You for your steadfast presence, and fatherly love. Thank you for having our backs, and being our rock! We see you, appreciate you, and love you.

To my Dad,

I recently realized the true depth and breadth of your presence. You may not have been as vocal as Momma, and you may never have been the parent who escorted us around from activity to activity, or even the first parent we called in times of despair – all of that has always been her job. But, I’ve realized that your spirit, your influence, your character, and your quiet, yet strong presence are invaluable to me.

In our Mother’s flurry, you remain calm, together, firm and gentle. And, while I tend to naturally lean more towards my Mother’s worrisome nature, I have the privilege of even a drop of your cool mystique woven into my being.

You’ve taught me to be fair, humble, kind, independent; to be a rebel, a free-spirit, and to be open. In you I see the gift of inherit, impeccable intelligence and the richness born from a devotion to order. I strive to replicate your seemingly effortless dedication to self-love and personal care. You’ve been far from perfect, but I’ve watched you grow and become a better version of yourself, which not only makes me proud, but has given me deep knowing about the gifts life brings with time and maturity.

You are the stick from which I measure the greatness of a man. I am grateful for your love and devotion and my greatest teacher of giving and receiving.

I love you forever and miss you everyday.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad.

From your daughter with love,

Night Boat

The Beauty Remains

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to travel to faraway lands to have the mind and heart-opening experiences that travel is often lauded for.

You can have them no matter where you’re currently laying your head at night, even if you happen to call that place “home.”

But what tends to happen after a long trip or a few years of living abroad is that we simply fall back into life as we knew it before our great travel adventure.

We pick right back up with our old habits; we choose the comfortable over the uncomfortable and the known over the unknown.

Colourful

The magic of travel is that it drives us headfirst into situations that cause us to grow. We’re often uncomfortable, and we’re almost always faced with the unknown.

At home, things are different; we have to actively seek out these situations if we want our personal growth to continue at the same rate we experienced while traveling.

Because at home, we’re surrounded by the familiar. But as long as we’re willing to look for it, that magic we feel when we’re ensconced in a life of travel? It’s always there, just waiting to be discovered.

Home is only familiar if we let it be. If we maintain the same mindset we adopt while traveling and push ourselves beyond the bounds of our comfort, we can discover that very same magic no matter where we are.

We can continue deepening our understanding of the world and blossoming into the people we’re meant to be.

We can stave off that dreaded boredom and begin to redefine wanderlust by discovering the world with our feet planted firmly on the ground.

With diligent practice, we can retrain our eyes to see magic everywhere we go.

Vegetables

TRAVELERS ARE OPEN TO TRYING NEW THINGS.

Whenever you’re in a faraway land, trying new things seems like a no-brainer.

Eat these deep-fried crickets? Sure! Go biking at full speed down a huge mountain? Why not! Sample this spiky, smelly fruit you’ve never seen before? But of course!

And yet, this same eagerness to experience the new and foreign has a tendency to wane when you’re in a place that seems familiar, despite plentiful opportunities.

To maintain that curiosity and willingness to expand your horizons is the first step toward feeling the magic of travel no matter where you are.

So try a new recipe, complete a hike you’ve never completed, and visit that new funky shop that just opened up in town. You never know what you’ll find or what you’ll learn about yourself in the process.

Leaf Hat

TRAVELERS SAY YES TO EVERY OPPORTUNITY.

If your life at home feels boring, there’s a good chance you are overlooking great opportunities without even realizing it.

Perhaps an old friend you haven’t seen in years wants to catch up over coffee. Maybe a new yoga class was just added to the schedule at your gym, but you’re afraid to go alone. Perhaps there’s live music at your local coffee shop that you’ve always wanted to go see, but you’ve never made the time.

It’s not that you have any good reason to avoid these experiences, it’s just easier – or more comfortable, rather – to say no.

These may seem like inconsequential events that there’s no harm in missing, but you never know what you might discover or who you might meet along the way.

Life won’t happen to you; you must go out and grab it. You have to be willing to say yes.

Not long ago, I agreed to attend a party where the only people I knew were the hosts. The drive to get there was pretty long, as well. It would have been quite easy to say no and blame it on one thing or another; maybe I was suddenly tired that day or I had work that I needed to finish, or any other excuse in the book. I’m so glad I didn’t.

What I found upon arrival was a houseful of welcoming people, and like-minded though we were in many ways, every conversation I engaged in imparted me with something valuable. Life-changing book recommendations, tough questions that caused me to think in new ways, and the unveiling of things I knew in my heart but had never before said aloud.

Get into the habit of saying yes more often than you say no when unexpected opportunities arise, and I think you’ll find that even more such opportunities begin to present themselves as a result.

Travel

TRAVELERS NOTICE THE DETAILS.

When was the last time you stopped and looked around you in a place that felt intimately familiar? I mean really looked around, taking in the minute details most people so casually and consistently overlook?

Do you know what colour the walls are in your favourite restaurant? How are they decorated? Is there music playing? If so, what kind and at what volume?

Do you know the colour of your friend’s eyes or whether they take milk in their coffee? Do they have dimples? Do the corners of their eyes crinkle when they smile?

Just the other day, I caught myself admiring dust particles as they danced through the air, suspended in the beams of late afternoon sunlight that poured into the room. It was hardly the first time I’d witnessed this phenomenon, but it was likely the first time I’d paid it much attention.

These particles drifted so slowly, so gracefully, each one on its own unique path. The way the light reflected off of them made them shine like tiny suns, burning brightly in their own little universe.

It was a perfect, magical moment shrouded in calm and a profound feeling of presence. I couldn’t help but smile at the heartfelt joy I experienced upon noticing such a commonplace thing whose beauty I suddenly could not ignore.

It is this appreciation of the everyday occurrences we take for granted, this ability to see beauty in things not considered conventionally beautiful, that helps us develop mindfulness and gratitude anytime, anywhere.

To practice noticing the details in your own life, here is something you can try today: Watch the sunset this evening and describe the experience in vivid detail.  Notice as the colours change from minute to minute; notice whether you see any clouds or birds or if you feel the temperature changing. Have the stars come out yet?

TRAVELERS LEARN BY DOING.

When you’re in a foreign country and you need to get from point A to point B, there’s no time to hesitate just because you’re not quite sure how to do it. You just show up at the bus station and hope for the best.

It almost always works out the way you want it to, and if it doesn’t, well, you’ve learned a lesson and now you have a great story to tell.

When I’m navigating a new city’s public transit system for the first time, I almost always take it in the wrong direction at least once. I’m not kidding. I’ve done it in USA. France. Taiwan. Vietnam.

Of course, I always figure it out eventually. When learning by doing, there are bound to be some mistakes – but I’m still learning faster than those who are too scared to try.

In reality, this method of figuring things out as you go will help you in all areas of your life. You’ll rarely know ahead of time how to achieve your goals, but that hardly means you shouldn’t try anyway.

Green Water

TRAVELERS GO OUT OF THEIR WAY TO MEET NEW PEOPLE.

The experiences that we have while traveling are certainly wonderful, but it’s the people we meet and the interactions we share with them that are often what we remember years down the road.

It’s impossible to really understand a new place without understanding its people and what makes them tick. In my opinion, interacting with locals is the most important part of travel.

It’s what teaches us new perspectives and forces us out of tired old ways of thinking. It’s how we learn compassion for those who are different from us.

The very same thing is true at home. How well do you really know the people in your home city? How well do you really know your neighbour?

How often do you engage in conversations with people whose opinions differ from your own, or who have had vastly different experiences?

You are guaranteed to learn, grow, and gain new perspectives by talking to people while you’re at home, just as you would while traveling.

And there’s no need to be selective, everyone has a story to tell. Everyone has something to teach us.

So the next time a stranger strikes up a conversation with you, make it a point to engage with them rather than retreat. For the introverts among us, this will feel particularly uncomfortable.

Good. That is precisely the point.
Ocean

Being Here Is Everything

In the moment

Time, it seems, is a prison of our own creation. We are always waiting for something.

Waiting until we are in a new place. Waiting for an opportunity. Waiting for someone. Waiting for change.

Waiting for the next moment, when really, the only moment that ever exists is NOW.

Look around you. See, hear, and feel what is taking place in your surroundings.

Experience this moment.

As I write, my present moment consists of the hum of the refrigerator. The drizzle of rain. The subtle warmth of the sun as it pours through the tiny kitchen windows at this late morning hour.

I see, hear, and feel these things, resisting the urge to label them as “good” or “bad.” They simply are.

In this moment, there is no time. Just presence. Awareness. Appreciation.

The present moment is a gift. Yet we squander it in favour of a non-existent future, or a past that cannot be changed.

So while many things are “imperfect” or not yet in place, this year has been an incredible one full of so many gifts. The scary or frustrating parts won’t be remembered, but they will serve to build character in the now.

How I choose to act in response to unstable times will be what matters in the end.

And so, I have no choice left but to appreciate the here and now. It is part of my path, and it’s teaching me plenty if I open my heart to it. It’s teaching me gratitude. It’s teaching me patience. It is teaching me mindfulness. It is showing me my own resilience.

Writing in a journal while seated at the messy dining room table, wearing my oversized pajamas, will hardly seem glamorous. But why shouldn’t we be allowed to be unglamorous? Why can’t we find glamour in this, the most mundane of moments? It is the now. It is what is, and it is perfect.

Perhaps more importantly, though, I should at least recognize this moment for the privilege that it is. To sit here with a roof over my head, food in my belly, clothes on my back, and the freedom and security to pursue a creative career – I am blessed!

If I am ever ungrateful for the blessed life that I am living, then I don’t deserve to experience it at all. And so we find ourselves back at gratitude.

Gratitude grounds us in the now. It allows us to appreciate what is rather than longing for what could be.
Even if the now feels like it sucks (which it oftentimes will) it is here to be experienced – even cherished. Every moment – whether happy, sad, frustrated, angry, or scared – is part of our path.
Living in the NOW is the only way to free ourselves from the constricts of time. The only way to truly live.

If we can sit quietly for a few minutes each day to reflect on this fact, we’ll always be grateful, and we’ll always be free.

Love

It Just Takes One

What means the most to you in life?

What does it take for everything to be put on hold, without any questions asked.

What if every time we said, “I don’t have time,” we replaced it with the words, “ It’s not my priority.”

How do we prioritize and make time in our lives for what’s important and what isn’t?

No matter how busy or how important something might be to us, there will be certain times in our lives where we will be the closest to heaven we will ever be, until we actually make it there.

When we get to that point the only 3 things that will truly matter is Family, God, and our Health.

Love

We close our eyes when we pray because the most beautiful and powerful things in life are not always seen but can sometimes be felt……

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.Be Kind