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November 2020

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This past week my college friend, Carrie, posted about a tradition she started for her family, the Countdown to Christmas.

I love the idea, and even though she starts it for her boys on December 1, you could begin at any time of the month.  

And if you are like me and don't have children in the house, you can still implement some of these ideas in your household or put together a care package for a neighbor, family member, or friend.

Here's what my friend Carrie had to say, "Many are wondering how to make the most of the 2020 holidays. Many plans have changed. Home more often than not. How to help the kids (and parents) still have fun and celebrate?

Well, we have spent many holiday months at home. But I still LOVE holiday hoopla. Shortly after having Brayden, we started a Countdown to Christmas. It may have been born out of parent guilt of not leaving the house much... but it is still something we do every year; it has become a tradition.

Each morning, starting December 1, I set out a "gift" for Countdown to Christmas. Most items are things we already have and just bringing out to celebrate/decorate for Christmas. It takes a little planning, but over the years, I have a tub of the items ready to pull out of storage and learn to add items to my grocery cart starting now.

Some of the things we have done over the years for Countdown to Christmas:

Countdown Clock

Advent calendar - you know those candy ones

Nativity set they can play with

Christmas Books can do different books to debut different days

Grinch Stole Christmas book and listen to audiobook along with it (it is the guy’s voice from the original movie). Then the following night, watch the original Grinch movie.

Peanuts Nativity set and watch the Peanuts Christmas movie

Cozy Christmas blankets for each boy

Christmas sheets and pillows for their beds

A little tree for their room or playroom

Kits to make their ornaments - I typically got the clear plastic balls and then stuff from the dollar store they can stuff in them like glitter, pompoms, etc.

Get out the Christmas mugs with some festive hot chocolate

Candy canes with a book about the story of the candy cane

Christmas lights for their room or playroom

Christmas movie and popcorn

Acts of service – delivery toys to hospital, etc.

A clue or something relating to whatever we were doing that day: getting a Christmas tree, seeing lights, going to ICE, zoo lights, a party, etc.

Small Christmas wreath for them to decorate (with things from the dollar store) and hang in a room

Cookie tools and ingredients to help make Christmas cookies

Special seasonal drink or soda, or eggnog

Christmas underwear and socks

Christmas candy

Christmas ice-cream - eggnog or peppermint stick

Christmas themed snacks

Christmas themed games

Christmas pajamas

Christmas Coloring books or Mad-libs

Cards to help write/draw notes to send to people for Christmas

Wrapping paper - they help wrap presents for their brothers

One night of shopping - I would take the boys out Christmas shopping so they could pick things out for the brothers, then get Chick-fil-a peppermint milkshake

Foam balls to have an indoor snowball fight

Having teenage boys, the Countdown Christmas mostly involves food and making food, Christmas flannel sheets, decorating their rooms, ways to give back, etc."

Your holiday season may look different this year, but you can still make the holiday season festive and fun!

Blessings,

Stephanie

Inspirational Speaker and Award-Winning Author of “The Giving Challenge: 40 Days to a More Generous Life” and "The Gratitude Challenge: 41 Days to a Happier, Healthier, & More Content Life"

It's that time of year where you may be agonizing over what gifts to get your friends, family and coworkers. Over the years, my giving has evolved. I used to think the more expensive the gift, the better. I also, got a rush from bouncing from big box story to big box store. Don't get me wrong, I still love me some Home Goods, but along my giving journey, I've discovered small businesses, with fabulous products, reasonably priced, needed my support more. 

There is a secret to giving a perfect gift, listening and paying attention to those around you. What do they love? Enjoy? What makes them happy and their face light up? That's how you discover what gift to purchase for those closest to you.

Finally, I'm a fan of giving useful gifts. Gifts that don't collect dust or create clutter. 

2020, with the year of the pandemic, has been a year of giving gifts from small business owners, and I wanted to pass along my favorite gifts to give, to make your Christmas shopping stress free this year. 

Pops Kernel: For the second year in a row, I just can't not put Pops Kernel on my list. I'm in LOVE with their popcorn! And their owner, who has become a dear friend, does so much to give back to her community. A true giver. I gotta admit, this isn't only a gift I buy for others, but I'll be buying a couple of bags for myself.  

Tricia Robinson Art: This year my home needed a little pop of color and when I stumbled upon Tricia's art, I couldn't resist buying a copy of prints. But as I perused her site, I found pictures of little country churches, with church hymns, that took me back to memories of the church I grew up. I had to buy prints for family, who I knew would appreciate the art as much as I would. I also love her journals. Again, vibrant, and will add a pop of color to any gift you want to give this year. 

All About Vibe: Recently I left the comforts of my home to take a solo vacation to South Carolina. I wanted to surprise my hubby with a funny gift while I was gone. I sent in a picture of our beloved dog, God rest his soul, Boss, and had a life like pillow made of him. Oh my gosh! It is so perfect. I think I love it more than my husband did. The pillow is so soft and snuggly. I couldn't believe how perfect the picture I sent came out on the pillow. Plus, I love that All the Vibe is a "made in the USA" company. The pillow is a perfect gift for the animal lover in your life. 

Mountain Khakis: If you have been following me for any amount of time, you know I love hiking and trouncing around back in my woods. My dear friend Jessica started a new job at Mountain Khakis and when I looked into their clothes, they were a perfect fit for my outdoor adventures. And friends, their flannel lined pants are like wearing a cloud. They are so cozy! They make the perfect gift for the adventurous person in your life. 

Fallen Timbers Woodshop: If anything good has come out of the pandemic, it's that my hubby finally started his own woodworking business!  His attention to detail, perfectist tendencies, and customize creations are the perfect gift for the person that is hard to buy for.  I'm a little bias, but I think he's the best in the business!

Pampered Chef: Back when I launch my first book, a fellow giver connected with me on social media. We became friends and even had the chance to meet in person. She recently started with Pampered Chef and I'm so impressed with the ideas she is already sending about how I can use the products I have. And let me just say, I have a ton of PC products! A day doesn't go by where I'm not using their products. My new favorite their freezer bowl sets. I love making soups but hate to have the leftovers go to waste. These one cup bowls have saved me money and help me provide future meals. Pampered Chef products are perfect for the cook in your life. If you don't have a PC consultant, Angela Stanley, mine, is best in the biz!

Bonus Gifts! Giving Gal Products. Did you know if you purchase The Giving Challenge and Gratitude Challenge as a bundle you get $5 off! The bundle makes a perfect gift for the book lover in your life.  

And remember your gift is doubled. Not only are you supporting me, an author, but through my books, we purchase meals for children in need through  Rice Bowls, and we support a local veteran's program. https://www.ricebowls.org/

Blessings,

Stephanie

Inspirational Speaker and Award-Winning Author of "The Giving Challenge: 40 Days to a More Generous Life" and “The Gratitude Challenge: 41 Days to a Happier, Healthier, & More Content Life”

P.S. I'm not paid or don't receive any compensation for recommending these products. Until this article posted, the owners didn't even know they've been selected for my list.

We are all on a journey that I think in a million years we would not have chosen or expected. Was a pandemic on your radar or penciled in on your calendar? I know it wasn't on mine. I feel like I'm living in a bad movie that I can't pause. What about you? But one thing I know is we are on this journey together.  

If you are living with COVID-19, I'm so sorry for your diagnosis. I am not going to pretend for one second, I understand what you are going through or experiencing at this moment, or in the future.

If you have a loved one sick, or tragically lost a loved one, please know those affected by COVID are at the top of my prayer journal. 

As I travel the country speaking, engaging with people on social media, and hear from listeners, there is a consistent pattern I've observed. Those who choose to focus on gratitude seem to have a different attitude and perspective on where they are in life. 

What I'm sharing is a conglomerate of these lessons I've taken in over the years. Some are mine, and some are from friends and strangers. I challenge you, as you learn to navigate this pandemic and challenging holiday season, you use gratitude as a tool, to help you along the way. 

1. Write down what you are thankful for. Keep a pen and journal handy for jotting down three to five things, each day, you are grateful for. When you are having a bad day, pick up your journal, to help you focus on the good. 

2. Focus on the now. Stop yourself from saying, I'll be grateful when (fill in the blank). Look at your surroundings, be in the moment, and find the good right where you are. What I've discovered is, when we get to the future, we'll have something else we'll be chasing. Stay in the now. 

3. Slow down. Take time to pause throughout your day, have a stop and smell the roses moment, and be grateful for what you notice when you slow down. If this season has slowed you down, jot down, what you've noticed that maybe you didn't realize before. Be grateful for the new discoveries.

4. Lessons learned. Take note of lessons the pandemic and upcoming holiday season is teaching you about yourself. Write it down in your journal and be grateful to God for revealing to you your strengths, or weaknesses, you never knew you had. 

5. Curb complaining. Complaining sucks the energy out of us and the people that surround us. We need all the positive energy in our life we can get. Learn to flip complaints to words of gratitude.

6. Let out your emotions. It's perfectly normal to be sad and angry. Write about the emotions you feel, and ask yourself, in the depth of these emotions, what is there to be grateful for?

7. Thank people. Along this journey we cross paths with many people. Don't forget to say thank you. Tell each person that is helping you along the way how grateful you are for them. Bonus points if you write them a thank you note. Be specific in noting the ways they helped you. 

This list isn't all inclusive, and you don't have to do all of them, each day, every day. But as you go through your day, take time to pause, and constantly ask yourself, what can I be grateful for in this moment. The more you practice gratitude, the more it will become a habit, and the longer it's a habit, you'll potentially experience a life-changing mindset shift.

May God pour out unexpected blessings during the thanksgiving week and provide healing to those in need.

Blessings,

Stephanie

Inspirational Speaker and Award-Winning Author of “The Giving Challenge: 40 Days to a More Generous Life” and "The Gratitude Challenge: 41 Days to a Happier, Healthier, & More Content Life"

Hello from the Bolt Farm Treehouse in South Carolina. I've been here over a week and I have lots of lessons to share, but those stories are for another day, as I'm still living and processing the experience.

Yesterday on Facebook, my husband posed the question, "What's your dream job?". Immediately friends engaged in conversation. 

Some joked with their responses, such as, lottery winner. Many were serious, with over a hundred people commenting on their "dream job."

As I scrolled through the list, I realized that only a few mentioned they were doing what they wanted to do. 

Why is that?

It's a question I'd love to know the answer to. Some of their dream jobs seemed very realistic. They were not impossible. Others, okay, may have been a stretch, but you never know until you take the steps to turn a dream into an actional goal.

For me, it's to be a full-time author. I'm working on that dream. Everyday, I take actions that put me one step closer to accomplishing that goal. With that said, that dream has evolved over time, and it's taken me years to get to where I am today, and maybe years to get there. But the way I look at, the days will continue to go by. I should be doing something I love. Something I feel God has called me to do.  

So, what's your dream job? Are you doing it? If so, AMAZING!!! If not, why not? Is there one step that you could take that could get you closer to that job? If so, what are you waiting for?

Blessings,

Stephanie

Inspirational Speaker and Award-Winning Author of "The Giving Challenge: 40 Days to a More Generous Life" and “The Gratitude Challenge: 41 Days to a Happier, Healthier, & More Content Life”

I'm grateful for the opportunity to vote early, as I'm heading out on an adventure on the 3rd.
With an hour to wait, I took the opportunity to get to know the lady in front of me.
I gotta be honest, she struck up a conversation with me. I welcomed the distraction, as I was not dressed to stand outside in the cold.
We didn't talk politics, even though we were there to vote.
I have no idea if she was a Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, or writing in a vote for Kanye West.
We found common ground in chatting why were voting early.
That discussion led to me sharing about my life as an author and a speaker.
We moved onto chatting about travel, where we discovered we both want to visit Italy.
We ended on the topic of running. In her late 60s she's still an avid runner. And even though she doesn't feel safe to hit the roads at 4:30am, she still hops on her treadmill.
In the hour we stood out in the cold, my shivers subsided, and my heart warmed with a new friendship, even just for the hour.
If we shut off the news and stop scrolling through social media, we'll discover we have way more in common than we think.
Who will you meet at the polls?

Blessings,

Stephanie

Inspirational Speaker and Award-Winning Author of “The Giving Challenge: 40 Days to a More Generous Life” and "The Gratitude Challenge: 41 Days to a Happier, Healthier, & More Content Life"