Friday, May 25, 2012

Memorial Day

Memorial Day is approaching and we would like to remind you all that while it is nice to enjoy an extra day off from work and some of the traditional beginning of summer rituals like bar-be-ques and swimming and other festivities, Memorial Day is, in fact, a holiday with an important meaning.

Formerly called Decoration Day, Memorial Day is meant to be a day where we remember the fallen servicemen for our nation. In December of 2000, a resolution was passed asking that at 3 p.m. local time, all citizens pause and take a moment of silence in honor of those who died while serving our country. Memorial Day had become a day to honor all deceased loved ones, and there was a great concern that its true meaning would be lost.

And while there is never a wrong time to miss or love those who have passed away, we want to remind you that there are many families struggling with the loss of someone who died to protect our freedom. One of our most touching stories can be viewed here. We must remember that, through our suffering and loss, thousands of men and women have lost their lives in battle and continue to even today.

We wish you all a wonderful and peaceful three day weekend. May the weather be beautiful, and we sincerely hope you get to spend some much-needed time with friends and loved ones, or even have some nice quiet time alone, doing something you love. But don't forget to take the time to remember and honor those who have fallen in the line of duty or who have served our nation and are no longer here to hear our thanks. If you know a veteran or a serviceman, acknowledge them on this and any day when you think of all the sacrifices they make for you. Telling someone you appreciate them and care is always a gift to be treasured!

Will you be remembering someone special this Memorial Day? Feel free to share your story below.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

30 Ideas to Jump Start Your Spring and Summer of Giving!

Our 25 Days of Giving last December really put us into a wonderful state of mind to be able to help our friends and even some deserving strangers during the holiday season. But it shouldn't take holidays and snowfall to inspire us to care and help- so we want to do more now, and we want to invite you to join us!

Here are some spring- and summer- inspired ideas for helping out in your community:

-Pick up trash along the roadside where you live. It will clean up your road and the environment and make you feel accomplished!

-Make a new mom or dad friend at the playground. Simply approach a new person with a smile and a hello and see what happens! Being pleasant and cheerful will brighten your day even if you don't get far with others.

-Help your child open a lemonade stand or run their own yard sale. Donate the proceeds to a cause dear to your heart, or to a community staple.

-Swap a few hours of babysitting with a friend to give you both a break.

-Bring a cold drink to someone working outside... especially if they're not working for you!

-Write a personalized and meaningful thank you letter to your child's teachers at the end of the school year.

-Go through your closet and donate the winter items you will no longer need next season to a family who could use them, or to a shelter.

-Volunteer at a summer camp.

-This is a good time to put together an emergency kit for the trunk of your vehicle, or to refresh an old kit! Band-aids, fresh water, antiseptic, bug bite/sting ointment or spray, sunscreen, umbrellas, a change of clothes, etc. can not only help out your own family but also someone else in a pinch.

-Have your children try on their bike helmets, and if they don't fit anymore, donate them.

-Help a friend install a clothesline. It saves money and the environment!

-Prevent summer vacation boredom and arrange a toy and book swap among friends in your area. Have your children gather together their own toys or books that they are willing to part with, and meet up with groups of other moms and children to exchange for new items.

-Donate to a food pantry whenever possible. Even one canned or boxed item goes a long way toward feeding those who are hungry. This is a year-round need in every area of the country!

-Ask a friend how they are doing, especially if you know they have been dealing with extra stress or problems. Caring is always free!

-Call someone just to say "I love you."

-Donate a day off and participate in something meaningful. There are several fundraiser walks this time of the year, and shelters, pantries, or community service agencies always need a helping hand.

-Call the local school and volunteer for field day help or field trips. Many schools organize outdoor play or trips this time of the year and could use an extra hand. You may even get to do something new and exciting!

-Work together with the local library to arrange fun summer reading programs for kids.

-Help start or support a community gardening project.

-Volunteer to help set up or take down booths at the farmer's market. Local agriculture is important to the community and helping in any way you can shows the hard working farmers that you appreciate their efforts!

-Make cards for residents in local hospitals or nursing homes. There is no right or wrong time of the year to show someone that you care about them!

-Volunteer to read to children in the hospital.

-Pick wildflowers and deliver them to an elderly neighbor.

-Help an elderly neighbor or someone without a car with their errands for a day.

-With extreme heat on the horizon, keep an eye out on those who could most easily suffer from heat stroke. Casually check cars in parking lots as you pass by for animals, children, or even sleeping adults that could suffer distress if left too long. Do not be afraid to report any situation that appears emergent! It is always better to be safe than sorry.

-Donate outdoor toys that your children have outgrown to a local family that could use the help. If you are able, buy some inexpensive outdoor toys and donate them or leave them where they can be used by all. For example, if there is a community pool, bring some flotation devices and pool toys and leave them for everyone to share. Even leaving an extra bottle of sunscreen for those who forget it or can't afford it is helpful!

-Offer to walk a friend's dog for them.

-If you know a friend is going on vacation, offer to check in on their home and help with pets like cats, who need fresh food and water. Do it for free so your friend has one less expense during their time away!

-Wash your partner or roommate's car or clean it out- or both! Getting into a clean car can make someone's trip to work or school feel much more pleasant and less stressful, and small acts of kindness show that you care.

-Leave no trace. When using the awesome outdoor trails, parks, and playgrounds that are at your disposal, make sure you are responsible. Don't leave any human or animal waste, pick up your trash, and leave it as you found it, or better! Remember that these places are meant to be enjoyed by all.

These are not the only ways to show people that you care. If you have a favorite way to help others, or if you have an idea of what you'd like help with, share below! Are you feeling inspired? In what ways do you plan to help? Respond below and perhaps you will find that we are in a giving mood as well... ;)

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Treat Yourself to Happiness!

Sometimes we forget in life that while we are busy taking care of others, we need a little TLC ourselves. Oftentimes we expect that others will fill our needs for us but this is not always the case. Even constantly giving to others is not always rewarding when we start to sense that we are running out of energy for our own needs. We have to make sure to look out for ourselves in order to bring fulfillment and joy into our lives. It can be very simple to do what it takes to bring us happiness, but we need to discover what it will take and then make the time for it.

Here are some ideas of things that can bring joy into our lives and can easily be added into busy schedules or tight budgets!

- Spruce up your look: Trimming or coloring your hair, painting your nails, waxing your eyebrows, or applying a little bit of makeup can go a long way for the ladies. But men can refresh themselves, too! New clothes, being clean shaven, experimenting with new hair cuts, or buying a new body wash can make us feel like a new person without breaking the bank. Trying something new is exciting and can give a confidence boost! It doesn't always take a drastic change to make us feel different.

- Rearrange your home: Moving your furniture can make your old home look nice and new. Some inexpensive accessories like throw blankets or pillows can make the space seem interesting again, and you might find that your new look is inspiring you to clean out some of the clutter that might make you feel bogged down. While it might not seem like it, rearranging furniture or decor can brighten your day and make you feel accomplished.

- Take or make some down time: Take a longer shower, hold off on the chores that aren't imminent, set the alarm clock for earlier in the day and enjoy your mornings more, go to bed earlier and get extra rest at least once a week- do something for yourself with your time. A few minutes of something you enjoy can make a big difference in your day!

- Disconnect: Unplug the phone, shut off the cell, log out of Facebook, turn off the e-reader, power down the television. Live with yourself for a day! Reconnect with your kids or friends in person and without being distracted by your text messages or instant updates. Enjoy life like you may have a decade ago, before you felt pressured to be immediately available to everyone. Let yourself remember what it feels like to spend time with a face and not a screen!

- Eliminate the things that are bringing you down: We often tolerate things or people that we don't enjoy because it seems easier, when really they are taxing our precious resources of time and energy. If someone is hurting you, let them go. If they have hurt you in the past, forgive them and move forward. If you own something that is nothing but trouble, repair it or replace it instead of tolerating it. Or at least set a goal toward repairing or replacing it that will help make it better. Sometimes things like constant car repairs bring us down fast. Set up a budget that allows you to start saving for the next vehicle, even if it is only a small amount of money at a time. Having a plan to get out of a sticky situation makes it feel more manageable, even if we have to deal with small stressors in the meantime.

- Get moving: Go for a walk, go mow the lawn, or even get up and stretch. Take a nice stroll after dinner to enjoy the fresh air, or eat your lunch on the go at work. Get up and move every few minutes if you have a desk job or spend a lot of time sitting during the day. Start a new exercise routine that fits into your schedule. Working out or even getting up and moving around can be inspiring, and it is good for not only your physical health but your mental health.

- Start from the inside out: Eat right, drink plenty of water, and take a good vitamin. Taking care of your health makes you feel good about yourself and gives you the energy to complete everything you need to do in your busy day. Good health and happiness go hand in hand, and you owe it to yourself to be the best you can be!

What do you do to keep yourself happy and treat yourself right? Share your ideas or expand on the above suggestions. We want to hear from you!