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A different take on gift-giving...

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

One of the blogs I read today in the DailySpark was by Jen Mueller, and she discussed how she wants to live a simple, slower-paced life but isn't quite sure how to make it happen. At one point in her blog she wrote about how part of living a simple life is not having so much "stuff," and she mentioned that the holiday season stresses her out a little because people seem to focus so much on the materialistic part of the season, and this attitude goes against the values she is trying to teach her children.

I feel exactly the same way that Jen does. I wish that society would do away with buying gifts for people over the holidays and instead emphasize the importance of spending quality time with loved ones. Jen's blog reminded me of a wonderful article I received over the Internet a long time ago, and I want to share it here. I wish I knew the name of whoever wrote this touching piece, but no name was included with it when it was sent to me. If anyone happens to know who wrote it, please let me know.


I've always rather liked how hobbits celebrated birthdays in Tolkien's sagas; they throw their own birthday parties and give lots of things away. This concept got me thinking about presents in general, and how people often agonize unnecessarily about giving the right things: Will the recipient like it? Is it expensive enough or showy enough? Does it make me look like I care, or does it make it look like I didn't give it enough thought?

I want to remind you that you have a closet full of gifts, already wrapped and ready to go. They are never untimely, out of season, too big, or too small. They are specific gifts that only you can give. And they are gifts to you, as well as to those to whom they are given, because in giving you cannot help but touch your own life with grace. These are what are known as "spiritual gifts." Here are some examples:


Be it visually, vocally, or by example, your talent is helping others reach a new level of learning about themselves, the world around them, or the world within. What do you have to teach that is special? Can you give someone a new tool or trade, or spark an interest, by sharing your knowledge? Remember the example of Annie Sullivan and Helen Keller: Annie's dedication to teaching gave Helen the world after so many years in darkness. You, too, may have wonders to teach. Go find out!


You may have a knack for calling forth the best from others, helping them to be more aware of their own truths and paths, to bolster them up when they are discouraged or downhearted, to challenge them to see and set their life's goals. Try writing letters to those who need encouragement; having concrete words to hold onto in the dark times can be miraculous. Reach out to your elders, to the home-bound, to those challenged in some way (physically, mentally, or emotionally), and to young ones who need to know that they matter in the world. Help people go beyond where they think they can go. Encouragement builds wings!


It's the number one complaint of most people these days...not enough time. If you have a little extra--or can make some--offer it. Watch a pet so that someone can go away for the weekend. Babysit. Cook an extra casserole and give it to a working mom. Do someone's grocery shopping for them. Even giving someone an extra hour or two can feel like a million dollars when it gives them time to breathe, to relax, and to get their feet under them again.


This is the gift of those who emanate kindness and compassion, especially to people the world may deem least deserving of it. This is forgiveness flowing throughout life; the giving of comfort to those who grieve or are in crisis; being the peacemaker to help bridge two discordant sides. This gift can flower in many directions, from helping individuals to organizing programs of social needs. The world in which we find ourselves can seem so harsh and unforgiving; using this gift is vital to stem the tide and return gentleness and understanding back into our lives.


Do you find yourself willing to offer assistance or relief from distress wherever it's needed? Then this is your gift. All of us can remember being immersed in an impossible situation, ready to give up, but then one person stepped in quietly and unobtrusively, bringing order out of chaos. If this is your ability, then you're onto something precious. Use it to help organize volunteers, assistance projects, fund-raising efforts, and social outreach programs. On an individual level, weed a garden for someone whose arthritis no longer allows such work . . . clean out a garage and organize a tag sale for someone who is moving . . . paint someone's living room if they can't use a ladder . . . offer to carpool the local kids even if it's not "your turn." Be that person who pitches in to do whatever needs to be done--no matter how detailed or tedious.


You'll know this is your special gift when you are willing to take responsibility for managing an organization or program or for being in charge of people or things. It involves being able to put things together, tie up loose ends, and get things done. If you have special talents at financing, planning, organizing, problem solving, or delegating responsibilities, offer them to those programs and events that are important to you. Your ability may take a marginal situation and make it a success. A close relative of this gift is . . .


You may be someone who is known for setting a pattern for others, either by direction, instruction, guidance, encouragement or example. If so, your gift is that of inspiring others to reach for what matters. Organizing a group, a fund drive, an event, or a study group can all be examples of the gift of leadership. Your gift may bring into fruition something that many people have searched for, but have not been able to create themselves.


This is your gift if you resonate with ensuring the comfort of others, or if you have a knack for making people feel at ease or especially welcome. Sometimes those we think are aloof or unfriendly are hungry for a welcome but don't know how to ask. Open your door and your heart to these people. Invite someone out to lunch, for a walk in the park, or to a movie. Or bring together friends or like-minded discoverers in your area on a regular basis. Whether your hospitality takes the form of a welcoming home-space or the ability to include people wherever you go, it's a gift to be cherished beyond measure.

I hope you've noticed that these gifts don't require a special occasion nor does it even require a close relationship with the person to whom you're giving them. But when you're debating whether to buy someone their 5th sweater or 12th pair of earrings . . . when you are standing lost in the middle of a department store because nothing feels right . . . when you look at the calendar and realize someone's special day is fast approaching . . . go to your inner closet and check out those gifts. See if there isn't one that will be just right for your friend. You are guaranteed that no matter what you choose to give, your friend won't have "one just like it" and will cherish it because it's from your heart.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

SUECHRIS50 12/6/2011 1:21PM

    emoticonI so agree with you!My grandkids cant tell me a week later what I bought for them as a Christmas gift!Last year,I went to the Goodwill and bought second hand board games and they acted like they hit the motherlode!My teen granddaughter got costume jewelry and a fur vest she wanted from the mall for $10 at Goodwill..A leather coat for my oldest dd and grandson,a plaid hoodie a wallet and boots for my 21 yo dd and lots of earrings for my then 16 yo dd,my DH got some craftsman tools for $25 and a new pair of coveralls for$10..The money helps to train people skills and my family was all thrilled.Nobody gets crappy perfume or toys plus I make homemade stocking stuffers like popcorn balls,fudge,rice crispie treats...Can you believe that they asked me to do it again this year and im already started on my LIST?Hooray for your wonderful blog it truly makes a person think!!PS:Plus Im helping by giving back to the community!

Comment edited on: 12/6/2011 1:24:10 PM

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ANNAMARIE4624 12/6/2011 1:13PM

    Very nice thank you! Hope you and your family have a wonderful holiday season!

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ALICIA214 12/6/2011 1:03PM


A great piece and a wonderful way to bring Christ into Christmas where He belongs.

Thank you for sharing.

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PARKERB2 12/6/2011 12:45PM

    Thanks very much for sharing these ideas.

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A drop in the ocean...

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Sometimes we lose .2 of a pound, and we minimize this loss, thinking that it's not even worth acknowledging because it is such a small amount. When we have 50, 75, 100, 150, or more to lose, .2 of a pound feels like a drop in the ocean. But that loss does deserve acknowledgement, and we are doing ourselves a disservice by downplaying it.

There's a wonderful quote from Mother Teresa that speaks to the topic of feeling like your efforts are only a drop in the ocean: "We feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean, but the ocean would be less because of that missing drop." She was a wise woman. Every effort, no matter how small, is important because it contributes to making the whole.

I read a short story once which beautifully illustrates the idea that small efforts do matter. It is called "The Starfish Story," and it is based on a story by Loren Eisley. It goes like this:

One day a man was walking along the beach when he noticed a boy picking something up and gently throwing it into the ocean. Approaching the boy, he asked, "What are you doing?"

The youth replied, "Throwing starfish back into the ocean. The surf is up, and the tide is going out. If I don't throw them back, they'll die."

"Son," the man said, "don't you realize there are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of starfish? You can't make a difference!"

After listening politely, the boy bent down, picked up another starfish, and threw it back into the surf. Then, smiling at the man, he said, "I made a difference for that one."

Give yourself credit for any progress that you notice, no matter how small it might seem to you. Each mile, each foot, or each inch of progress means that you're moving forward, and that deserves not only acknowledgement but celebration.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

LIVINGFREE19 12/5/2011 7:35PM

    I agree, we don't give ourselves credit, where credit is due.
Sometimes our inner voice just wants to downplay everything we do, but we must just tell him/her otherwise and hold our head up proud and get on with our day.
emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon

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SANDYDOLLAR201 12/5/2011 6:12PM

    Beautiful story and an awesome blog!
Thank you so much for sharing it, and you are absolutely right, we can make a difference!
You are doing awesome and great things are ahead for you!

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PATTIE441 12/5/2011 3:23PM

    Awesome blog! Thank you so much!! emoticon emoticon emoticon

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KIMPY225 12/5/2011 9:23AM

    I agree! I try to keep moving forward and celebrate all that I have done so far! emoticon

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CHANGING-TURTLE 12/4/2011 10:58PM

    YOU ARE SO RIGHT, THANK YOU FOR BEING YOU! emoticon emoticon

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Heartwarming story...

Saturday, December 03, 2011

I read a story today in "Chicken Soup For the Ocean Lover's Soul" that really touched me, and I wanted to share it. In the story, a female diver was describing her encounter with a blind man on one of her dives. Although the man was totally blind since birth, he had become scuba-certified (he did his test in a quarry near his home in Michigan), and he decided that he wanted to do his first ocean dive in the Florida Keys.

The author of the story recounted how the man lugged his own dive gear with one arm while tapping away with his white cane with the other arm as he walked across the dock to the boat. Once he was on the boat, he put on his own gear and dropped backward into the water just like everyone else. The author was amazed at how well he handled himself. But her biggest surprise was what happened under the water. Although the man couldn't see, he reached out with this hands and touched everything he could. He opened his fingers, and fish swam between them as if they sensed that using his fingers was the only way he could "see" them. A large grouper came nearby, and he reached out to stroke its side.

When all the divers were back on board the boat, they talked about what they had seen in the water. The blind man said, "Did you see the angelfish? It was so graceful and delicate. And the coral were so beautiful. And how about that grouper? It was really something." The author of the story thought, "Wow...that man noticed more than I did, and he's BLIND!!" She expressed this thought to the man. He laughed and said, "We see with our hearts, not our eyes."

I just thought that was such a wonderful concept: seeing with our hearts, not our eyes. When we get to the point where we see ourselves as the beautiful people we are--through our hearts, not our eyes--we will love ourselves enough to want to live healthfully in mind, body, and spirit.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

LIVINGFREE19 12/5/2011 7:37PM

    I love these heartwarming stories!
They give you little warm fuzzies!

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PSKIPPY7811 12/4/2011 5:45AM

    Great illustration of the difference between looking and seeing!

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TENACITY918 12/3/2011 9:51PM

    Wow!!! What an amazing story and it is so true - we should really see with our hearts!!! Thanks for taking the time to share it!

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A Race of One...

Friday, December 02, 2011

I went to my favorite park yesterday to run/walk, and I was feeling really good about myself because I did 2.5 miles, and 2 of those miles were spent jogging with only a half a mile spent walking. The most I had ever jogged before during my workout was 1.25 miles. At one point during my workout, I was trucking along, feeling proud of the distance I was jogging, and I heard someone coming up behind me. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a woman power-walking, and she was moving amazingly fast. Before I knew it, she had passed me and was soon around the bend and out of sight.

I couldn't believe it!! Here I was jogging, and this woman passed me WALKING!!! I told myself, "Your jogging efforts are pretty pathetic since a walker is able to go faster than you!" But suddenly I realized what I was doing. I was attempting to undermine my fitness goals with my negative thoughts. I was taking credit away from myself based on a comparison to someone else, and that is wrong. I immediately replaced those negative thoughts with positive ones. That was a HUGE departure from what I would have done in the more-distant past; it seems that I really have changed! I am taking charge of my thought processes!!!!

The positive thoughts I put in place of the negative ones involved the concept that I am not competing against anyone else in my journey to better health. I remembered that slogan "An Army of One" that the U.S. Army used a number of used ago, and I thought, "I'm a Race of One! I am the only one in my personal race, so whenever I happen to finish it, I will have come in First Place!" Once I reach my goal of jogging all the way through a 5K, I'm going to give myself a blue ribbon for coming in First Place in the Kim McCright Classic! emoticon emoticon

And when I reach my goal of being a size 8, I will give myself a gold trophy for First Place in Kim McCright's Weight Loss Efforts! emoticon emoticon

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

KIMPY225 12/3/2011 8:01PM

    Good job on the jogging! That is great you kept your head high! emoticon

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PSKIPPY7811 12/3/2011 7:10AM

    You get a gold trophy from me too!


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PATTIE441 12/2/2011 3:44PM

    You are awesome! You have wonderful ideas! Way to go!! Woo Hoo!! You are so inspirational!!! emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon

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Trouble getting your water in?

Thursday, December 01, 2011

I used to have terrible trouble getting in my water for the day, but I have recently developed a habit that seems to be working for me, and I thought I would share it. I bought one of those new Brita filter water bottles, and I love it!!!! I admit that it was a bit expensive for a water bottle (I paid $9.99 for mine, but I have heard that Wegmans grocery store chain sells them for $6.99), but it is totally worth it!!! It's just like the commercial says; I can put any tap water in this bottle, and when I drink it, it tastes like good spring water.

Now that I have my Brita water bottle, I carry it with me everywhere I go, and I sip on it almost constantly. Before I know it, I have my 64 ounces of water in! And when I'm sitting in front of the computer doing my SparkPeople stuff for the day (reading articles, doing the daily quiz, answering trivia questions, posting to message boards, reading my SparkEmails, etc.), I sip on my water bottle the entire time. I can hold the bottle with my left hand and point/click with my right hand. It is ABSOLUTELY AMAZING how quickly I can go through that 20-ounce Brita water bottle when I am drinking as I'm doing stuff on the computer. Even if you don't want to buy a Brita bottle, you can drink from any water bottle while you're working on the computer.

So give this method a try. Maybe it'll work for you, too! emoticon emoticon

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

2FEATHER 12/4/2011 12:13PM

    You have the best ideas.....I would get to six glasses a day and I'm still 2 short. So I will try your tip and see if it works for me. emoticon

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PATTIE441 12/2/2011 11:25AM

    That is an awesome idea! Thank you so much!! That really sparked me!! Woo Hoo! emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon

Comment edited on: 12/2/2011 11:26:26 AM

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SANDYDOLLAR201 12/2/2011 6:38AM

    Yes, this is a great idea. You should post this tip for others to see in the Secrets of Success, it may be seen by others there that are struggling with their water intake.

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CKMATHERLY 12/1/2011 11:10AM

    I got one of those double walled cups with the lid and straw. It's 16 oz and I just suck them down. I only use them for water.
Hace you ever noticed how quickly you drink things thourgh a straw?

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