As I lay in bed this morning, I hear the ting of my coffee cup being set down on the coffee table. My husband has set it there for me at my usual spot. That’s my cue to get up.
It’s more than just a cup of coffee. It’s a ritual my husband and I have kept for over 30 years. The cup of coffee symbolizes kindness and the special things we do for one another on a day-to-day basis. It’s a representation of the time we spend together.
Mornings became our time very early in our marriage. We found that each morning was precious, still, and quiet before the children got up and the day began. It was time spent peacefully together. Sometimes we planned the day’s events or shared stories we didn’t tell in front of our kids. Sometimes we watched the news and discussed world issues.
We each have a role to play in this ritual. Making the coffee at night is my contribution. I make it at night, and he pours it in the morning. We try to never miss this time together. There are some days when one of us doesn’t have to work, but we still get up with each other to have that time together. Sometimes in the spring and summer we are able to have our coffee outside where we will often talk about future plans of remodeling or vacationing. We have never wanted to have coffee time without each other. In fact, if he’s out of town, I might send him a picture of his spot telling him that I miss him and wish I was having coffee with him. If I’m out of town, he usually doesn’t make coffee, not wanting to drink it alone.
Why is this important? It is more than a cup of coffee shared each day - it is how we greet the day with positivity and begin by treating each other with kindness and love. We, like many couples, have rituals that show each other kindness. We work to recognize, respect, and appreciate time together. Treasuring the moments that make us a couple and keep us a couple takes effort, and we know that.
Have there been times when we disagreed? Have there been times when we weren’t thrilled with a decision or reaction? Yes, of course. But we hold this ritual as the foundation of our relationship. We know that we have to keep the foundation strong because there are going to be storms in our lives. Together we have to be solid to withstand them. We have coffee despite negative feelings and strive to work through any issues in that alone time. It usually works because we try to listen to one another and compromise. Sometimes it takes two coffee mornings to resolve big issues, but we continue to work on them.
What I have learned: Small rituals, like having coffee together, can build a foundation for a long, enjoyable, and healthy relationship.
When we look at our knowledge and experiences and compare them to others’, there's a pretty broad spectrum. Even comparing your present state with the you from a year ago can be quite different. I often think back to when I started CLI and compare that time to the present. To say the very least, I'm in a completely different place on my Spectrum of Experience. Two years ago, I was at the very beginning. Now, I'm somewhere in the middle. I’ve developed a lot of skills and created a good deal of content, but I'm still learning and growing. At this point, I find myself encountering other people who are asking me to coach them.
I recently met with a person in a completely different career from my own. She is planning on retiring and looking to start a consulting business by the upcoming spring. I asked her what steps she had taken to get prepared for this new venture. The individual responded with, “I don't really know.”
I asked if the company had a name, a website, a target audience, or a mission statement. Again, she responded with, “I have no idea. I just know that I want to consult in my field.”
As you can see, this person is closer to where I was two years ago than where I am now. The individual has no experience starting a business and doesn't really know where to begin. However, she does know what she wants to accomplish.
With the final outcome in mind, we set up mentorship meetings. Our fields are in no way related…in fact, they’re nowhere near each other on the professional spectrum. We are certainly not competitors, but even if we were, there are so many basic pieces of starting a business that owners can share with one another without doing any damage to their own business. And, once she’s up and running, we’ll both run female-owned businesses.
As I began my coaching experience, I started compiling a list of key components (some very basic and some very large) I wanted to share with her. I'm happy to share them with you as well.
I'm sure there are pieces I haven’t thought of. I’m sure I will add to this list as I continue to coach and network with others. No matter where you are on your Spectrum of Experience, you have the ability to share your knowledge and absorb advice from others too.
When I began CLI, did I think I would end up coaching others? NO! I didn’t expect this new experience, but I am happy to share my knowledge with those who may benefit. One piece of advice I always share with my clients: Take what resonates with you and leave the rest behind.
What I have learned: Your position on the Spectrum of Experience will be different than other people’s. Share your experiences, coach peers along, and be ready to learn from them as well.
*If you are interested in scheduling a mentoring/coaching session or learning more about other educational experiences, visit the new Professional Development Division of CLI!
The other day I was trying to figure out when I began journaling. I really cannot remember. I know my therapist and I discussed it about 15 years ago. She explained it as a great way to express what was weighing me down, so I gave it a try. It has really helped me over the years.
But I want to make something clear - I’m not the most consistent journaler, nor the most disciplined. I seem to gravitate toward my journal sporadically, and that works for me. It took me a while to give myself the permission and grace to journal when I feel like it, rather than on a rigid schedule. However, daily journaling may be right for you, so I would encourage you to explore the frequency with which you journal.
During therapy, I learned that journaling is not an English assignment. You shouldn’t worry about punctuation, grammar, spelling, etc. Just write. Nothing fancy, just write. The goal is to get the thoughts and worries out of your head and onto paper. I’ve found it helps release what I’m feeling. It does not need to make sense to anyone else. It’s like giving your worry to someone else when you put the words to paper. I try to keep my journaling to 5-10 minutes per day. It should be a cathartic experience, not a daunting task.
Just like how often you journal, the format of your journal is completely up to you. For instance, I have multiple journals that can be found in different spots around my house. I have one that sits on my nightstand and has been there since 2011. After learning about practicing gratitude in January of 2011, I remember making a special trip to the store to pick out a journal with the perfect cover. With its silver, metallic background and pink and blue paisley print, it’s just my style. At the time I was very excited about trying a new self-care practice, so I began filling up its lined pages with lists of things for which I was grateful.
I obviously haven’t written in it everyday or its spiral binding would be bursting. It now holds journal entries, gratitude lists, and other thoughts. It’s fun to go back and reread what my life was like throughout the years. Sometimes the things I wrote about seemed so worrisome at the time, but now I realize they weren’t that big of a deal. It’s also great to reflect on the ages and stages of my kids during that time. I especially like rereading my gratitude lists because they make me feel warm and even more grateful. Many of the things on my 10-year-old gratitude lists are the same things I’m grateful for now.
I also keep a journal on my office desk, which I use when I need to express myself or have thoughts I need to write down while I’m working. I have my copy of Kickstarting Wellness in my yoga room, which I use to record self-care practices and other related experiences. I especially love the guided prompts in this journal because they keep me focused on my physical and mental health, my weekly activity level, and my progress toward wellness goals.
Whether you’re a journaling veteran or a novice, you and your kiddos can get involved in this beneficial practice. I suggest teaching your kids how to journal by modeling this behavior. Take them to the store and let them pick out their own journal, or order a copy of Staying Well: A Self-Care Journal for Teens if your children are a bit older. Make sure to set aside consistent journaling time each day or week so they can learn the importance of emotional expression as a tool to promote mental wellness.
Here are a few journaling tips:
What I have learned: There are very few rules to journaling, so make it a practice that works for you.
I am a huge goal setter! I believe we should set goals and embrace a growth mindset, but I know some people have a tough time goal-setting. Sometimes we spend so much time chasing our dreams that we end up feeling as if we’ve never “made it.” Not meeting a goal can feel as if you are a failure or just not as put together as that super motivated, super successful influencer you follow on social media. Or, maybe you meet your goal but not in the timeframe you envisioned, so obviously that can’t mean success, right?
In the very beginning of CLI, I started dreaming about what I wanted the business to become. My team and I started small even though I had big plans and so many ideas. My vision for the company is still much larger than what we have accomplished so far. I’m still learning and growing as a business owner.
Through this process, I am giving myself grace and reminding myself I need to be in this place before I can move on to the next step. That’s my first goal-setting tip: Giving yourself the grace you deserve. Be patient with yourself. Be kind when setbacks occur. Be your own #1 fan.
I am also trusting in the natural timing of God and the Universe. I believe that all of my prior experiences and education have given me the skills to run this company and achieve my ultimate vision. Which leads me to goal-setting tip number two: Tap into your values, morals, and experiences when the going gets tough. These characteristics led you to set the goal in the first place, so tap into them for strength when you run into roadblocks to success.
As I write this blog, I have yet to complete my goal. However, when I reflect on our first CLI meeting, I can see how far we have come. Beginning with Easy Entertaining, I see now that we had no idea what we were doing, but we learned along the way. Of course, we had a few setbacks, but we eventually celebrated the completion of our first book!
I will also often reflect on how much I have learned about social media. Through research, networking, peer feedback, and working with my team, my social media skills and understanding have kept growing and expanding.
As I began to explore these new skills, I had a friend tell me I should create videos. I was initially petrified and thought there was no way I could do that. But I pushed myself and started making videos with the help of a video editor. Over time, I became more comfortable and began making them on my own. Then, another friend told me she liked my videos but that I was not showing others my true self. I took her feedback and started being ME in front of the camera. I grew and grew and grew.
Further reflection showed growth in my marketing and sales skills with the help of my team and our inspiring meetings. I reached out to a peer to help develop our Professional Development Division and used her input to create our courses. I have learned how to network via social media from my younger generation teammates. All of these experiences gave me courage to continue to push myself.
You see where I’m going with my third goal-setting tip, right? Reflect, reflect, reflect. Reflecting on your journey helps gain perspective on what you have learned and accomplished.
Currently, we are working on our 7th book. We have written numerous blogs and created CLI’s Professional Development Division. We are active on all forms of social media, and we have plans for so much more in the future.
So…have I achieved my goals? No, I have not…YET! But the path toward my vision and the journey to grow CLI has been so amazing. I couldn’t have done it without the support, encouragement, and nudging of so many people.
Now, when I look in the rearview mirror, I am pleased with the road behind me. I encourage you to look in your own rearview mirror and reflect on how far you have come. I bet you will see quite a few small strides towards your goals that you hadn’t noticed before. Take a moment to appreciate the view.
What I have learned: Looking in the rearview mirror can be a good thing.
It’s that time of year when we make resolutions and set goals, which most of my content has revolved around lately. I recently listened to a social media influencer who shared this message with her followers: “You don’t have to change. You are perfect just the way you are. You don’t have to set any goals for the new year and yourself.”
While I completely agree that we are unique and wonderful just the way we are, I disagree with her opposition to goal-setting. Setting goals and striving for self-improvement is not a bad thing. It shows ambition and drive.
Setting goals doesn’t have to be a daunting task. We can make goals as minor or as lofty as we choose. We don’t have to set goals that lead us toward becoming someone we are not. Rather, we can set goals to continue being our magnificent selves. A goal doesn’t require a change. For example, continuing to live your life the way you are living now is a goal. You can set a goal to accomplish a major achievement or create a small improvement in one area of your life.
Here are some examples of categories your goals may fall into:
The options are endless. Goals can target habits we want to cut out of our lives or help us establish new, healthier habits. Research suggests that writing down your goals and outlining a path to achieve them will increase the likelihood of success. To help with tracking and setting your goals, get your copy of Kickstarting Wellness: A 26-Week Guided Self-Care Journal now! It’s a great tool to promote personal wellness and overall well-being.
We can even model goal-setting for our children and help them achieve their life plans. Check out CLI’s newest journal designed for adolescents, Staying Well: A Self-Care Journal for Teens.
Something important to remember is that it’s okay if you don’t meet your goal in the timeframe you originally set. Reevaluate your priorities, and keep trying to be the best version of yourself! That’s really what goals are about.
What I have learned: Goals should be personalized to what YOU want, not what other people want for you. Writing down goals will help you achieve them.
It is the HOLIDAYS! I believe that this time of year brings out joy and cheer in many people, thus making the holiday season brighter than average. During this time, people get together more often. They may go out of their way to see family and friends they haven’t seen all year. They may take part in acts of service benefiting charities or give to organizations that support families in need. They may spend hours searching for the perfect gift for a loved one.
During this time especially, we tend to show our gratitude by giving people gifts we have so carefully selected for them. Finding and giving our loved ones the perfect gift is an indescribable experience. So, what’s stopping us from sharing that joy with our community?
While I was watching the news, they were talking about all of these charitable organizations that were accepting contributions during the holiday season. There were toy drives, food drives, Salvation Army kettles, soup kitchen shifts, and more. They were encouraging people to sign up for any and all of these opportunities now.
I thought to myself, “Why don't we have campaigns like this throughout the year? Honestly, people are hungry every single day. Kids need things more often than just on holidays. People who are in need have birthdays throughout the year just like you and I do.” It really got me thinking. What prevents us from giving, gathering, and expressing gratitude the other 11 months of the year? Why do we need the holiday season to bring tidings of good cheer?
Over the last two years, CLI has organized food collections to benefit a local food pantry during the summertime (when kids are out of school, do not have access to free/reduced meal options, and are particularly vulnerable to hunger). That is definitely a tradition we plan on continuing, but I know we can do more.
Readers, here’s where I need your help - I would love for you to send me an email sharing anything you are doing to support your community throughout the rest of the year. Together we can serve our community, and keep the holiday spirit alive all year long.
What I have learned: WE can keep the holiday cheer going throughout the year. All we have to do is plan for it.
Are you ready? Ready for what? The holidays are coming! Are your holidays filled with hustle and bustle, or are they cozy and warm? Maybe a little bit of both?
I have always said I wished that the holidays were longer than a month because there are so many fun things to do. Each year, I try to do it all, and I don’t really know if I ever have enough time to fully enjoy the season. I mean how are we supposed to pack in parties, cookie baking, decorating, shopping, gift wrapping and oh so many other things into one month? It’s nearly impossible. I don’t know if I truly LOVE all those things or if I love the extra time spent with family and friends.
One of the ways I’ve changed my perspective to help me manage the hustle and bustle of the holidays is to minimize. I’ve minimized the amount of holiday decor around the house. I put up a few trees, and that’s about it. Frankly, I just don’t like putting all the other decorations away when January rolls in.
The Christmas trees were keepers though because those really are my favorite holiday decoration. At first, it was hard to make the decision to cut down on holiday decor. I felt like I would be letting my family down, and I was worried that Christmas wouldn’t feel the same. However, the joy and love is still there, regardless of the number of string lights or crystal snowflakes.
I have also cut back on the number of gifts I buy. Some gifts are larger than they used to be, but there are definitely fewer packages under the tree than when my daughters were children. I’ve also moved away from wrapping gifts and shifted to using gift bags. These minimizations may seem small, but they have resulted in letting go of so many holiday traditions that were weighing me down.
By cutting back in some areas, I have been able to make room for the things I truly enjoy. I have kept the traditions that bring me joy: baking cookies, going Christmas shopping, watching Hallmark movies, looking at Christmas lights, eating pizza on Christmas Eve, getting dressed up, going to church, and, of course, spending time with my family. These traditions have always been, and always will be, what is truly important to me. Cutting back on the holiday frills has allowed me to fully appreciate the season’s gifts.
When you fill your holidays with the people you love most, I promise the season will feel merry and bright!
What I have learned: Friends and family make the holidays joyful.
Today I awoke to fall leaves and cool, crisp morning air, and it made me think back to a time about 10 years ago. The apple tree in our backyard yielded bushels and bushels of apples that fall, and my mom and I had a ball creating all the apple concoctions we could think of. We made apple pies, apple crisp, and applesauce. We worked all day cutting, prepping, freezing, and cooking apples. There were so many delicious apples I did not want to waste them. We sliced them, coated them in sugar and cinnamon, and put them in freezer bags. I bet I had 20 gallons of apples prepped and ready to go for the season. My kitchen was transformed into a real apple pie filling factory. I was raised as a task master, so being able to see the fruits of my labor is fulfilling. Yes, pun intended!
You see--I come from a blue collar family. On my father’s side, my Grandpa Barrale was a painter, and my Grandma Barrale worked for GE in a factory that made lightbulbs. On my mother’s side, my Grandpa Ream worked for a car company. He helped design the cars that you ride up in at the Gateway Arch. He was a self-made template maker with a 12th grade education. My Grandma Ream quit school in 9th grade to help her mother pay the bills by sweeping off people's front porches. Later in life, she worked in a factory making thermostats for White Rodgers. Collectively, they were some of the hardest working people I ever knew. They had quotas to meet, worked hard, and spent the day standing on their feet. At the end of each day, they felt gratified by the completion of their tasks. They knew the value of hard work and took pride in what they did. Both of my grandparents worked all week and then spent the weekends cooking and entertaining the family. Family was their priority. My grandparents lived a street away from one another, so we had lunch at one home and then dinner at the other on Sundays.
The Ream family would cook fried chicken, mashed potatoes, pot roast, biscuits, and other southern, home cooked meals. The Barrale family always had spaghetti; it is considered a side dish for us Italians. My grandmother and aunts would make spedinis, frittatas, and stuffed mushrooms just to name a few. Sundays were delicious!
I think this is why my love of cooking developed. My grandmothers never really measured when they cooked.They also did not waste food. I remember my Grandma Ream trying to teach me how to make a pie crust. She mixed the Crisco™ with the flour mixture and grabbed it in a clump. She said, “When it feels like this and looks like this, it’s good.” To this day, I still cannot make pie crust like she did, but I do understand what she meant. When you make a recipe or a dish enough, you just know when it’s right. “To me, cooking is less of task and more of a feeling of happy memories.”
What I have learned: Food is love and can create beautiful memories.
Everyone is going through something. Everyone has good days. Everyone has bad days. During one of my recent Clubhouse conversations, we discussed social media and its effects on children born in the late 90s and early 2000s. This age group was raised with the internet and social media at their fingertips.
A man who was born in 1997 started this discussion. He began by sharing his experience of growing up surrounded by technology and how he works at living his life in reality. He talked about how challenging it is for young people to refrain from identifying with influencers who display a picture perfect facade on social media. The image they portray may be ideal, but we all know that no one’s life is perfect. It is an impossible reality. Hearing his experiences shed light on some of the struggles facing this generation.
People of all ages have a hard time separating reality from cropped and filtered content. For instance, I was following a TikTok influencer who I think is funny and entertaining. During one video, she shared that she had recently lost her son. Someone in the comments asked, “Why aren’t you grieving your son?” The influencer responded, “I am a content creator. That is what I do. I create content to entertain. I don’t share all parts of my life with you. I didn’t share with you the part about when I went and emptied my son’s bank account with his girlfriend. I didn’t talk about getting the death certificate or the other things that I’ve had to deal with, like cleaning out his apartment.”
She is the perfect example of why we cannot compare ourselves to other people. Her story shows us why we cannot judge other people. We truly have no idea what other people are going through in their lives. We must share this information with our children, so they know how to separate fact from fiction. It is important for our kids to understand that social media sites are to be used to entertain us. They are pretend and staged images that are shared. Even my own social media posts are reviewed and retaken if I don't like them. We can't do retakes in real life.
We can be tied to images on social media. But, we need to remember that they are just pictures. They represent a single moment in someone’s life, a moment they have specifically selected to share with you. Viral videos are at most three minutes of a person’s life, which has been recorded, edited, reviewed, and published.
In my opinion social media should be used strictly as a means of entertainment. That’s how I use it and how I encourage my adult daughters to use it as well. Don’t get too hung up on the number of likes, dislikes, or comments, and remember that reality isn’t filtered. I invite you to live your own life by finding ways to appreciate and enjoy the world around you unplugged. You will gain so much satisfaction in life when you quit looking at misleading content.
What I have learned: Posts rarely tell the whole story. Learn to love the real you.
Over the past year, quite a few people I know have lost someone they love. I will not pretend to be an expert on grief, but I have learned that grief looks different for everyone. I can also advise that you never tell a grieving person how they should grieve.
Everyone’s grief is unique and personal. Maybe you want to be surrounded by the people you love, or maybe you need to be alone. Some people respond with bouts of frenetic planning, while others find even the simplest tasks nearly impossible. A person’s grief may be easily identifiable or may be hidden from the outside world. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to the grieving process.
Grief can come at any given moment and, as such, can take you by surprise. The smallest thing can remind you of the person you lost - a song, a smell, a sight. Grief can find you anywhere - the grocery store, the gas station, or at home on your couch. Anything or any situation can trigger a memory, and your world is immediately turned upside down.
It can be difficult to support someone who is grieving. It’s hard to know what to say. One thing I do know is that you don’t have to say the perfect thing or have just the right words. All you have to do is be genuine and let the person know you are thinking of them. Here are a few more suggestions on supporting someone who is grieving:
It is often called a “process,” but there is no set timeframe or designated path for grief. Everyone grieves differently, so you should follow their lead when offering support.
Whether you are experiencing grief or supporting someone who is grieving, strong emotions and heavy thoughts are likely to arise. Journaling can help calm some of these big feelings by offering a non-judgemental creative space. Kickstarting Wellness: A 26-Week Guided Self-Care Journal offers both structured prompts and free space to unpack and process during difficult times.
What I have learned: Supporting someone through grief is as individual as the grief experience itself. But, you can’t go wrong by telling the person you love them.
Tania Farran is an educator, mom, business owner, and an author. Her blogs tell about balancing all of these things in life! Laugh or cry with her and maybe learn a thing or two.