Cultivating Thankfulness

This week, I shared my word of the year. One of the ways I want to infuse delight into my life is by digging into the Word more. I know in times that I am keeping my focus on the Lord, I feel lighter and have much more joy. But within digging into the Word, I was confused where to start. I’m wondering if you’ve ever felt the same? I feel like its an epidemic…most women I know have a hard time knowing just how to study the bible. Many of us rely on the studies of others to keep us in the Word, which is no problem at all (I love me a She Reads Truth study!!), but there is value in knowing how to study the bible yourself as well.

Thankfulness

I’ve been reading Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin, and its ROCKING my WORLD. Its showing me how to slowly dig into the Bible and allow myself the space to try and figure it out. To try and listen for the Holy Spirit’s leading. Its been really wonderful. I started Isaiah this past week and its been really interesting working through it a couple chapters at a time.

I also have been inspired to start working on reorienting my heart towards delight. So, daily at the end of my study, I have been writing three things down. What I am:

  • Thankful for…
  • Praying for…
  • Prayers answered…

I have been inspired by things like 1000 Gifts, the prayer journal by ValMarie Paper, and a wise woman that I have known for a long time telling me not to just document in my journal the things I am praying for but to remember to document the prayers the Lord answers.

By making notice to the wonderful things in my life and writing these things down, I am learning to focus not on the negative, but on the blessings. I hope to maybe one day make a printable with these three things or maybe a small stapled notebook, but for now, I add it to my journal.

Tell me, what are some things you do to reorient your heart towards joy?

An Attitude of DELIGHT

I haven’t written about this yet because…well to be honest, I haven’t been doing a great job at it 20 days into the year, so I felt hypocritical to share. I know its dumb…we’re all hypocrites at some points… It isn’t easy admitting shortcomings, but hey…vulnerability is valuable.

I don’t delight. Really in very much. I’ve struggled with negativity a lot since becoming a mother about five years ago. With my daughter, I had lots of times where I didn’t know how to manage my own emotions. I felt frustrated that I wasn’t getting sleep. I felt very angry when she would cry all night. I would get impatient when she wouldn’t fall asleep for naps or eat the food I gave her. But she was a happy baby (and is a joyful and cheerful little girl!) and I only struggled in the moments that I didn’t know how to manage how I was feeling.

Fast forward two years, and my son is born. If I thought Jael was hard (which she wasn’t, she was normal), Elijah called my bet, raised me constant spitting up, tummy troubles, and a hundred times more crying. He gave me a run for my money. At night, I found myself sitting on a bouncy ball, sweating profusely, “shh-shh-ing” as loud as I could, praying to the heavens that he would fall asleep without upchucking his entire night bottle all over me and the already crusted carpet. He required much more food and feedings than Jael, wanted me to hold him more, and overall was much harder. Especially with a two year old who decided she didn’t want to nap anymore and adjusted to a new baby, well, like a two year old.

In processing life with two kids, I can honestly say that we’ve been in a crazy, tough, hard season since Elijah was born. But it has also been wonderful, fun, full of laughter and giggles, inspiring, and fulfilling season as well. But its been hard for me to see it. Call it pessimistic. Call it lazy. I may be letting myself get overwhelmed with emotions. Whatever it is…I’m hoping to make a stop to it this year.

Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 10.22.39 AM

[art via Abigail and Whimsy on Etsy]

For 2014, I chose “simplify” as my word for the year. And boy did that happen! I made a decision to close my design business, moved into a simpler home, and changed my blog direction, among other things. I also chose to do a “30 before 30” list to bring more fun into my life and do things that I really always wanted to do.

For 2015, I have chosen the word: DELIGHT. I want to be intentional about choosing joy this year and delighting in my life. Just the past couple of days, I have gone outside every day with the kids and let them loose to play. How crazy am I that I didn’t do that much before?? I’ve been trying to be more attentive. Trying to laugh and smile more. My mom used to tell me, “Smile and the feelings will follow.” And y’all, its true.

And while life is still super crazy busy right now, I am learning that even when life is busy, the moments can be slowed down.

So I have a mega long to-do list…I’m sitting outside in the sunshine reading for school (to-do) and watching my kids play and run around giggling. The moment is slow and yet I’m able to still do what I need to do. You see? Things like this have been helping me to really see the DELIGHT in my every day. I pray that this year’s word of the year is as successful as last year was. I pray the Lord invades my heart and permeates it with JOY. Won’t you join me? Let’s learn to love and delight in life like never before. It may change everything. xo

Forging Forward

better-ahead

The new year always brings the feeling of a fresh start. Everyone all over social media posts about their resolutions, feelings for the new year, sentiment for leaving the last behind, and everyone takes a much needed deep breath as the clock folds over like the cover of a fresh new journal that has 365 blank pages to fill.

I like the new year. Even though I’m not much for specific and strict resolutions, I tend to make some decisions to determine my heart for the upcoming year. It feels fresh, new, bright. However, right now, as I sit in my messy, kid-bombed living room, sniffling and trying to breathe from a cold, I can’t help but feel a smidge overwhelmed. When I think of 2015, I am filled with day-before-school excitement. This year is going to be wonderful, hard, messy, busy, exciting, and full of passion and dreams. But my mind also starts rapidly flipping through all the things that would be scribbled on this year’s to-do list: practicum for school, finding childcare for the kids while I do it, Jael turns FIVE, I turn THIRTY, trainings scheduled, Jael starts kindergarten…there are so many beautiful and scary milestones for this year.

I am ready and willing to set my feet and forge forward. But even though determination is the fuel for my feet, my mind and heart go along as hesitant travel companions. They are filled with doubts. They are filled with fears. They are filled with the hesitancies of a person who doesn’t 100% believe in herself. I’ve posted a couple times in the past few days about how I am feeling this way. Many of you echoed the same sentiment, many offered encouragements.

So as I sit here, considering the year, considering all your kind words, and thinking of all you women [and maybe men] out there feeling much like I am…the pull of excitement and drag of fear…I think about how we make a huge mistake when looking forward to the future all the time. Yes, it is good to make plans, budget, and dream. Do all those things in earnest.

But let’s not allow the dreams and hopes of what this year could be corrode the day-to-day that we live now. Let’s press onward for the prize to which we are called, yes. But let us also take each day at a time. Let those goals, hopes, and aspirations fragment into tiny bite-size pieces…you know the saying, “When eating an elephant, take one bite at a time.” We don’t need to take the year as whole and freak out how we’re going to do it all. A book is written page by page. So let each day be the one page you focus on, pick up a pen, and start. xo

Oh, two year olds…

Anyone have a two year old? Who am I kidding…most two year old moms do not have time to read blog posts…lol, but if you’re lucky enough to sit down for.just.one.second., I’m honored to have you here for your precious moments without the monkeys.

I am a mother to a rambunctious, LOUD, stubborn, passionate, hilarious, cuddly, loving, little two-year-old boy named Elijah. He will not be three until April, so we are in the trenches of two-year-old-ness …many of you who’ve experienced this age know exactly what I am talking about. And while they are fun…oh so very fun…they are exhausting.

IMG_0684

Elijah has been getting progressively “worse” in his twos…and by worse, I mean just more stubborn, LOUD, and passionate. The dude loves to climb, jump, crash, yell, scream at the top of his ever-loving lungs, and RUN. Boy, does the kid love to run. And in the midst of all that, I find myself completely turned around lost in how to parent a two year old. My daughter, who will be five in a few weeks, didn’t really have a rough second year. She was stubborn, passionate, and all the “I wanna do it mysewwwwfffff!!” that a two year old can be, but she didn’t have the emotional outburts like Elijah does.

IMG_0622

She didn’t cry at the drop of a hat over the wrong cereal or scream bloody murder for 15 straight seconds when someone took something from her. She was stubborn and passionate, but would reason. She would listen. She was a different species of two year old. Like the My Little Pony species. Elijah is of the Incredible Hulk species.

He does things that make me think I am going to literally lose my mind one second. [Like jump off the arm of the couch or sing at the top of his lungs in his crib when he’s supposed to be napping or push the button on his LOUD-AS-ALL-HECK ambulance toy over and overandoverandover…] And then the next second I am texting my husband through cry-laugh tears because he is killing me with how freaking hilarious he is. [Like today, when, during an eerily quiet moment in the house, I found him with a pile of candy wrappers, three Hershey kisses lined up on the coffee table, a big, chocolate covered smirk, and no idea how much Christmas candy he just devoured.]

IMG_0493

So, I have no special advice or epiphany to share today. Not-a-one. But what I do have is a heart to pray for all you mommas with two year olds. My heart is with you. God speed.

Therapy & X-Men

This past week, my husband and I watched X-Men: Days of Future Past. I’m not really a superhero or comic book movie type girl. I mean, I’ll see them and most likely enjoy them, but I’m not first in line when they come out. [Who are we kidding, I barely ever go to the movies anymore…I’m not first in line for anything. lol] When it comes to the X-Men movies though, I really do love watching them. My favorite character is Charles Xavier, the professor. He’s just so calm and wise. And often says something that changes the thinking [and inevitably the life] of others. ;)

When we watched Days of Future past, there was a scene where Charles is speaking to himself [I don’t want to say much more because I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t seen it], and I was almost in tears over the following quote:

It’s not their pain you’re afraid of. It’s yours, Charles. And as frightening as it can be, that pain will make you stronger. If you allow yourself to feel it, embrace it, it will make you more powerful than you ever imagined. It’s the greatest gift we have: to bear their pain without breaking. And it comes from the most human part of us: hope.

So much of what we do as therapists is utterly terrifying. Walking through someone’s rape experience, divorce, abandonment with them is agonizing. Pain is uncomfortable and often Americans shy away from it. Its painful for us to endure the tears, anger, grief, loss of another without it tearing our insides to shreds. We avoid conflict, vulnerability, and honesty because of the feelings it elicits.

But being a therapist is exactly like what Charles is speaking of. Being a compassionate human is exactly what Charles is speaking of. We need to let the pain of our clients, friends, family, others… empower us to help them. We need to embrace and feel their pain in order to let it move the deepest parts of us. Move us to tears, move us to compassion, move us to action. When we experience someone else’s world, we are able to move out of ourselves. We are able to see a side of the earth that we’ve never experienced. And if the Lord chooses to use us, we can offer them something that they cannot see: HOPE.

No one ever said that being compassionate for someone else meant agreeing with them. But the Bible does say to bear one another’s burdens. And that is one of the greatest gifts we can give one another. Christ did that for us long before we ever said yes to him. He bore our burdens and gave us hope. Now we are given the gift of doing so for one another.

PASSION

This weekend, we had a guest speaker at church who has planted several churches here in Phoenix. I have a friend whose hubby is a worship pastor at one of the churches and so many friends who attend different campuses throughout the valley. This man knows how to train leaders and equip them for the gospel. I love it.

One thing he said that resonated with me was that if you’re working in the area of your spiritual gifts, it will be something that tires you to the bone by the end of the day, but its a good tired. That it will be something that you love. That it will not be drudgery and it will be such a blessing to your life.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how incredibly blessed I am to be pursuing my masters degree in marriage and family therapy. If you had asked me two or more years ago (heck, even months before I started the program) that I would be thriving in my program, more passionate than ever about helping people, and actively pursuing a career as a therapist sooner than I thought, I would have laughed at you and said, “That would be awesome, but its not likely.

And now, here I sit, getting ready to finish up my second fall term, about to enter into a busy holiday season enjoying my life and family, and jumping right into winter term with both feet, mind, and heart. With excitement. With passion. With determination. With focus.

One thing I’ve been so terrified of is being incompetent in sessions with clients and it being obvious. There’s nothing worse than knowing you don’t know what you’re doing and someone else knowing you don’t know what you’re doing too. [Did anyone just think of the Friends episode where Ross made the list of Rachel’s faults and she said, “Imagine the worst things you think about yourself. Now how would you feel if the one person that you trusted the most in the world…thinks them too…” = my fear!]

I’ve just been so in my head during practice sessions that I am missing on joining with my clients and connecting with them. Have you ever been in a conversation with someone and you’re thinking about something they said or what you’re going to say next that you actually miss connecting with them at all [or at least for a moment]? Me. That’s so me. I do this in every day conversation, but in a moment where someone else is relying on your for help with their problems, it can make matters much worse!

This last week something clicked for me. I didn’t suddenly have a major breakthrough and am the best therapist ever. But I did have a small breakthrough. The client was explaining [Don’t worry, its a fake client. I would never write about real clients.] how something affected them in regards to how their childhood and their current marital struggle were connected. I seriously got emotional. Like tears at the ready. What this client was saying resonated with me deeply and brought a sense of connection for me. I could feel the emotion in my body, I could recall why this resonated with me, and I could feel those familiar emotions the client was describing. It helped me to be present in the session. It pulled me out of my head and down into empathy…into my heart.

And it reminded me that I am capable. I know that an emotional connection can do a lot, and in this instance, I was able to see that my natural giftings to listen, be empathetic, and welcoming are spiritual gifts that can free me up to move forward in my call. I am so incredibly passionate about meeting people where they are and giving them the opportunity to share their story.

Has anyone ever asked you yours? I think every human should have the freedom to share their story and be heard. I know for me, simply sharing my story, testimony, or even a summary of a small season of my life is so therapeutic and freeing. That is my passion. To allow people to share their life with me and to overcome in areas they wish to overcome. What about you? Have you ever been given the freedom of telling your story?

Catching Myself

This week, I participated in Lysa Terkeurst’s Praying Boldly for Your Marriage challenge. One day, I was reading the email that she sent out, and my eyes were opened. But first, I have a little bit o’ back story. ;)

Pray Marriage Challenge

Many moons ago, I was a young married gal. Full of life, free, and loving the season I was in. I had setbacks in our first year of marriage, of course, but my outlook on life was still greatly influenced by the care free attitude of my teenage years (I married the month before I turned 21). I smiled, was often told I was a kind and cheerful person, and I felt it. Fast forward eight years, two kids, and several life changes later, and I am a different person.

With your twenties comes a lot of decision making. There are tons of transitions and this decade can feel a lot like being lost. A lot like being unsettled. This is a whole other blog post in itself, but with all of life’s turns and the changes our bodies and minds make over the years, I’ve suddenly found myself in a place where I don’t want to be. I am much less patient than I used to be. To the outside world, I may still appear kind [although with a cup of snark thrown in here and there], but to those closest to me, I am far from kind.

It hurts to write that because the deepest longings of my heart are to be kind, generous, and refreshing. A woman radiating Jesus. If nothing else in this world, I want to be known for that. But so often I find myself in the opposite place. Snappy. Greedy or full of worry. And draining. At least that is what I feel like after thinking about the day and all the things I could have done better.

I shouldn’t have yelled at the kids for running around the house.

I should be a better wife and not demand so much from my husband when he gets home from work.

I should be more patient and loving towards my family.

I should’ve…I wish I had…I can do that better…

And instead of turning where I should [uh, the Lord] for encouragement, I beat myself up further, swear I’ll try better the next day, and drift off to sleep…only to be woken by a whispering four year old who is standing inches from my face at 4:30am needing to be re-tucked into bed.

Oh, the joys.

So often I am running on so little steam, that I quite literally just react. Anger. Impatience. Frustration. It all comes pouring out of my mouth and heart and leaves me feeling like a terrible wife and mother. The wake of it like a thousand thirty foot waves beating against my heart telling me I am not enough. When will you EVER measure up, Erin? You say you’ll do better, but you wont. We both know you wont.

And I believed it. I believed those lies. So I just promised myself to strive harder the next day, all the while failing because I was relying on my own strength. When I saw Lysa’s challenge, honestly, I decided to do it not because I wanted to hear from the Lord, but because I thought, “Hey, this will be something to get me on the right track! Another thing I can do to make things better.” When I read one of Lysa’s emails, something she said jumped straight out of the page into my spirit and lit a little flame.

Is this an irritation or an issue?
There is a big difference between an irritation and an issue. Identifying the difference helps me pick my battles. If this is just an irritation, maybe I need to practice being more flexible, patient or willing to extend grace.

While this may seem like a no-brainer for you…this was monumental for me. You see, I saw everything as an issue. I reacted with fury and irritation at every little or big thing because it threatens my idea of what my family should look like. Instead of considering that, um, little kids can be annoying and that is normal, I took it as a behavioral issue and determined every little moment to be a “teaching moment.” Instead of knowing that my husband isn’t going to be 100% ON all the time when he got home from work, I took it as a sign that he didn’t care for me and didn’t want to be around me, so I lashed back.

What an exhausting way to live, eh?

So what am I trying today? I’m trying to live the day through that filter…I’m trying to pause and think about how my reaction is reflecting my belief that the situation is either an irritation or issue and modifying if needed. The Lord used Lysa to show me that if I identify something as an irritation, that is my moment to practice patience. Kindness. Generosity. All those things I want so desperately to be.

This challenge has been nothing short of a blessing and refreshing pull back of the curtain for me. It has reminded me that I am human, but has also given me a practical way to watch my tongue and learn to bless my family. Speaking of which, in that same email, Lysa also talked about praying about versus praying for:

Am I praying about or for my husband?
If I do sense something that needs to change, I need to pray for my husband—not about him. Praying about him is just ranting. Praying for him means digging into God’s Word and praying scriptures specific to his struggles. That’s powerful! When we pray the WORD of God, we pray the WILL of God.

I loved this too because after I identify what the situation is, if it truly is an issue, I need to turn to the Word of God first. Not just turn to God and gossip about my husband [or kids, or family, or whatever it is], but I need to pray boldly with God’s Word over that person’s life. That is love. Truly desiring the change for someone doesn’t mean beating them over the head with it. It means praying fervently for the Lord to take hold of their heart. I can also know that I need to do that for myself. Instead of simply praying for all my wants, I need to go to God’s Word, see what it says, and pray through that.

I’m incredibly grateful for eye opening moments like this. Can you relate?

“It was like…magic.” // Seattle & Portland

One of the things that I would like to make more of a constant in my life is travel. I absolutely love traveling. Its something that I have come to love more in my adult life [maybe its motherhood and needing a little break occasionally!], and I’ve had several conversations with Joseph about doing it more often. There’s just something about stepping into a place you’ve never been before. Setting out to explore the hidden gems that cities have to offer. Its so wonderful. Or as Sam said, “It was like…magic.” [If you get that reference, we are MFEO. ;)]

PDX-2 PDX-3

This post is FULL of links to all that we did. If you’re visiting the area, I hope these suggestions help! We snagged an early flight into Portland, Oregon first, spent the day there, drove up to Seattle and stayed with family for a couple days, and then drove back to Portland for one more day, and then flew home. It was such an amazing trip with my sister and her husband. Instead of the usual tourist schedule, we skipped most of the shopping and instead opted to do things that we would remember forever. Like taking the ferry to Bainbridge Island and hiking Mount Rainier…and of course, we did shoot to the top of the Space Needle. Because who doesn’t like being insanely high above the ground in a tiny little elevator that goes to the top in 41 seconds?? Apparently, one person a month throws up on the elevator. I could empathize.

Walking around Portland that first day was so crazy to me. Of course, I know other states have seasons [dear Arizona, follow suit, please…], but seeing all the trees on fire with red, yellow, orange, and green leaves was so amazing! The piles of leaves everywhere were fun to see [although I hear its a pain because if you don’t rake them up, they turn to sludge and that’s no bueno]. I couldn’t help but imagine my kids diving into piles of leaves on a cold fall day here. You don’t get that in Arizona.

PDX-4 PDX-5 PDX-6

Of course we ate tons of yummy food. We joked that vacations are just trips to eat food in a different place than home. But seriously, it was sorta like that. I had some of the best food I’ve had in my life. Our breakfast when we arrived was at Mother’s Bistro & Bar…it was amazing. I had the breakfast nachos which are basically Irish nachos with the most amazing bacon you’ll ever taste. I just wanted to keep eating. Even though I was full. We visited the Nike Headquarters [because my hubby and my sister’s husband both work for Nike] as well as the Nike Company Store. My husband was like a kid in a candy store. For reals. We spent the day exploring all things Nike and then that evening met my cousin and her fiance for dinner at Portland City Grill. Its a restaurant 30 stories up above the city. It was amazing. We got a table at the window and chatted the evening away while eating yummy food and listening to the live piano. It was so cool.

The next day was in Seattle. On Bainbridge Island we visited a little crepe place (Bainbridge Crepes) that was just…there are no words. I had a savory crepe with fresh salmon and a sweet crepe with strawberries, pecans, and fresh whipped cream. The shop owner is the sweetest lady you’ll meet, and she tries to get all local ingredients for her crepes. YUM. And the crepes she made were buckwheat so they were gluten free. I couldn’t tell…they were SO good. You must eat here if you step foot on Bainbridge. Seriously.

PDX-7 PDX-8 PDX-9

We visited Public Market (aka Pike Place Market) after we came back from Bainbridge. Y’all, the flowers at the market were INSANE. I didn’t get a picture of them because I was in such awe, but you could get a bouquet that makes grocery store flowers look like weeds. Seriously HUGE bouquets for only $10-$15. The first Starbucks is in this area as well as tons of seafood vendors, farmers market stands, and I even found a gluten free pasta vendor! Its such a cool experience; the vendors holler at you from their stand, give tons of samples, and the place is hoppin. I imagined living in an industrial downtown loft and shopping every day at the market for dinner. So fun!

The most magical thing we did was hike Mount Rainier. Having lived in Seattle as a kid for a short time, I remember seeing this snowy giant in the distance. I’d never visited the mountain until now though, and I’m so glad we took the trip. Its a good two hours or so southeast of Seattle through small mountain towns and swerving switchback roads. My sister and I were devouring ginger chews to keep from tossing our cookies on the way up, so definitely take your time.

Once we got through the gate, there are many different places to stop and take pictures before you get to the place where you hike up the mountain. There are waterfalls and many photo stops and then finally you get to the place to climb. It was a workout for sure, and since the air is so much thinner this high up, it is definitely a trail to take slowly. But its SO worth it when you get to the top. Truly breathtaking.

PDX-10 PDX-11

How cute is my hubby? He wrote J + E in the snow up on the mountain. I’d like to think that because its only going to get colder from here on out, that his little love note will be preserved in snow until the mountain thaws next spring. :) A little piece of us left in Washington. :)

PDX-12

The city of Portland is just so cute. I loved the little houses and places to walk. We walked around Northwest 23rd Avenue in Portland where there were tons of shops, restaurants, and side neighborhoods to explore. Its definitely a place to visit! We loved Salt & Straw and Barista.

Altogether, it was an amazing trip. In four short days we definitely did a lot! I was so sad to leave and can’t wait to get back. What places are your favorite to visit? Share below in the comments!!

So Thankful. // Share the JOY

Is it just me, or do the holidays creep up on you like a procrastinated due date? Every year, the summer seems to creeeeep by (in Arizona, this is torture since the temperatures reach over 115º daily). Then school starts and before you know it, you’re frantically searching for that one costume that your four year old wants and trying to figure out why it became a tradition to give small people an overabundance of their drug of choice (sugar). But after you’ve “sorted” through their candy (parent talk for “eat half of it”) and the sugar tantrums fade, its suddenly the best time of year.

If it weren’t for the pure joy on the faces of my children at the sight of Christmas lights, sparkly trees, and that one gift (or five) that they’ve been begging for since the Toys R’ Us ad came out…I’d say Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Who doesn’t like a day dedicated to eating until you’re uncomfortable, taking a nap, and waking up to eat more?? And then drink coffee and eat pie? I mean, you must be crazy if this isn’t your idea of heaven.

We have several Thanksgiving traditions in our house…snuggling with the kiddos and watching Charlie Brown Thanksgiving with Starbucks hot chocolates is one of the biggest. My husband and I also watch White Christmas every year the weekend after Thanksgiving, make sure to watch the Friends Thanksgiving episode with Brad Pitt (can you believe this was a tradition started by my husband? ha!), make toasted pumpkin seeds, do a little holiday baking, and enjoy the time of year where neither the A/C nor the heater are on. Bliss.

This year, because I have it on my 30 before 30 list, I am cooking the Thanksgiving turkey. I am both excited and terrified. Many different scenarios flash through my mind at the thought of this…most of them inspired by television turkey fiascos. I imagine a beautiful turkey that is ice cold on the inside, still contains the “parts” bag in the…ahem…cavity, and that tastes mildly like burned oven. But I digress…I have to learn and figured it is one of those “rights of passage” for adults…yada yada yada. *wink*

As I was thinking about cooking my first turkey, I also started thinking about the table that it will be on. If I am going to make a magnificent bird, he’s gotta have a great stage, right? Growing up, we never really had much of table decor for Thanksgiving because the whole table was full of food. I’m not complaining. But if I am being honest, a beautiful table set up is just icing on the cake of a wonderful day celebrating the things we are so thankful for. So I have come up with ten items I would love to have on my Thanksgiving table from, of course, pretty much my favorite store, World Market.

World Market Thanksgiving

  1. Amber Damask Ogee Tablecloth$14.99
  2. Turkey Serving Bowl$24.99
  3. Be Thankful Paper Banner$7.99
  4. Turkey Oval Platter$29.99
  5. Wood Bark Pedestal Stand$29.99
  6. Porcelain Plates Sets with Space-Saving Racks$19.99-$24.99
  7. Natural Fiber Turkey$22.49 sale
  8. Edin Wood 2-Tiered Stand$19.99
  9. Autumn Grass Stacks$39.98
  10. Mini Cornucopia$1.99

And this amazing create your own table set up interactive part of their site that you pick plates and different accessories and it populates your choices and shows you what your set up would look like! I don’t know about you, but it can be really frustrating for me to pick all the pieces to match the idea in my head but then get home and it doesn’t quite look like what I imagined. This eliminates that!

Thanksgiving Tablescape

I think I have this high idea in my head of what I would love Thanksgiving holiday entertaining to look like (appearance-wise) and that would probably be the dinner table scene in the intro to the show Parenthood. Outside, hanging bistro lights, long table, decor, candles…it just looks so magical! To celebrate the spirit of giving this holiday, Cost Plus World Market’s Share the Joy sweepstakes is back! Enter for your DAILY chance to win a $500 World Market gift card for you AND $500 for the charity of your choice! A winner will be chosen daily. Enter today and get the chance to Share the Joy this season. Sweepstakes ends 11/21/14.

What does your Thanksgiving table look like? What are some of your favorite pieces to decorate with?

This post was sponsored by World Market but as usual, all opinions are mine. I wouldn’t share something I didn’t believe in, which is why I changed the direction on my blog. You can read more about that here.

What Starbucks Used to Mean To Me

DeathtoStock_Wired1

I worked at Starbucks all through college and a couple years after. It was one of my favorite jobs I’ve ever had, and I am sad to say I mourn the loss of what Starbucks once was.

When I first started at Starbucks, I worked in a store that had one of those grind and tamp espresso machines. Do you know what I am talking about? You won’t see them in any Starbucks now-a-days, but these machines required you manually grind the espresso beans, manually tamp (press) the espresso into a little portafilter (looked like a small pot with a handle) and manually brew each shot. You had to time the shots, calibrate the machine to brew the shots just right, and it took fooorrrrr-evvvvv-errrrrrr to make each drink. But it was amazing. The art of coffee. No automatic shut off, no automatic steam wand for the milk, you actually had to pay attention. Imagine that.

About a year after that, we got the automated machines. Coffee was still an art to me, making each cup with love. What I loved most about the whole thing was the customer experience. I loved the people. Talking with them while I made their drink, getting to know the “regulars” who came in daily, memorizing drinks, and generally making the experience for the customers a fun and welcoming one.

The importance back then was the people. Starbucks often spoke with us employees about being the “third place,” the place you go when you’re not at home or work. Once a customer walked in the door, you were required to say hello within a few seconds. If a person sat at a drive-through window for more than three seconds without a hello from the employees, not good.

The focus was on creating the Starbucks experience. Making it memorable so people would come back. It wasn’t about pushing sales and relying on the addictive factor of their delicious drinks. It was about people.

So what changed?

In the last year of my employment there, Starbucks started making changes. Changes that required more sales. More emphasis on the drink offerings. And less on the people. After I left, I started noticing the quality of workers at Starbucks just wasn’t the same. Where did all the smiles go? Where were the kind workers? Where did the work ethic go? Now, it isn’t uncommon for me to wait at a drive through window for several minutes before being acknowledged. An entire transaction can go without a smile, thank you, or polite anything.

I am so disappointed in the change that Starbucks has been going through. More sales. Less community.

And that is probably what bothers me. You see, when I worked at Starbucks, it was one of those places where people would come to be with one another. The regulars all hung out for hours and laughed and shared life.

I particularly remember one couple who regularly came in. When the husband of the couple was killed tragically in a car accident, the wife came to our store. She said, “I knew you guys would be there for me.” Our manager went outside with her and they sat for a few hours talking. She continued to come back daily, without her husband, and I saw healing happen in a freaking Starbucks. I saw community happen in a commercial business. But it was all because Starbucks used to value community.

It makes me sad, really. Its truly representative of our culture now. Get in and out. However you want to take that. Food. Work. Groceries. Sex. Relationships. Phone calls. School. Heck, even having babies. So, I raise a glass (an iced americano with hazelnut and cream) to what Starbucks once was and what our culture used to be…may community continue to reside in our hearts when it is no longer represented by a green Siren.