Amanda Cade

Worth It! (Things to try, read, watch, hear, and discuss)

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I had a busy, somewhat stressful week. When that happens, I really become attuned to the kindness of others, because little things mean a lot more when I’m trying to keep my attitude in the positive zone. I also make a concentrated effort to spread kindness when I’m feeling stressed, because that usually helps me snap out of a bad mood. And since we’re in the holiday season, 12 feels like the right number of my favorite acts of kindness to share.

So if you’d like to try spreading some cheer, you can…

1. Buy someone a beverage

Inexpensive and super simple. Taking a trip to the vending machine? Grab an extra and give it away. Stopping at Starbucks on the way to work or class? Text a friend and see if you can get them something. I also like to occasionally pay for the car behind me in the drive thru, because everyone can use an unexpected kindness.

2. Give sincere compliments

Costs nothing, only takes a few seconds, and can make a big difference. When there’s a reason to recognize someone, do it.

3. Write a positive note

At work, I like to sneak Post Its on people’s desks with messages like, “You make working here awesome” or “Thanks for helping me out this morning”. I also keep a box of cards (Thank you, Congratulations, Good luck, etc.) on hand, so I’m always ready to celebrate or offer encouragement.

3. Bring food (with some extra thought)

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Giving someone a treat is always a win, and this time of year most of us are surrounded by goodies. At my job and in my circle, we’re really big on treat days and teaming up for meals (I talked a little about that in my holiday gathering post two weeks ago). And if you want to level up…

Bring a healthier option. A few years ago I noticed that I always saw people who never ate any of the cookies and whatnot because they were dieting, diabetic, had food allergies, etc. So I started looking for recipes (and bakeries, when I needed to save time) that could provide some treats that were healthier, but still yummy. It takes a little extra effort, but I love being able to bring something for everyone.

4. Give someone a break

Offer to babysit, run a few errands, help with a cleaning project, etc. This is really powerful, because not only are you making someone’s life a little easier, but you’re showing that you care about them.

5. Take time to listen

Yes, we’re all busy, but find the time to connect with others, and find out what’s going on in their lives. The gift of a friendly ear really is priceless.

6. Extend an invitation

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Let’s have lunch, want to join me to knock out some holiday shopping, how about getting coffee, want to see an movie…everyone likes to be invited. And on a related note…

7. Try someone else’s idea

Be open to letting someone else choose the restaurant, activity, etc., and then go with a positive attitude. Even if it turns out not to be your thing, they’ll appreciate that you gave it your best shot.

8. Give someone a gift (even a small one)

My two favorite types of small gifts are the things people don’t think to buy themselves (like fun versions of everyday items, or mini luxuries), and the things someone always needs (one of my friends at work regularly gives me colored Post Its, because I’m always running out). A few dollars is enough to say “I’m thinking of you”.

9. Give a group a gift

Group gifts are great because they increase the number of people benefiting, and sometimes create shared time and connections. A new game or activity can be great for a family, because everyone can enjoy it. At work, a shared gift can have a huge impact on the overall environment. Every once in a while one of my coworkers brings a bunch of flavored creamer for the coffee room, and everyone has a better morning. And you can imagine the excitement when a few of us went in together to upgrade the coffee machine.

10. Clean up (even if it isn’t your mess)

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If you make a mess, you should clean it up. We all know that…except that we also know that not everyone practices it. If you have the extra minute (and most of the time we do), clear off a table in the break room, rinse the dishes in the sink, return a shopping cart to the cart corral, etc. You’ll definitely be making someone else’s day a little bit easier.

11. Introduce yourself and/or have a conversation

Do you have a neighbor you wave to but have barely spoken to? A coworker you pass in the hall but couldn’t put a name to to save your life? A parent you see everyday waiting near you in the school pick up area? Take the time for a meet and greet.

12. Smile!

It’s good for you and the people you smile at. Don’t just take my word for it-click here to check out some science. 

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What are your favorite ways to spread kindness? Let me know in the comments!

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It’s beginning to sound a lot like Christmas, because radio stations and public spaces have definitely changed over to their holiday tracks. I’m a big fan of the holidays, and I enjoy the traditional soundtrack. However, sometimes I’m in the mood for something a little bit different, kind of quirky, or just plain ridiculous. When I host holiday gatherings (see last week’s post for more tips on get-togethers and celebrations), I always add a healthy dose of offbeat tunes to my playlist. (Please note that these are chosen for their fun factor, not their musical quality. Lol.)

If you want to try going off the beaten path in your holiday listening, here are a few suggestions:

Shatner Claus (2018)

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William Shatner cracks me up. His “I’m ridiculous and I’m owning it” persona doesn’t work for everyone, but if you find it entertaining, you should check out Shatner Claus. It’s filled with his signature style of spoken word/over the top drama, and while I definitely would NOT call it “good music”, I couldn’t stop laughing.

Personal favorite: Jingle Bells (Punk Rock Version).

Meowy Christmas (1993)

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Meowy Christmas was the first of four albums by the Jingle Cats, produced by Mike Spalla. I can’t begin to image how many hours of cat sounds Spalla collected and mixed to create the “choir” that performs these holiday favorites. The strange but entertaining discography also includes Jingle Dogs and Jingle Babies.

Personal favorite: Ode to Joy

Merry, Merry Christmas (1989)

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I could work on this post for weeks and never run out of holiday albums recorded by pop stars over the years. Going back to the “must haves” of the past is a great way to revive some old memories. For me, the standout is New Kids on the Block, which seemed to be in everyone’s stocking as we prepared to welcome the 90s. My family still listens to it every year, with a lot of smiles, giggles, and occasional eye rolling.

Personal favorite: Funky, Funky Christmas

Twisted Christmas (1988)

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Comedian Bob Rivers went heavy on the parody in his series of Christmas albums, including a strong focus on the irritations that go hand in hand with the joy. It’s a tongue in cheek look at the holidays, and a lot of the humor comes from the fact that much of it is so easy to relate to, even for serious holiday fans.

Personal favorite: The Twelve Pains of Christmas

Christmas in the Stars (1980)

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I love Star Wars. The good, the bad, and the hopelessly cheesy…I can’t get enough. (And if you’ve read this far, I’m sure you’ve already realized I have a general weakness for anything cheesy.) Christmas in the Stars is a surprisingly earnest blend of the Star Wars universe and holiday spirit, with a distinct early 80s feel.

Personal favorite: What Do You Get a Wookie For Christmas?

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What are your favorite holiday albums and songs (traditional or otherwise)? Let me know in the comments!

So my plan for this blog is for regularly scheduled Sunday posts with tips, ideas, and recommendations. Other things (personal news, musings, etc.) I’ll post on other days, as appropriate. So my first “Worth Mentioning” post is because I’ve been tagged by John, The Eclectic Contrarian, for a 3.2.1 Quote Challenge. Thanks for thinking of me, and for getting me thinking!

The rules of the challenge are:

• Thank the Selector

• Post 2 quotes for the dedicated topic of the day

• Select 3 bloggers to take part in ‘3.2.1 Quote Me!’

• And give them a topic/word

Note: Although this is the topic for today there is no specific deadline to it, meaning you  can answer when you chose.

The Word I Received Is: Intelligence

Intelligence without ambition is a bird without wings. -Salvador Dali

I’m a huge believer in hard work and perseverance. Going back to my student days, I was in classes with people who had a wide range of intelligence, but across the board the ones who were the most successful were the ones who worked the hardest. I think that our intellect is like any other gift we’re given: we need to use it to achieve our goals.

It's not that I'm so smart, it's just that I stay with problems longer. _Albert Einstein

Einstein’s words have a similar message. The more you work at something, the better you become, whether it’s a physical activity or an intellectual exercise. One of my teacher friends once told me, “There’s a huge difference between ‘I don’t get it’ and ‘I don’t get it YET’. The student with the growth mindset is the student who’s going to succeed.”

I’ve definitely started making an effort to think in terms of “yet”. “I can’t do this…yet. I don’t know what to do…yet.” You get the idea.

  instagramiconBy the way, you can find more of my favorite quotations on my Instagram feed. 

So my challenge word is: Dedication

I’m tagging:

Amy Beth

Megan

Lottie Rose

What do you think?

Thoughts?

How do you exercise your mind? In your opinion, how big a role does intelligence play in being successful? Leave me a comment-I’m dying to discuss this!

 

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Getting together with friends and family should be awesome, not stressful.

I’m definitely the planner in my social circle. When there’s something to celebrate (birthdays, holidays, important life events, etc.) or when people just want to get together, nine times out of ten I’m coordinating, and often hosting. Gatherings with friends and family create some of my very best memories.

However, a few years ago, while I was organizing holiday events, I came to a disturbing realization: It wasn’t fun anymore. Somewhere along the line, I had reached the point where I felt like the pressure was outweighing the positive. So I decided I needed to figure out how to put the fun back into the functions.

As the holiday season is gaining momentum, this feels like the perfect time to share what’s worked for me, both general advice and specific suggestions.

1. Don’t put pressure on yourself

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Don’t get hung up on perfection.

Repeat after me, “My friends and family love me even when I’m not perfect. We all value the time we spend together way more than a brilliantly executed party.”

For a long time, I was all about hosting the perfect events, from the menu to the decorations to the music. I spent hours planning, shopping, cooking, creating custom playlists, and so on. The result? Hours or days of caffeine-fueled mania culminating in parties where I found it almost impossible to relax and have fun.

The first time I scaled it back, I was nervous that my guests would be disappointed, but I should have had more faith in them, because we all had a great time, and no one seemed to care that I had bought a cake at the bakery and only had one appetizer. On a few occasions, I’ve bought everything I needed premade from the grocery store, and my guests have enjoyed it just as much.

If going all out is something you enjoy, then go for it. However, if it’s stressing you out, dial it back. It’s about the experience, not the expectations.

2. Don’t be afraid to accept help

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Working together is an expression of love.

When I show up for someone else’s party, the first words out of my mouth are “What can I do?” It took way too long to realize that I’m not the only person in the world who likes to help others. I’d had this idea that guests should never do anything, and that was just silly. Nobody leaves my house and says, “That was a great party until Amanda let me load the dishwasher. The nerve!”

Once I started accepting help, people started offering even more. It makes things so much easier when I can ask someone to stop at the store on the way over, or give me a hand with some last minute preparations. Now, I always have one or two people who come over early to help set up, and one or two who stay after to help clean up. Not only does it lower my workload, but it allows for some personal time with these special people to bookend the larger event.

You can take this a step further and…

3. Make it a team effort

My mother is a world champion entertainer, and her dinners, parties, showers, etc. are always amazing. When I thought about how Mom gets things done, I remembered that she’s constantly asking, “Can you bring XYZ?” or “Is there something you’d like to bring?” At our Thanksgiving dinner this week, Mom only made three of the dishes. The rest of us had happily provided the rest, and together we had assembled everything we needed to end the day in a food coma.

So I’ve fallen in love with the potluck. It saves me tons of time and money, and my friends actually get excited about contributing their favorite dishes. My absolute favorite method is:

The Crock Pot Potluck

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Sometimes, my slow cooker is my best friend.

One of my co-workers organized what she called a “Crockluck” four or five years ago, and it was the best! A dozen of us brought in our slow cookers, filled with a variety of our favorite recipes, and plugged them in first thing in the morning. By lunchtime, we had an awesome selection of soup, chili, meat, vegetables, and even dessert.

The idea was too good not to steal. At work we used the cooking time for, well, work, but outside of work we use it for social time or activities. At my most recent Crockluck, we gathered at my house, plugged everything in, caught up on each other’s lives, and then piled into a couple of cars and went to the movies. When we got back, dinner was ready and we were all in a great mood. A few guests who weren’t able to make a day of it cooked their contributions at home and brought them in time to enjoy the evening with the rest of us.

One of the coolest things about Crock Pots is that you can use them to make anything from appetizers to desserts. Here are a few great recipes and resources:

I’ve discovered crock pot recipes for everything from coffee cake to vegetarian lasagna, and chances are that your friends and family already have some favorites of their own.

4. Go out!

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Pottery painting is just one example of awesome group activities.

Not every gathering has to be at someone’s home. Activities can be a great way to spend time with important people without having any pressure to cook, clean, and entertain. In the future, I’ll be posting about some of my favorites, but for now, here’s a quick list of things to consider:

  • Plays
  • Cooking classes
  • Craft classes
  • Holiday light tours
  • Escape rooms

Most importantly, HAVE FUN, and focus on creating memories!

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What’s your favorite way to plan or host a gathering? How do you keep the fun in your functions? Share your ideas in the comments!

Thanksgiving is right around the corner, which means that most of us are taking time to reflect on the positives in our lives. It’s great that there’s a holiday centered around this practice, but I think that gratitude and positivity shouldn’t be forgotten for the other 364 days of the year. As a former Negative Nancy, I’ve spent a lot of time over the years trying different techniques to improve my mindset, especially since sooooo much research shows that a positive attitude has benefits for mental, emotional, and physical health. One of the most effective things I’ve tried is my daily journal.

I’m old school and keep my journal in a notebook, but electronic tools also totally work. Sometimes I jot things down during the day as I have time and ideas, and sometimes writing in the journal is the last thing I do before bed. It doesn’t matter when you update, as long as it becomes a consistent part of your day.

It’s possible that you’re thinking, “Come on, Amanda, do you know how busy I am? There’s no way I have time for a journal.” Trust me, I get it-sometimes I’m so busy I have to set a reminder to stop and eat. The good news is that the basics of this journal method can be covered in just a few minutes a day (and has room for expansion if you have the time or inclination). All you really need to do is make a couple of lists. So today I’m sharing my personal “must haves” for a daily record, and a way to use the journal for later reflection and maximum benefit.

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A few minutes a day can make a world of difference.

 

1. Gratitude/Positive Experiences

There’s a ton of information out there about the benefits of gratitude journaling, and lots of ideas to help you get started. I really like this post from the Positive Psychology Program, which also contains a lot of ideas to help you get started. In a nutshell, this section of my journal helps me to reflect every day on the great things in my life, and makes sure that I don’t discount or forget about them. This is especially important on bad days, when I have to be careful not to let setbacks send me into a negativity spiral. Even on the worst days, there’s something positive, even if it’s as simple as hearing and falling in love with a new song on the radio.

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We should be thankful 365 days a year.

2. Worries/Concerns/Irritations

This might seem a little counterintuitive (After all, aren’t we trying to feel better?), but hear me out. One of the biggest problems with worry, stress, and anxiety is the way it tends to bounce around in our brains, influencing our mood, interactions, productivity, and sleep. Well, guess what? Writing down what’s bothering us helps to stop that cycle, and often helps us to think more clearly about our concerns. You can find some more information and suggestions from Shape Magazine here. I also add “irritations”, but only when there’s something that’s really bugging me. I find that writing those down helps me to gain perspective and consider whether they’re really worth messing up my day. However, if you find that writing down frustrations is magnifying instead of minimizing them, you might want to consider leaving them out.

3. Personal Successes

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Nothing is too small to celebrate.

This last section means I always end on a positive note. We all do something every day that should make us proud of ourselves. Maybe it’s a big thing (I got a promotion! I’ve finally saved enough for a new car!) or a small thing (I stuck to my diet. I provided a sympathetic ear. I helped a coworker complete a project.), but there’s always something. Don’t let those successes go by unnoticed and unrecorded. It’s really easy for us to focus on our failures, shortcomings, and problems, so it’s super important to reflect on what we’re doing right.

Speaking of reflection…

Once you’ve been journaling for a while, you should revisit your earlier entries. Each day, I flip back to my entries from a month ago and a year ago and think about where I was at the time. This practice is great for reminding you of the good things in your life, and helping you feel more positive about your current circumstances. One of the best things, for me, is discovering that most of my past negatives worked out fine, and that a lot of them I have totally forgotten by the time I look at them again. This helps me remember that whatever is going on today is also probably going to be ok.

For example, here are a few items from my journal one year ago today:

  • Gratitude/Positive Experiences: My niece gave me a collage she made at school
  • Worries/Concerns/Irritations: A particular coworker is behind on a deadline, again, and that’s stopping me from moving forward on a project
  • Personal Successes: I finally finished cleaning out the guest room closet

When I reread that entry this morning, I looked at my niece’s collage again, and remembered how great it felt when she gave me something she had worked hard to create. Even though I tried really hard, I honestly couldn’t remember the details of the issue with my coworker, and I know that whatever the project was, we completed it in the end. I’ve actually been having a similar issue recently, so the reminder that these kinds of things work out came at the perfect time. The guest room closet is still in pretty good shape, and I’m feeling proud of myself all over again.

In short, rereading my journal made me happy. Oh, and for today, I’ve already listed “started my blog” under “Personal Successes”.

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Do you journal or log events in your life? What techniques do you have for maintaining perspective and a positive attitude? Let me know in the comments!

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