It takes work to foster connection with people, and that often means taking care of myself so I’m better enabled to relate to those around me. I often share the intentions of my heart for the people around me, including the wonderful community I’ve found online.

5 #ShopSmall Gift Ideas & A Giveaway

The American Express Shop Small® initiative is pretty rad and definitely worthy of your support. But, today I want to showcase a specific kind of small business.

I first heard the term “solopreneur” from my friend Lou Mongello, and instantly began using it when people ask me what I do for a living. Both my husband and I run businesses pretty much singlehandedly. It is both an exhilarating and exhausting way to provide for our family.

My fellow solopreners are doing some amazing work in our world today. They see the problems, big and small, that we all struggle with, and then work their tails off to bring us solutions.

Why not support these hardworking folks by doing some of your Christmas shopping with them? Give a gift certificate to your favorite local mom and pop restaurant. How about the album of your favorite indie musician, or a painting from a local artist?

Or, you could check a few people off your list with some of these awesome ideas. I pulled together five unique gift ideas from a few of my favorite small businesses and artists. (Don’t miss the giveaway at the end!)

#ShopSmall Gift Inspriation

1. Music from Springdale Quartet: We are a musical family. We spend much of our day singing and listening to music. I want my kids to have a very diverse and sophisticated musical palate, so we don’t limit them to traditional kids music. But I am also cautious about exposing them to more adult lyrics. Our entire family loves the music of Springdale Quartet. Their unique sound has roots in the jazz and blues traditions, but Chase, Ben, Greg and Jordan also mix in heavy organ, upbeat funk, and progressive rock. Pick up one of their albums for the music lovers on your list!

2. Foot soaks from Atma Prema Botanicals: Last spring I enjoyed my first foot soak at a tea house with a couple of girlfriends. It was wonderful! I’m so excited that the “Love My Toes” line of foot soaks from Atma Prema Botanicals makes it possible to get that luxurious treatment at home! All of the soaks are handmade by Elizabeth, an amazing solopreneur. Fill the stocking of someone you love with a foot soak! (Keep reading for a giveaway of five foot soaks!)

3. Handmade jewelry from Create Beauty Daily: I have been thinking lately about the power of wearing words. It is such a lovely way to remember a loved one, intention or affirmation. Pick out one of Cameron’s beautiful designs for someone on your list who could use a steady dose of encouragement.

4. Something beautiful from LoveFeast Shop: I love walking through local boutiques whose owners find the most amazing pieces. But with two young kids in tow, I don’t frequent many of those shops these days. Thankfully, Chris Ann & Kristin created an online source for beauty. These two ladies have an amazing eye, and I’m sure you’ll find something gorgeous and unique for someone special on your list in their shop.

5. Purpee the Purple Dragon Books: Each year several books find their way under our tree. This year, my kids will be getting the two Purpee the Purple Dragon books. I can’t wait to tell them that these books were written and published by a dad and his eight-year-old daughter. Plus, for every two books sold, Anthony and Brianna donate one book to a hospital somewhere in the world. So, order a few today!

Of course, this solopreneur happens to think a Stay At Home Yoga gift certificate makes an awesome present, too.

Ok, are you up for a fun (and relaxing) giveaway? I’m going to send one of you a set of FIVE of the “Love My Toes” foot soaks. To enter the giveaway, follow the directions in the Rafflecopter widget below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

NOTE: I was NOT paid or perked by any of these companies and these are NOT affiliate links. Additionally, I am personally sponsoring this giveaway as a way to say thanks to you for hanging out in this corner of the Internet.

You Are Known and Loved

Tsh02

This post is part of the Blue Bike Blog Tour, which I’m thrilled to be part of. To learn more and join us, head here.

I first awoke to my son’s screams at 2:30am. Even though it was his daddy he wanted, I couldn’t fall back asleep. My mind was racing with those good-for-nothing, middle-of-the-night thoughts. Just as I started to drift off again, my daughter awoke, yelling at me for something I had done in her dream. The house was quiet and sleep found me again just an hour before it was time to get up for the day.

The light from my cell phone hurt my eyes as I sleepily shut off the alarm and opened my email app. Within two minutes I discovered that both of my websites were down. A transfer by my host provider from one server to another didn’t go as smoothly as they had promised. On the verge of an emotional breakdown, I shut off my phone and got out of bed.

I stood at the bathroom sink and splashed some cold water on my face. The weary woman in the mirror mocked my feeble attempt at a restart. I thought about crawling back into bed, but one of my girlfriends was coming over with her daughter in an hour. So, I grabbed my favorite concealer and tried to bury the tired—more for myself than anyone else.

As I helped my wee ones pick out clothes and tame their manes, I thought of a million legitimate reasons to cancel on my friend. I knew she would understand and extend grace, but I wanted to see her. I wanted to sit in my living room with this kindred spirit and share in conversation. The fact that we would be often interrupted by three little ones didn’t even bother me. I was starving for connection, so I wasn’t going to complain about it coming in fits and starts over the course of a couple of hours.

My kids had to eat breakfast with a grouchy mama who was more focused on her frustration over the lack of easy in her life than on their sweet spirits. As I cleared the dishes my friend pulled into the driveway. The weight that had been pressing on my chest for hours seemed to lift before she even got out of the car.

Our visit was all at once ordinary and yet completely miraculous. We talked about life, in the way two friends who haven’t seen each other in six months do. Then, from the pit of my belly, where truth lives, it started to arise. By the time it reached my mouth, I shivered as I spoke it into the room. “You totally get me. In a way that is rare and extraordinary, you understand me. There is no need to explain myself to you.”

Just a short while later, I stood at the door with my kids, watching our friends drive away. I was still tired from a night of too little sleep. The internet fairies had not magically fixed my websites. But I was better able to deal with the challenges that faced me, because I was known and loved.

***

I can’t even remember the exact rabbit hole I followed to Tsh Oxenreider’s blog, The Art of Simple, several years ago, but I am forever grateful for that discovery. Her work has blessed and informed my life in ways too numerous to count. I knew I was in for a treat when I began her latest book, Notes from a Blue Bike, last week.

Friends, this book is a love letter to those of us craving simple. As we hop on Tsh’s blue bike and travel with her across the globe, something all at once ordinary and yet completely miraculous happens. With each story and insight, Tsh is whispering, “You are known. You are valuable. I get you!”

Yes, pursing a simple life requires us to swim against the cultural current. But, with Notes From a Blue Bike, Tsh infuses us with strength for the swim, for we are known and loved. Grab your copy here.

After you read it, come back and tell me in the comments below which of Tsh’s stories or quotes most made you feel known, understood and loved. Here are two of my favorites:

“So as a parent, it’s good for me to remember that entertainment is not a right. It’s a privilege—and often, depriving my children of this privilege is the best thing for them. But this is just as true for me; my brain needs ample time to stare off into space.” ~ Tsh Oxenreider, Notes From a Blue Bike

“There’s something magical about doing nothing, and we don’t do it often enough.” ~ Tsh Oxenreider, Notes From a Blue Bike

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a free review copy of this book from Thomas Nelson Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Pet Peeves

Pet Peeves | EveryBreathITake.com

I love the Wikipedia description of a pet peeve. “…a minor annoyance that an individual identifies as particularly annoying to them, to a greater degree than others may find it.” Wanna know one of my biggest pet peeves? People sharing their pet peeves on the Internet. Meta right?

Lately, I have read so many blog posts, Facebook status updates and Tweets where the author complains about some trending meme, lexicon or colloquialism. Most of the time, I see the point – people say and do some rather annoying things on the Internet. But, when you use your platform to complain it really irks me.

First of all, these rants rarely acknowledge the truth that this is something you find annoying “to a greater degree than others may find it.” Instead, you sound like the self-appointed arbitrator of what is and is not acceptable to say or do on the Internet. I know you’re not as arrogant as this makes you appear.

Additionally, it feels like bullying to me. It’s intimidation. If I read your rant and see something I’ve recently said or done, how exactly do you want me to feel? Stupid? Inferior? Less than?

Finally, it closes doors you may very well benefit from walking through. When I was in high school, I spent some time volunteering in an “Adopt a Grandparent” program at the nursing home where my mom worked. My adopted grandmother was a woman named Ethel. After our first meeting, I complained to my mom, “I absolutely can not stand the way Ethel smacks her lips when she talks.” My mom ignored the comment and asked what we talked about. I confessed that I didn’t hear most of what Ethel said, as I was so focused on her annoying habit. I think of my Mom’s reply all the time. “You get to choose what you focus on in life – choose wisely.”

When you broadcast your complaints about the minor, annoying things people do, you may alienate some pretty amazing people.

I really hope I’ve made my point gracefully. This is something minor, that bothers me. If you are tempted to feel belittled or scorned by my words, remember…with this post, I’m doing the very thing I’m complaining about.

Episode Three – Intentional Style

IntentionalChatter500

Do you know how to “dress for the day?” Do you use your clothing as a tool, instead of a shield? Until recently, I wasn’t very purposeful about my style choices. With some help and inspiration from two amazing women, I’ve discovered the joy of intentional style. Abby Barnhart and Nicole Otchy are my  guests for Episode Three of the Intentional Chatter Podcast.

Have a Listen:

On iTunes: Click here to listen to this episode on iTunes!

Right here: Click here to listen to this episode now!

Or download it here: Right click and save to download this episode!

Show Notes:

My Guests:

“dress for the day” with Abby Barnhart at dearabbyleigh.com. You can also connect with her on twitterFacebook and Instagram. (She is also the best wordsmither around!)

 

Nicole Otchy is a Boston based personal stylist on a mission to help you find your personal style, get you out of the dressing room, and on to a good life. She empowers her clients by giving them the tools they need flatter their shape, dress with freedom in their daily life, and shop with confidence for years to come. There’s a good life waiting in the bottom of your closet. She’d love to help you find it! Connect with Nicole through her blogFacebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Pictures, Links & Resources:

Abby's original "dress for the day" picture

Abby’s original “dress for the day” picture

My daughter's pattern mixing in our pregnancy announcement picture

My daughter’s pattern mixing in our pregnancy announcement picture

This is the picture I sent Nicole while I was stuck in bed with a back injury. Couldn't move, but loved what I was wearing. (My son wanted to show her what he was wearing, too!)

This is the picture I sent Nicole while I was stuck in bed with a back injury. Couldn’t move, but loved what I was wearing. (My son wanted to show her what he was wearing, too!)

AE's floral print mixing on display

AE’s floral print mixing on display

Abby’s favorite style blogs:
Nicole’s favorite style blogs:

 

If you enjoyed listening, would you consider sharing this with your friends via the Facebook and twitter links below? I would also greatly appreciate your review on iTunes

I would love to hear your input! Share your thoughts on Parenting and Yoga in the comments below or send me a tweet using the hashtag #IntentionalChatter.

Episode One – Intentional Friendship

IntentionalChatter500

It’s no secret that building and maintaining friendships can be challenging as adults. Where do you meet people? Can you be friends with people in different life stages? Is it possible for parents to be close friends with people without kids? How do you make yourself vulnerable? How do busy people make time for their friends?

With the help of some amazing friends, I’m learning that it takes intention to cultivate deep, meaningful relationships. I am beyond grateful that four of my girlfriends were willing to share their hearts on “Intentional Friendship” for Episode One of the Intentional Chatter Podcast!

Allow me to introduce you to “The Sophisticrafts…”

Listen to this episode here!

or

Download this episode here!

Show Notes

Want the back-story on the studio that the ladies keep referring to? You can read about it here.

Here is the infamous “bathroom sticker project.” That final hanging “s” is clearly the work of master crafters.

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And, in keeping with the bathroom theme, here are some of the pictures Liz has shared with us from her international travels.

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If you enjoyed listening, would you consider sharing this with your friends via the Facebook and twitter links below?

I would love to hear your input! Share your thoughts on Intentional Friendship in the comments below or send me a tweet using the hashtag #IntentionalChatter.

Intentional Chatter Podcast

IntentionalChatter500

 

What does it take to live an Intentional Life?

I’m on a mission to find out. That is the focus of this little corner of the internet. I’ve decided to ask the people who inspire me most how they live lives of Intention and Purpose, and I’m sharing the findings with you via my new podcast – Intentional Chatter.

Each episode, I will invite you to meet one of my Intentional Heroes – friends from the blogosphere and beyond – as we unpack the stories and the secrets of an Intentional Life. From parenting to practicing yoga and everything in between, there’s a lot to be said for living life with purpose.

Tomorrow evening, several of my girlfriends and I are recording the first episode! We will be talking about intentional friendship. It isn’t easy to develop and maintain close friendships as adults, but I’m so blessed to call these ladies my dear friends.

Do you have questions about intentional friendship you would like us to discuss? Comment below or tweet them to me with the hashtag #IntentionalChatter.

Episode 1 releases next week! I can’t wait to share it with you!

My Pursuit of Softness

Where there is hard

I categorize posts here in my little corner of the Internet as one of four possible intention types: yoga, parenting, relationship or faith. This post really belongs in each category. I’m pursuing this truth on my mat, as a parent, with my Lord and in all of my relationships.

It seems a little late to be picking my one word for the year. But here we are, over seven weeks in, and I can’t escape this one word. Everywhere I turn, I see a need for more of it. So, let it be known, 2013 is going to be the year of softness for Jen Hoffman.

On my yoga mat, Savasana, or relaxation, is the ultimate practice of softness. To aid in my ability to surrender and release, I use props. I turn off the lights. I make sure the room is comfortably warm and cozy. I play relaxing music. I create an environment perfectly suited to rest.

I’m a fierce advocate for this daily ritual of complete and total softness. The idyllic conditions of formal relaxation teach me how to soften. When I abide in rest that I remain awake to observe, I can’t help but discover softness. I forge neurological pathways. I gain a physical, mental and emotional understanding of softness that is lost in our modern, multitasking world.

But, there is another kind of softness I believe we all need to be equally adept at practicing – a softness that abides in the presence of hardness. A softness that can be found in the midst of chaos.

I’ve said it in this space many times before – the harder something is, the more it requires my softness. This truth has been informing my practice of asana for years. When I discover physical tension in a yoga pose, I actively soften my breath, I relax my muscles, I welcome ease. On my mat, when something is hard, I call upon my ability to soften. But, I’m increasingly aware that softness is an appropriate response to much of the hardness I encounter off the mat as well.

I thought a great deal about this during my pregnancy with LM. As I envisioned my labor and delivery, I expected the hard around and within me. But, I was also confident in my own ability to soften in the midst of that hard.

When his birth day came, every hard thing I encountered – from a pushy OB to the very real work of contractions – was a reminder for me to soften. And soften I did. I was laser focused on it. My softening transformed the hard.

But, so often, my natural response to hardness is hardness. If my three-and-half-year-old says or does a “hard” thing, I have to work diligently to override the programming in my brain that says, “Yell back!” When I have a miscommunication with my beloved, everything in me hardens. When I’m faced with the brokenness of this world, it is so easy to question the Love of my Father.

Maybe it’s a defense mechanism I picked up along life’s way. I don’t know, but it isn’t serving me well. I want to be the softness that works to transform the hard of this world.

2013…The year I develop my softness reflex. Where there is hard, let me be soft.

‘Twas the 12th Day of Christmas

2001

I have this thing for tradition. I own no less than five books on ideas for creating family rituals. From our holidays and vacations to our everyday routines, my husband and I have built some pretty amazing family traditions.

2002

Each Christmas season, we go to the Candlelight Tour at Mount Vernon.

2003

We all make a wish as we toss a penny into the fountain before we leave the hotel at the end of our vacations.

2004

We pray for Dilu, the sweet child we sponsor through World Vision, as a family, at every meal.

2005

My longing for tradition isn’t born of purely of nostalgia, though admittedly there is some in the mix. No, I love ritual because of the continuity it provides with the heart of our family – Love. Our traditions are an anchor. The winds of change may blow all around us, but one thing doesn’t change. We are a family of deep love.

2006

……….

2007

On Christmas Day, 11 years ago, Derek and I decided to chuck our plans for a big fall wedding the following year, and use the 12 days of Christmas to plan a wedding. (I wasn’t pregnant, as everyone suspected, though we did have big plans.)

2008

As much as I love tradition, I wasn’t attached to many of the typical bride’s ideas of the perfect wedding day. I didn’t have any attendants; my best friends were not even there. I didn’t walk down an isle. We never cut a wedding cake or had a first dance. There was no photographer.

2009

In front of an amazing stone fireplace, next to a Christmas tree, we entered into a covenant. In the presence of our immediate family and God, we promised a forever love, only possible because of the birth of the baby we celebrate at Christmas. It was the perfect wedding, for us.

2010

On our honeymoon, we purchased a customized “Just Married” ornament. As I was watching the artist write our names, I had a vision of a Christmas tree filled with anniversary ornaments. And so it was born, one of our first family traditions.

2011

May several generations of our family sit, Christmas morning, under a tree filled with reminders of our great love.

2012

Happy Anniversary, Derek. I love you always.

2013

What are your favorite family traditions? I would love to hear!

Joy is Rising & A Giveaway

I have a passion for validating feelings. When my 4 month old is crying in his car seat, I swallow the “It’s okay” statements and instead say, “Oh buddy, you’re so frustrated.” When my girlfriend tells me that her newborn has been crying for hours, I stand with her in the hard for a moment, “I’m so very sorry. It’s so painful to hear your wee one hurting.” Then I ask, “Is there anything I can do?”

I want to deal with my own sadness, my own pain, in such a way that enables me to be in the presence of someone else’s without needing to push it away. And, I’m discovering the most profound thing, to do this, to appropriately deal with my own pain, I have to find my own joy.

When I try to artificially push away pain with comments like, “It will be okay,” or, “God has a plan,” it is often because I’m not secure in my own joy. My joy is so fragile, it can’t withstand the storms of brokenness that surround me.

If I want be a salve for the pain that abounds in our world, I must find my own joy. Not an artificial, everything is wonderful, kind of joy. But a joy that stands in the rubble. A joy with calloused hands and achy feet. 

I know I can’t just choose joy. My quest for unshakable joy must begin by tending the ground from which my feelings arise. So, today I’m kicking off a new series and a give away dedicated to joy-producing thoughts.

“Joy is Rising” will be a series of stories, some my own, some from my joy heroes, about our thoughts that cultivate a joy that endures through pain.

I would also love to hear how you cultivate joy! I’m going to give away FOUR $25 Amazon gift cards. You can participate in four different ways. Before the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve do one or more of the following:

1. If you are a blogger, write a post sharing how you tend the ground from which joy arises? What thoughts do you meditate on to cultivate enduring joy? Be sure to link up below. Here is a button you can use in your post.

2. Comment below with your favorite joy-producing thoughts.

3. Share simple thoughts or quotes that produce joy for you on twitter using the hashtag #joyisrising.

4. Share your joy-producing photos on Instagram using the hashtag #joyisrising.

I will randomly select one participant from each of the above FOUR participation streams to win a $25 Amazon gift card.

Here’s the fine print:

  • -Must be 18 years of age or older and a US resident to win.
  • -Giveaway closes at 11:59pm EST on 12/31/12.
  • -Winners will be chosen using random.org.
  • -Winners must reply to winning notification with contact information within 72 hours or a new winner will be selected.
  • - One prize limit. If a participant is selected through more than one entry stream, a new winner will be selected.
  • - I am sponsoring this giveaway myself to thank you for sharing your joy!

Let’s do it! Help me close out 2012 with remarkable, unshakable joy!


The Day After an Election

Yesterday, my husband and I took our two children to the polls with us. My daughter is three and my son three months, but I wanted to lay the groundwork for future lessons in civic responsibility. I’m building an album of photos of them, proudly adorned with “I voted” stickers, from every local and national election during their lives.

It is important for them to see me vote. But, I want them to know something else about elections. I will teach them that voting is about reflecting on the past and hoping for the future. Like choosing a college, a job, a spouse, when we make big decisions, much of our awareness is pulled away from the present moment. That is necessary.

But, when we aren’t living in the present, we can do a great deal of harm, too. We might gloat about our candidate’s win or disaster-theorize about our candidate’s loss. If all of our awareness is given to the future, fear and anxiety abound.

I want my children to know that yesterday it was our responsibility to reflect on the past, hope for the future and cast our ballots. Today, though, we need to practice radical presence and radical love. Today, we get back to changing the world with a million tiny decisions.

I’ll show them this by talking to my husband about his day. Playing hide and seek with my daughter. Nursing and snuggling with my baby boy. Putting together some meals for a friend who just had a baby. Smiling at a stranger at the grocery store. Writing a letter to our sponsored child in Sri Lanka.

Today, I’m giving myself fully to the present. I’m teaching my children about the day in, day out decisions that change our world.