DIY - Birch Tree Advent Calendar of Self Care

The emphasis of the Advent Calendar of Self-Care is to de-stress and create mindful moments during this holiday season. If a DIY project serves that goal for you then dive in, if not, smile, thank yourself for knowing what you need and check out a different post.

Here is the Birch Tree Calendar that I made for our home, it was a fun endeavor and pretty straightforward to make. Some of the materials can be switched out for whatever you have available. Let your creativity lead the way. Here's what I did...

Materials Needed: 

- 3 birch limbs (can be bought at nursery/landscape store (Earl May in Des Moines, IA)
- Container
- Sand (to hold limbs secure)
- Greenery for base (nursery/landscape/craft store)
- 25 small take out boxes (purchased at craft store Michaels)
- Fabric/burlap tags (purchased at craft store Michaels)
- Ribbon
- Bulletin board tacks (purchased at craft/office store)
- Dark chocolate (as desired)
- Written content for Advent Calendar of Self-Care cut up by day

Decide location of advent calendar (will be difficult to move once sand is in place)

Place birch limbs in container

Fill container with sand

Place greenery around base

Write numbers (1-25) on the tags 

Fill each box with the corresponding day's written content and attach the corresponding tag

Oh….and add dark chocolate as needed :)

Hang boxes on limbs with tacks

Open one box a day, sit back, de-stress and take care of yourself


Advent Calendar of Self-Care

Advent Calendar of Self-Care 

Gentle Reminders to Be Still~Rest~Cherish the Moment

As we approach the holidays, join us in slowing down, taking a few minutes per day, and de-stressing by taking care of your heart in a new way this holiday season. We will be posting a Mindfulness Moment each day in December leading up to the 25th to help you be still~rest~cherish the moment.

The idea of the Advent Calendar of Self Care is to prepare your heart by taking one minute on Dec. 1st, two minutes on Dec. 2nd, three minutes on Dec. 3rd, etc. to embrace the practice of self care throughout the month. Below you will find some suggestions of how to spend some mindful minutes each day which you can adapt to make this calendar your own. I often set a timer so I can enjoy the minutes vs. thinking about the time.

One fabulous way to use this calendar is to “do" none of these suggestions and just pause for the number of designated minutes per day and focus on your breath—being still and focusing on our breath is self care deluxe. One note to remember: if you forget or miss a day, compassionately forgive yourself and start fresh with the next day, this exercise is for de-stressing & self-care not for adding stress, obligation or judgment. For an added bonus that I have found extra enjoyable, add one piece of dark chocolate for each day!

Download the PDF or follow along here on the blog. If you're interested in creating your own tangible version of this Advent Calendar of Self-Care, check out our DIY HERE

December 1 : One Minute – Enjoy the taste of a Peppermint Candy

December 2 : Two Minutes – Touch something from the holidays and pay attention to how it feels – a velvet stocking, a shiny jingle bell, a pine cone 

December 3 : Three Minutes – Listen to a Favorite Holiday Song

December 4 : Four Minutes –  Admire someone’s holiday decorations

December 5 : Five Minutes – Savor the taste of a holiday snack

December 6 :  Six Minutes – Sit for six  minutes

December 7 : Seven Minutes – Think about favorite holiday memories 

December 8 : Eight Minutes – Hum or whistle a few holiday tunes

December 9 : Nine Minutes – Cherish a few moments from the week

December 10 : Ten Minutes – Sip and savor a holiday-flavored tea

December 11 : Eleven Minutes – Light a candle and observe the flame – reflect on a sorrow or hurt of the holidays – give time and attention to that space of hurt in your heart

December 12 : Twelve Minutes – Send an email to a friend requesting a time to connect after the holidays

December 13 : Thirteen Minutes – Recall favorite holiday memories

December 14 : Fourteen Minutes – Listen to the music of The Nutcracker or favorite holiday production/movie

December 15 : Fifteen Minutes – Read a Favorite Holiday Children’s Story

December 16 : Sixteen Minutes – Reflect on the spiritual heart of the holidays for you

December 17 : Seventeen Minutes – Dream of a big wish for holidays to come

December 18 : Eighteen Minutes – Make a cup of hot chocolate and pay attention to the flavor and warmth as you sip– add marshmallows if desired

December 19 : Nineteen Minutes – Prop you feet up and thank your feet for nineteen “steps” they have taken today that were meaningful – say thank you to your body 

December 20 : Twenty Minutes – Enjoy a Bubble Bath or Extra Long Shower

December 21 : Twenty One Minutes – Put your hand on your heart and think of experiences you are grateful for that happen during the holidays

December 22 : Twenty Two Minutes – Reflect on traditions you have enjoyed or currently enjoy

December 23 : Twenty Three Minutes – Draw a simple Christmas Tree or Holiday scene and decorate by doodling with various markers/colors

December 24 : Twenty Four Minutes – Build a fire and pay attention to the warmth

December 25 : Twenty Five Minutes – Take a Walk with family or friends or alone to appreciate and Celebrate the moment of the Beauty of Nature

Download a free PDF of this Advent Calendar of Self-Care HERE


Packing the Bags for Peru: Leaving Fear Behind, Taking Courage Along

Roger, my husband, and I have already begun packing our bags. I leave on the 15th for San Antonio, Texas for for a “Come Meet the Author/Book Signing” event for my new book, Stop Breathe Believeand to co-facilitate at The Daring Way™ National Training from Tuesday through Sunday. So…the packing MUST begin now! I will then catch up with Roger and the rest of the Above + Beyond Cancer team in Atlanta, GA on Sunday…and then we are off to Peru for 10 days!

On September 21, 2014 a team of cancer survivors and caregivers led by Above + Beyond Cancer will embark on a transformational journey to Machu Picchu, Peru.  The team plans to visit a local medical center to learn about cancer treatment in Peru, and we’ll be hiking to the top of Machu Picchu Mountain to hang prayer flags in honor and remembrance of those in our lives who’ve been affected by cancer.  Each person on the trip is unique and special, and each comes with his or her own motivations, dreams, and hopes. Each one of our roles on the trip will be determined as we go…step by step…every step.

We have been coached well on what to pack from a practical perspective: clothes, hiking shoes, money, passports, Band-Aids. But as I packed my suitcases, I began thinking of it from another perspective as well.

My conversations with Roger at the dinner table recently have centered on the ways we want to be intentional when we are in Peru—in other words, focused and purposeful in our way of being. As always, we have many choices on how we want to live life, and Roger and I love going at life “full throttle”! This is what has motivated us to climb mountains, travel many miles to spend time with family, write a book together and try new adventures. And while we’re eager for the experience of Machu Picchu, our discussions for the trip have been about how to be intentional about being “present.”

Our desire is to be present with others on the trip—with each conversation, with each beautiful scene, with each picture taken, with each meal shared, with each campfire gathering, with each struggle shared. I love the quote “A sorrow shared is a sorrow cut in half and a joy shared is a joy doubled.” My guess is that we will share both some sorrows and some joys as we travel together! Roger and I have set our intention to be fully present with all of it, the highs and the lows.

So, here’s what’s going in the bag—and what is getting left out.

I want to leave behind some fears. Fear of not keeping up on the hike; fear of not knowing something about international travel that more seasoned team members will know; fear of missing our normal connecting times with our family members; fear of not having enough stamina; fear of becoming ill while on the trail; and the fear of not having the solitude I need to write, pray, think, and contemplate.

The reality is that every one of us on this journey will have some fears. That’s okay—it’s perfectly human. And we will have new fears on the way. That too is okay.  But we can also leave some of our fears back home. And we can refuse to let any of these fears dissuade us from going on this amazing journey! That’s true for Machu Picchu, and it’s true for all of life.

So here’s what I plan to pack: courage. I want to take the courage to believe that each team member is prepared physically (thanks to Mary, the Peru team trainer), mentally, and spiritually for an Above + Beyond journey; courage to be me and exemplify my life desires of living love as a verb, walking difficult journeys with the brokenhearted, listening deeply to others, and having FUN; courage to take the next step, even if it feels like there is nothing left; courage to capture as much as possible through the lens of the camera and to capture moments of significance to share with others; courage to be open to the unexpected; courage to learn new lessons, and courage to explore what God will show me as I trust Him on this journey of life and more specifically, this journey to Peru. I especially want the courage to carry prayer flags all the way to the top for Dillon, my cousin’s son, who died of brain cancer at age six, and Rhonda, Roger’s sister, who is a breast cancer survivor.

In her amazing book, Daring Greatly, Dr. Brené Brown writes, “Vulnerability is not weakness, and the uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure we face every day are not optional. Our only choice is a question of engagement. Our willingness to own and engage with our vulnerability determines the depth of our courage and the clarity of our purpose; the level to which we protect ourselves from being vulnerable is a measure of our fear and disconnection.” Thanks, Brené! I owe to you the idea of holding courage in one hand and fear in the other.

And THAT is how we do life and THAT is how we will undertake this journey to Peru…one brave step at a time!

So zip up the suitcase, buckle up the backpack, lace up the hiking boots – here we go!

Photos from the Omaha Meet the Author Gathering

We had a blast at Soul Desires Bookstore on Aug 9 ( I did a reading of Stop Breathe Believe, signed books and felt incredibly supported.

A HUGE thank you to Michelle Smith and Susan Davies for their great hospitality! And to Roger Jones for snapping photos!

Roger and I finished off the day of hiking at one of our favorite hiking spots in Loess Hills - loving the handicapped accessible trail! I loved the trail - because of the idea of it - but also, since I forgot my socks for my hiking boots - I was hiking in flip flops!

Photos from the Beaverdale Books Book Signing

Photos from the Beaverdale Books Book Signing

We had a blast at Beaverdale Books on July 11. I did a reading of Stop Breathe Believe, signed books and felt incredibly supported.

Big thanks to Alice Meyer of Beaverdale Books for hosting! Thank you, Nawal Ghali, for taking photos!

And, of course, to the many people who made this book possible, especially Catherine Knepper, Monica Ghali & Roger Jones — THANK YOU!

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Hiking from the Heart

Hiking from the Heart

Our interest in Above + Beyond Cancer began about a year ago when we heard Ruth Bachman*, a cancer survivor, speak about her hike to the Mt. Everest base camp with Above + Beyond.  The event was sponsored by Drake University’s The Comparison Project*.  We were intrigued and challenged by Ruth’s story of the trip—the spiritual, physical, and mental aspects of such an incredible journey.  

As Roger and I drove home that night we discussed how much we’d like to go to the base camp of Mt. Everest as Ruth had.  Fun how big dreams get birthed, isn’t it?  We have always loved the outdoors and find hiking to be a fun and invigorating way to promote our health goals.   So, blending our passion for doing things together as a couple with loving and helping others seemed like a great combination!

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