So Grateful for the Words I Didn’t Speak

Benalmadena Butterfly Park

Some years ago I hosted a party at my house, and as I was in the kitchen refreshing an appetizer platter I happened to overhear one of the guests on a phone call in the next room. I was stunned to hear this woman speak unkindly about my family member, who I knew considered her one of her best and dearest friends.

I wondered whether to tell my family member what I’d overheard, but my spirit practically shouted at me, “NO! Let it be.” So I kept quiet.

One week later, the woman I’d overheard on the phone was killed in a tragic car accident. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thanked God that I never spoke of what I heard in the kitchen that day. I never marred that friendship or ruined the sweet memories my family member has of her friend. I am so deeply grateful for the grace that kept me quiet.

I used to get annoyed if someone interrupted me while I was talking, but I’ve come to see those breaks as opportunities to step back for a moment and consider what I’m saying. Sometimes the pause helps me recognize that I’m not speaking the kind of words I want to. When someone cuts me off, I can re-shape my thoughts—or maybe even drop the subject. I’ve often regretted words I blurted out in haste, but I rarely regret thinking before I talk.

I’ve learned the value of speaking less and listening more in my business, too. Often my clients will call for advice, and in the process of explaining and talking through an issue they figure out exactly what they need to do. Beautiful.

How about you? Have you ever been grateful, like me, for something you didn’t say?

May we all have opportunities in the days ahead to listen well, and share words that are good and right.

Hugs and happy Labor Day weekend!

The signature for Eliza Cross

Photo:  Benalmadena Butterfly Park

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of nine books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

The Amazing Bliss of 10 More Minutes

crowded parking lot

I had to report for jury duty last week. I find jury service interesting and don’t view it as a chore, but I did have to do some careful organizing on Wednesday because my son’s school had a late start and I had to check in at 8 a.m.

Since Denver’s morning rush hour is unpredictable, I built an extra ten minutes in my tightly-planned schedule to drive to the courthouse, park, and go through security. Traffic was pretty typical that morning, but because I had extra time I wasn’t annoyed by the heavy volume or stoplights.

I arrived early to the courthouse, and instead of frantically circling the crowded lot looking for a parking space I had time to find a nice, shady spot under a tree.

I had a few moments to sit in my car and send up a prayer for the people in the courthouse with their various concerns and heartbreaks and problems, and for the judges and lawyers and staff to perform their best, and for us jurors to listen well and do a good job of carrying out our responsibilities.

I had a nice walk from my outlying parking spot to the courthouse, and didn’t feel stressed when I saw the long security line because I still had extra time. I arrived a few minutes early to the jury room.

The rest of the day was filled with many hours of “hurry up and wait,” as I sat through jury selection for two trials. My number was never called, and I was eventually excused mid-afternoon.

Driving home, it occurred to me that the relaxed beginning to my morning had stayed with me throughout the day. Wednesday at the courthouse turned out to be a very pleasant day.

I realized that too often, I don’t build in much extra time in my schedule. I frequently find myself trying to squeeze in a few more tasks before I rush off somewhere. How might my days improve if I gave myself the gift of an extra ten minutes now and then?

How about you? Could you build in a little extra time to your comings and goings this week, and see how that affects you? Or do you already do a good job of building in breathing room to your daily schedule?

Have a good week—and may you enjoy the bliss of some unhurried moments,

The signature for Eliza Cross

Photo: Dean Hochman

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of nine books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

What is Your Most Important Thing Today?

Sunrise | photo by Bryce Bradford | Happy Simple Living blog

“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
– J.R.R. Tolkien

 

A new day dawns, ripe with possibilities.

Yet the sheer number of priorities and responsibilities most of us juggle each day can sometimes be overwhelming. When I do have unstructured time, I often don’t know where to best focus my energy. Should I write 500 words for my next book? Take a nap? Answer e-mails? Go for a bike ride? Sweep the garage? Call a friend? Create a masterpiece?

Too often, I arrive at the end of the day feeling like I’ve soldiered through the hours and tasks without accomplishing any of the things I really wanted to.

“Pay yourself first,” is a popular bit of financial advice, suggesting that we tuck some money in savings before we pay our bills. So here’s a challenge, my friends:  what if we paid ourselves first from the well of our precious time? Could we try to carve out some moments during this new day to pursue our truest priorities?

What is one thing you could do today, to support your dreams or goals?

Could you figure out a way to pay yourself first today?

If you do, I’d love to hear from you.

Hugs,

The signature for Eliza Cross

Photo:  Bryce Bradford

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of nine books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

20 Ways to Cultivate Charm

Arlene Francis

Arlene Francis, always charming

When I was ten, my mom signed me up for Charm School classes at the Boulder YWCA. Unlike the tennis lessons where I felt gangly and uncoordinated, I took to charm school with a passion. We learned about cultivating nice manners, good grooming, the art of conversation, and how to set a pretty table.

Cultivate Charm bookCharm School and Home Economics classes have gone the way of the rotary-dial telephone, but I was reminded of my early love for these ideas when I stumbled across the book That Certain Something: The Magic of Charm, written by actress and TV personality Arlene Francis in 1960. Arlene was a regular on the game show “What’s My Line?” where she was always impeccably dressed and revered for her witty, thoughtful questions and remarks.

Fifty-five years ago Arlene shared her list of 20 shortcuts to charm, which I think are still wonderful concepts for today. See what you think:

Arlene Francis’s 20 Shortcuts to Charm

Arlene Francis

1. Get up happy.
2. Get organized.
3. Make sure you are well groomed.
4. Face the day without fear.
5. Forget past recriminations.
6. Do one special thing for someone else as a surprise.
7. Be a Sunday specialist – in just one subject.
8. Break down your work into small bits.
9. Do one thing a day to make your home more pleasant.
10. Wipe out one prejudice a day.
11. Force yourself to do one thing you have been embarrassed to do in the past.
12. Read something worthwhile for at least fifteen minutes each day.
13. Think about someone you dislike and wish him well even if it kills you.
14. Practice looking at a person directly in the eye, and concentrate wholly on what he is saying.
15. Spend five minutes analyzing your guilt and fears and check them for reality.
16. Clean up one job that you’ve been putting off doing for a long time.
17. Have faith in a power beyond yourself.
18. Resolve to hold your temper completely for just one day only.
19. Practice laughing at your own mistakes.
20. Practice forgetting yourself completely.

How about you?

Did you ever attend Charm School? Is charm an outdated idea, or does it have a place in today’s society? What do you think of Arlene’s list?

Here’s to your day, and may it be filled with charm and other good things,

The signature for Eliza Cross

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of nine books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

How to Embrace Slow Living

Dear readers,

Today I’m excited to introduce you to one of my blogging friends from the U.K., Eleanor from Creative Countryside. She is a kindred spirit who writes wonderfully about the concept of slowing down, being present, practicing gratitude, and appreciating the rhythms and seasons of nature. Her posts are accompanied by lovely photos from around her home and the British countryside. Eleanor generously agreed to share some of her thoughts about slow living, which I know you will enjoy.

~ Eliza

How to Embrace Slow Living

Daisy at Happy Simple Living blog

You’ve probably heard of simple living, of conscious living and of mindful living, but what remains less well known is the concept of slow living. Shifting the focus from quantity and speed to quality of life remains at its core, and its effects have been transformative for me. Over at Creative Countryside I blog and teach others about this lifestyle, and today I’m so happy to be writing about slow living for Eliza here at Happy Simple Living.

Let’s get one thing straight before going any further. Slow living doesn’t literally mean doing everything at a slower speed. Don’t get me wrong, this might apply for some activities, but on the whole slow living is more concerned with prioritising your time in order to appreciate simple pleasures.

It’s a process of reconnection: with the world around you, with the seasons, but most of all with the things you love to do, that somehow get so easily lost in the chaos of modern life. Slow living embraces a simple lifestyle full of home-cooked meals, traditional celebrations and rituals and time spent wisely. There will never be enough hours in the day, but we can shape and mould the time we have according to our wishes and desires, and once we can do that, we’re able to live more slowly, mindfully and with care.

Daisy at Happy Simple Living blog

So how can you embrace slow living and all it entails? Well firstly I want to say upfront that my own experience with lifestyle change has taught me that nothing happens overnight. You’re not going to read this article and change everything by tomorrow evening, so patience (something I’m really not very good at!) is key. If (like me) you like to get started straight away here are some simple tips for embracing slow living that you can implement right now:

  1. Tonight, decide to cook a meal from scratch. Try to buy local and seasonal ingredients and take your time to enjoy the cooking process. Just before eating pause for a minute and be gracious for the simple pleasure of a delicious dinner.
  2. If you’re feeling a little disconnected with nature and the world around you, take a few moments to get grounded by standing outside barefoot. Scrunch your toes and feel the blades of grass tickling the underside of your feet. It doesn’t matter if it’s raining or cold – stand for however long feels natural and take a few deep breaths, embracing the weather that surrounds you.
  3. Bring nature into your home by picking a few stems from the garden, or to keep it simple bring in some greenery to display on your mantelpiece. For just a few minutes of activity you’ll have a week or so of pleasure.
  4. Pick out a seasonal celebration that’s on the horizon and make plans to celebrate. In the UK Lammas – signifying the first day of harvest – is on the horizon (1st August) so we’ll be making corn dollies and baking Lammas bread. Invite friends and family and plan to cook up a feast to celebrate.
  5. Tomorrow, set your alarm for 10 minutes earlier than usual, grab your camera or notebook and get outside. It doesn’t matter if you’re still in your pyjamas, bleary eyed and a little off balance – the whole point is to rebalance your awareness as the day begins. Depending on where you live you’ll be privy to the sunrise if you’re up early enough, and observing this primitive ritual is a stark reminder of a greater existence.

SONY DSC

While these tips can really make a difference right now, changing your lifestyle to live more slowly does – rather aptly – take time. Often we become so used to hurtling through our to-do lists at speed that we don’t realise that there could be any other way, and that life doesn’t have to be quite so chaotic. Changing that mind-set is a process that has to be worked through like any other, but I can guarantee you it’s worth it.

If you like the sound of slow living, I’ve got a free 7 day email course that would be perfect for you – it guides you through 7 simple steps to slow things down and includes free resources and templates to help you design a lifestyle you love – just click here to sign up and start embracing positive change.

Thank you Eliza for allowing me to share my passion with your readers!

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of nine books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

How I Ditched My Loyalty Rewards Cards and Created Wallet Space

Tips for reducing loyalty rewards cards | Happy Simple Living blog

You can’t blame retailers for loving loyalty rewards cards.

If we shoppers don’t agree to use the card, the store charges us higher prices–Ka-CHING! If we do sign up to use the card, we have to share our contact information, phone number and e-mail address–Ka-CHING! When we use the card, the retailer can track all of our purchases and buying habits–Ka-CHING! Meanwhile, we carry around a little plastic ad for the company in our wallets. What’s not to love?

We’re promised **BIG** rewards and special discounts for carrying and using these cards. I’m excited to receive my meaningful rewards, which should arrive any day now. Have you gotten yours? I like to imagine that you’re cashing in lots of valuable freebies, rebates, and luxury vacations.

Fat Wallets ‘R’ Us

Card-lovin’ retailers don’t seem all that bothered that it’s physically impossible for your average consumer to carry a thick stack of cards around. Neither do they care that we can never quickly access the correct card at checkout time.

Have you ever muttered while you’re digging through your bulging wallet something to the effect of, “I have so many of these cards, and I can never find the right one!”

Cashiers must hear this muttering all the time. This is my fantasy reply:

“I so feel your pain. You know what? You’re a valued customer, and I don’t need a plastic card to tell me so. We’ll give you the discounted price AND a $50 gift card for your trouble. Furthermore, I will pass your helpful feedback along to management and suggest that they come up with a better, less cumbersome program–like maybe just charging everyone fair prices and eliminating the cards. Did I mention that we’re giving shoppers a free SKOR candy bar today? It’s Loyalty Card Customer Appreciation Day.”

A Possible Solution?

Key Ring AppLast month I wrote about purse and wallet decluttering tips, so I decided to give the Key Ring app a try. Once you download the app, you hold your loyalty cards’ bar codes in front of the phone and it instantly copies the codes and logs your membership numbers. You can also photograph your cards as a back-up if you’re paranoid, which of course I am. It took me about twenty minutes to scan and photograph all of my cards, but I didn’t feel comfortable discarding them (paranoid) until I was sure the app would actually work.

At Walgreen’s last week, I proudly handed the cashier my phone with my Balance Rewards bar code showing. (I felt so high tech!) When he scanned my phone, it didn’t pick up the code so he entered the number manually which took another ten seconds or so. “This scanner has been acting up,” he said, handing my phone back. Because the app now holds all of the membership numbers, even if it doesn’t always scan I think it’s good enough and I’ve removed the bulky cards from my wallet.

UPDATE: I used the app successfully at another store last week; the cashier easily picked up the bar code from my phone.

How about you?

Do you participate in store loyalty rewards programs? Have you scored some fabulous rewards? Please, do tell.

Have you ever been forced to buy a second, auxiliary wallet to hold all of your loyalty rewards cards? Have you tried an app like Key Ring? I’d love to hear your experiences and ideas.

Meanwhile, here’s to free SKOR candy bars and slimmed-down wallets for all of us!

Hugs,

The signature for Eliza Cross

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of nine books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.