5 Ways to Simplify and Enjoy a More Peaceful Holiday Season

Beautiful deer in snowy field | Happy Simple Living

Preparing for a Guest Inspires the Best Christmas Ever

Some years ago, my friend’s mother in Norway decided to come for a Christmas visit. She would arrive for a long stay on December 1, so my friend worked hard to get the major holiday tasks done ahead of time. Her November was quite busy and she felt a little stressed, but then she had a nice surprise.

When her sweet Mama arrived, all of the holiday “chores” were done. Because my friend had done everything early, she was able to relax and enjoy the holiday season — for the first time in her adult life. They did fun things like sledding and decorating cookies and watching movies, and mostly, they simply enjoyed time together — sweet, un-busy time.

How About You?

Perhaps you’ve already figured out how to enjoy a low-key, peaceful holiday season. For others, the holidays can be a stressful season of excess spending, over-scheduling, not enough sleeep, and impossible expectations.

My friends, let’s quietly and purposefully reverse that trend. If you’re reading this blog, you’ve probably already taken some steps to simplify your holidays.

December first is four weeks from today. What if eliminate the holiday stuff that no longer brings us joy, and aim to have the extra things done by month’s end? What if we cut back, simplify, and tackle the important tasks early, so we actually have time to relax and enjoy the season?

Holiday Christmas lights - photo by Michael Gill.

Here are 5 ideas that might help you create a more relaxing holiday:

1. Write a list or a few sentences about the experiences that would make this Christmas season feel really special to you. What would put the joy and meaning back into your celebration? You may want to read “Your Best Holidays Ever” for some ideas.

2. Make a budget for gifts and festivities. Keep it realistic, and commit not to take on even one dollar of credit card debt this season.

3. Make a gift list. Whittle it down. Talk to your friends and family, and challenge any tradition that involves mindlessly exchanging gifts. Chances are, everyone will be in favor of having more fun and spending less on stuff.

4. Simplify. One of this blog’s most-read posts is the story about the McDonald family, who decided to drastically simplify their holidays—with very satisfying results. Check out “One Real Family’s Real Simple Christmas,” and you might be inspired to do the same.

5. Think about you. What would you like for Christmas this year? A new novel? Cozy slippers? Chocolate-covered caramels? Let’s all commit to finagling a little something special for ourselves this season, even if we have to do the buying or making.



What’s On Your Wish List?

These are the things I hope to do this Christmas season:

*Simplify and have time to relax.

*Make memories with my loved ones.

*Find ways to be generous.

*Have quiet time to meditate, read and pray.

*Seek to experience the true spirit of Christmas.

*Spend less, and end the year with NOT ONE PENNY of new debt.

*Find less wasteful, eco-friendly alternatives whenever possible.

*Eat well and get plenty of rest.

*Experience peace, comfort and joy.

*Have fun!

I’d love to hear your thoughts about how you celebrate the holidays in a meaningful way.

Ho, ho, ho and a hug,

The signature for Eliza Cross


P.S. Grateful thanks to Nina Matthews Photography for the wonderful Hope photo, and to Michael Gill for the crazy Christmas light photo.

About Eliza Cross

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

Pumpkin Maple Donut Holes Recipe

Pumpkin maple donut holes | Happy Simple Living blog

It’s cool and rainy this morning in Colorado, and I’m dreaming of these cinnamon sugar-y pumpkin maple donut holes I made a few weeks ago. The recipe is from my new cookbook, Pumpkin It Up!, and you can win your very own signed copy this week. Just visit this post for the details. The giveaway ends at midnight MST this Friday, October 14, so don’t delay.

I used a cake pop pan to make these donut holes, but if you don’t have a special pan you can make them in a mini muffin pan and they’ll puff up and turn out great.


pumpkin patch

You can use canned pumpkin to make these sweet treats, or you can make your own easy homemade pumpkin puree. Many of the pumpkin patches and stands have good baking pumpkins now. Some of my favorites are Little Giant, Cinnamon Girl, Baby Pam, Amish Pie and Winter Luxury.

To me, pumpkin maple donut holes taste like autumn and spice and comfort and home cooking and love. Let’s make some; shall we?


pumpkin donut holes

Pumpkin Maple Donut Holes

  • 1 cup sugar, divided
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup canned or cooked pumpkin puree
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted

Preheat oven to 325 degrees and grease two 12-cup donut hole or mini muffin pans.

Combine 1/2 cup sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl and reserve. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, remaining 1/2 cup sugar, brown sugar, baking powder, pumpkin pie spice, and salt until blended. Add the pumpkin, maple syrup, eggs, oil, and vanilla and stir until just combined; do not overmix.

Spoon 1 rounded tablespoon of batter in each opening of prepared pans. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until donut holes spring back lightly when touched. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes and transfer to a wire rack. Brush the donut holes with melted butter and dredge in the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Place on the wire rack to dry for 5 minutes. Makes 24 donut holes.


The signature for Eliza Cross

P.S. You might also enjoy this recipe for Pumpkin Caramel Cinnamon Rolls.

About Eliza Cross

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

Why Was I Speeding Up a Mountain Road?

Behind a truck on the road to Estes Park

On a recent Friday afternoon, we headed to Estes Park, Colorado to spend the weekend with dear friends who live in the pretty mountain town. Instead of taking the I-25 highway, I chose the more scenic route through my home town of Boulder.

Traffic wasn’t too bad, and my son and I chatted as we drove through Denver, Broomfield, over the big hill into Boulder, and north through Lyons. As we headed up US-36—the final stretch that would take us to Estes Park—I groaned. A large truck was on the road ahead, with a long line of cars behind it.

The single-lane road has occasional passing lanes for just this kind of scenario, and with each stretch of the double lane a few cars would speed up and manage to get around the truck. When it was finally my turn, the road was especially steep and windy. My right foot was pedal to the metal as I sped up and tried to pass the truck. A black SUV was right on my bumper, and my knuckles were clenched tightly around the steering wheel. A sign indicated that the passing lane was ending, and I still wasn’t around the blasted truck.

Suddenly I became conscious of how tense I was.

What was I doing? Why did I so desperately need to get around the truck? We weren’t in a hurry, and we didn’t have a specific time we needed to arrive. If anything, I longed for a relaxed drive up the canyon. I didn’t want to race up the winding hill, so why was I doing exactly that?

I eased back and let the SUV driver blast by me, kicking up a trail of gravel as he narrowly cut in front of the truck.

Estes Park

I took a deep breath and settled back a good distance from the truck. I followed it at a nice, mellow pace all the way into Estes Park. The sky was so blue, and the mountains were glorious. I did my best to ignore the cars that tailed me during the single lane stretches, and enjoyed the drive.

Later, I thought about my tendency to hurry, hurry, hurry. How often, I wondered, do I focus needlessly on getting somewhere fast — at the expense of my peace (and sometimes, my safety)?

Honestly, I think it’s mostly just a bad habit.


I want to break the habit of needlessly hurrying.

I want to develop the habit of being present and taking my time.

I want to enjoy the journey, don’t you?

Hugs, happy weekend, and here’s to a more leisurely pace,

The signature for Eliza Cross

P.S. You might enjoy this related post, “The Amazing Bliss of 10 More Minutes.”


About Eliza Cross

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

Happy Simple Money: An Interview with Steve and Jan Berger

Jan and Steve Berger

I’ve known Steve and Jan Berger for 11 years. I first met Steve, a writer, when I joined the Colorado Author’s League and he was the organization’s president. Over the years we’ve gotten to be friends, and last fall when we were at a gift show selling books together we started talking about finances. Steve and Jan told me they were retiring and enjoying life, and since they’re youngsters and both in the creative arts I wondered how they’d done it.

The Bergers have a shared philosophy about spending and an unusual way of saving money that has worked splendidly for them. I thought their story was fascinating and inspiring, and they generously agreed to let me share it with you.

First, a little background: Steve and Jan have been married for 39 years. Jan is a successful graphic artist, and Steve is a writer and author. His novels include acclaimed titles like Ursula’s Yahrtzeit Candle, The Fifth Estate and his newest mystery, Fat Chance. Jan designed the books’ striking covers.

The couple lives in a beautiful home in a Colorado community located between two state parks. They own an income-producing rental property, they live debt free, and are now comfortably retired. They are on the waiting list for the new Tesla 3, and are taking a cruise from Greece to Venice this fall.

In short, they live a good life.

Keep reading to find out some of the ways they’re worked together to build a solid financial foundation.

Jan and Steve Berger | Happy Simple Living blog

Q: As a couple, you seem to agree philosophically about how to best manage your finances. Since this is an area that many couples struggle with, can you share any insights?

A: We both believe in open communication about money. It’s like building a house; you have to be on the same page, or you’ll tear each other apart. It’s helpful to have shared goals and agree on a financial strategy, and trust is key.

Both of our parents came out of the Depression, and they influenced us to be thoughtful about spending and always save a percentage of our money for a rainy day. Being rich was never our goal, but we wanted to have enough.

Q: Can you describe your unusual system for saving money?

A: It’s simple, really.  We round up expenses to the nearest dollar, and we round down deposits. So if we spend $39.12 at the grocery store, we enter $40 in the check register. If we deposit $157.89, we add in $157.

We also put every “found cent” into the slush fund: birthday checks, tax refunds and refund checks all go into the kitty.

You’d be surprised how small increments of money, saved steadily over time, can grow.

(Here’s one of their actual checkbook registers, so you can see their actual process which includes credit card purchases as well as checks. When the statement arrives, the funds have already been set aside to make the payment:)

Checkbook register | Happy Simple Living blog

Q: If your checkbook register shows a different balance from what’s actually in the bank, how do you keep from getting confused?

A: Steve uses Quicken to track every penny, and reconciles the balances on a regular basis. We move the slush fund to an interest-bearing account periodically.

Q: Do you use credit cards?

A: Yes, but not in the typical way. We use no-fee, cash-back credit cards for every expense we can charge. Our current favorites are issued by American Express and FirstBank Visa. We pay the balance off every month and never accrue interest. We’ve found that a cash-back card is a better deal for us than cards that offer airline miles.

Q: What are some of your money-saving strategies?

A: We try to control recurring expenses. For instance, we installed solar panels when we could afford them so we won’t be at the mercy of the utility company that will continue to raise rates for the rest of our lives.

We’re also on the list for the Tesla 3, an all-electric car with a 200+ mile range priced in the mid- to upper-$30,000s. Available in late 2017, we will be able to charge the batteries off our household solar panels. We believe it is a given that oil prices will go up again. So we will be saving money, controlling expenses and, not insignificantly, helping the environment and contributing to the mitigation of climate change.

Again, as we could afford it, we’ve replaced almost every light in the house with LEDs, which has reduced electrical usage, leaving more generating power from the solar panels for our use and to go back into the grid until we get our Tesla; then we’ll use it to power its batteries.

We belong to Costco and purchase things like stationary and checks there. We also bought our refrigerator at Costco, after researching models and determining that they offered the best value.

We both like to cook, so we prepare most of our meals at home. We’re also fortunate that we’re in good health. We think part of this is due to reduced stress from not having to worry about money, which means not having to spend as much on healthcare, which means less stress.

Q: Do you ever use coupons?

A. Yes, but only on things we’d buy anyway. Using the same criteria, we also take advantage of sales.

Q: What is your philosophy about spending?

A:  We invest in quality and value. We use Consumer Reports to research every major purchase. We always save our receipts in case there’s a problem with something we buy.

We don’t go shopping to buy things and improve our moods. Doing this is hollow. It might bring very temporary enjoyment, but it doesn’t last. To get that feeling again, people just go out and buy again.

We prefer to buy what we need and take pleasure in its functionality, amusement (like some of the art we’ve splurged on), and lasting pleasure––because it works well, saves time and energy, is cost-efficient and reliable.

Q: What are some of the best things you’ve ever spent money on?

An antique, blue, Chinese rug for our living room after we went from carpet to hardwood. We both absolutely fell in love with it, but it was 2.5 times what we had mentally budgeted. We negotiated the price down 20%, which made it only 2 times more than our mental budget, but we had the money, so we bought it. We still enjoy it every day.

[Steve:] A few months ago, Jan saw an ad for a beautiful, expensive, ring. Half joking she said, ‘If you ever want to buy me jewelry (which we rarely do), you can get me one these rings.’ I tracked down where the ring is sold––Boulder–– and finagled a trip up there for fun and lunch. Our walk after lunch took us down the Pearl Street Mall to the only place in Colorado carrying that jeweler’s wares. You can guess the rest.

One of the best things we’ve done with money is to give Jan’s former boss, who was very good to us for more than twenty years, a gift card for $500. That made three people very happy at a time when she could really use the money.

Our other splurges include a couple of self-indulgent trips to Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs in New Mexico, including massages, great food and a serene setting with nothing to do but relax and enjoy. Steve took Jan to Italy for one of her birthdays, Jan took Steve to Washington DC for one of his, and we took Steve’s dad on a trip to Hungary. We like to travel and consider it one of the best things to spend money on since the experiences last a lifetime, as the mother of one of our friends always said.

Steve Berger and Jan Berger | Happy Simple Living blog

Q: Any final thoughts?

A: To be honest, we’ve actually never though this much about what we do with money. We think it’s because we’ve adopted many of these practices as needed, not all at once, and just assimilated them into our lifestyle. We do consider ourselves very fortunate for many reasons, and don’t take our good fortune for granted or feel particularly exceptional for these material achievements. To us, money has always been a means, not an end.

Thank you, Steve and Jan, for generously sharing your money strategies and giving us insights into how you’ve made a comfortable life through shared goals, open communication and smart spending.

How About You?

Readers, does Steve and Jan’s advice resonate with you? Do you have advice to add about strategies that have worked for you, either as an individual or as a partner in a relationship or family?

Would you like to see more real-life stories about how people manage their money?

I always love hearing your thoughts and comments.


The signature for Eliza Cross

About Eliza Cross

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

My Summer Bucket List

Feet against the sky

My son’s last day of school was Friday, so we’re officially in Summer mode now. I’ve been thinking of how we might like to spend our 12 precious sunny weeks, because you know how quickly the days and weeks will fly by. So I thought I’d make a bucket list just for summertime. Would you like to make one, too?

Here’s what I hope to do this summer:

Take picnics.

Go on a vacation to the beach.


Eat our fill of sweet corn, peaches, tomatoes, blueberries, and watermelon.

Take fun photographs. (For inspiration, I’m currently enjoying Andrea Scher’s wonderful Superhero Photo class.)

Learn something new.


Take the dogs to the dog park.

Go camping.

Eat Dreamsicles.

ice cream

Make homemade ice cream.

Play tennis.

Go to the mountains.

Ride bikes.

Read some great books. (I’m enjoying the novel Me Before You by Jojo Moyes this week, thanks to my dear friend Laura.)

Go on a road trip.


Play mini golf.

Lie in the grass and look at the stars.

Visit the farmer’s market.

Walk down to the park at dusk and try to spot the neighborhood Great Horned Owls.


Ride a Ferris wheel.


How about you? What’s on your summer bucket list? I’d love to hear your ideas and plans.


The signature for Eliza Cross


P.S. Grateful thanks to ILoveButter for the mouth-watering ice cream photo, and Groman123 for the colorful Ferris wheel photo.

About Eliza Cross

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

What’s On Your Victory List?

Write a victory list | Happy Simple Living blog

Could writing a victory list help you prioritize, focus, and celebrate your accomplishments? Let me explain what I mean by ‘victory list’ and why I started writing one.

As I wrote previously, my son’s father passed away unexpectedly in February. The first couple of weeks after Jose’s death, I was in a fog of grief and trying to manage what felt like a hundred moving parts. Comforting my children. Making funeral plans. Embracing visitors. Writing thank you notes. Integrating a new dog into our family. Helping sort and move things from Jose’s apartment. Going to counseling appointments. Figuring out new routines. Adjusting to 24/7 life as a single parent.

Eventually things settled down, and then we were faced with our new daily reality. If you’ve ever experienced a difficult loss, you may relate to my realization that it didn’t matter if I woke up feeling blue — life relentlessly insisted that we go on.

That’s a good thing. It’s just not always an easy thing.

The counselor told me that I had to make time to care for myself, and while I knew she was right the practical application of how to do that was less clear. In those early, foggy days, I began writing a list of small accomplishments.

“Had a nice bath.”

“Went to church.”

“Enjoyed adult conversation and watched the sun set with Leslie.”

“Turned in my article on time.”

“Finished the taxes.”

“Got my hair cut.”

“Took a walk around the neighborhood.”

The list was a touchstone, a way to record the small, simple things that were challenging and important at the time.

At the end of the month, I reviewed the list and felt good and hopeful. So I started a new list the following month, and felt similarly satisfied 30 days later. Now I’m on Victory List #3.

Keeping a list of victories is a way for me to quiet the little voice (the one I try to ignore) that says I don’t do enough.

My list is proof that we’re making progress, and it helps me stay hopeful about the days to come.

How about you?

I know you’re dealing with your own challenges. Could jotting down your small victories help you recognize and celebrate your accomplishments?

Aside from the typical ‘to do’ tasks we all have, what would you like to see on your victory list? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Hugs and happy weekend,

The signature for Eliza Cross

Photo: Zoë Biggs

About Eliza Cross

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

It’s So Easy to Be Critical

Colorado blizzard March 2016 | Happy Simple Living blog

This Wednesday we had a nice spring blizzard in Colorado. It snowed sideways here from about 4:00 in the morning to 5:00 in the afternoon, and the blowing snow caused Denver International Airport to close for the first time in ten years. I shot the picture above from my home office at the height of the storm’s blizzardiness. When it stopped, we had over a foot of heavy snow.

My First Mistake

Yesterday morning, just before I put on my parka and snow boots to begin the task of shoveling the driveway, I happened to read this headline from The Denver Post:

Denver Won’t Be Plowing Residential Streets After Wednesday’s Blizzard

The article was accompanied by a dramatic photo of cars buried under snow, and included a partial quote from the Denver Public Works spokesperson Nancy Kuhn that the Post put in quote marks like this:

Kuhn said the decision not to deploy residential plows came after “careful consideration.”

My Second Mistake

I don’t know what possessed me, but for some reason I clicked on the Comments section of the article and began reading the various remarks. (Is this ever a good idea? I read somewhere that you lose a minute of your life for every minute you spend reading online comments – ha!)

Here’s an example, from someone whose forum name is Tony T.:

“You’ve got to be kidding me. It’s going to snow again on Friday night, so they’re just going to shrug their shoulders and hope it gets warm!? This isn’t the first time they’ve tried to pull this crap, and it won’t be the last.”

It bears mentioning that we don’t live in Denver proper, and the main street circling our neighborhood was plowed. However, I was steamed as I tromped out and began shoveling the driveway.

My Third Mistake

I felt increasingly indignant as I shoveled. My mind latched on to this issue and filled my head with angry thoughts. How dare the city not plow and help the residents of Denver? Why don’t we have the budget for proper plowing? What about all the new tax revenue we’re supposedly generating with marijuana sales? 

The problem soon escalated to much larger-scale thoughts like: Our government is such a mess. Our infrastructure is crumbling and cities are going bankrupt. In this day and age, why is it so difficult to find good political leadership? And so on, and so on…

Does your brain ever lapse into an endless loop of negativity like this? I hate when that happens!

What Brought Me Back

The snow started melting quickly yesterday (part of the reason Denver Public Works decided not to plow) and a large, wet clump fell off the front locust tree and hit me right in the face. What a blessing! The friendly snowball made me laugh, and it also knocked some sense into me. What was I doing? Why was I in such a huff?

I re-set my mind on the glorious sunshine and glittering white landscape against a blue, blue Colorado sky. I sent thoughts of light and love to the DPW spokesperson Nancy Kuhn, who must need extra grace and a thick skin sometimes to defend the city’s actions. I vowed to stop reading anonymous online comments.

And I decided to save figuring out the world’s problems for another day.

Hugs and happy Easter,

The signature for Eliza Cross

About Eliza Cross

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

Precious Letters from Nanny

My grandparents | Happy Simple Living blog

My grandparents Eliza and Fred Seely on their wedding day in 1935

I’m remembering our grandmother today, on her birthday.

Eliza Gracie Weeks Seely was born on September 19, 1907 and lived to be 99 years old. During her lifetime she experienced the Great Depression, World War I and II, and the attacks of 9/11.

Theodore Roosevelt was president when she was born, and 16 more presidents served during her lifetime—all the way through to George W. Bush.

She attended Boston Bouvé College and earned her degree in Physical Education. Nanny married Poppy—our grandfather Fred Seely—in 1935. When I think of the good marriages I admire, theirs is at the top of the list.

My impression was that they were best friends, lovers, and partners in the truest sense of the word. They both loved to laugh and have fun, and they shared such affection! I can still remember catching Poppy playfully pinching her bottom as she leaned over the dishwasher one morning.

Nanny wrote the most wonderful letters, and it was always a joy to find an envelope from her in the mailbox. I saved many of her letters and cards, and I’m so glad I did. Re-reading her words now brings back so many wonderful memories.

cards and letters from my grandmother

Our grandparents were very active, and Nanny’s letters often contained stories about their latest adventures:

“Last night Poppy and I went up to the Blue Ridge Mountains with friends and had a real touch of nostalgia listening to a wonderful concert under the stars – all of Cole Porter’s golden oldies – big band tunes and scores from so many of the New York shows we saw when we lived in New Jersey. The moon helped light our way down the mountains and we were all glad we had gotten reserved seats, for there were close to 2,000 in the big outdoor auditorium.”

Sometimes her letters contained family stories, like this one she shared about my mom, Betty, during the time they lived in California when Poppy was stationed there during World War II:

“I’m sorry Gracie had chicken pox, and I hope by now the meanest part is over. Betty had it when we moved to California during the war and there was no doctor in the whole area of Balboa. She was miserable, and the Navy officers that commuted to the base with Poppy were scared they would catch it. Sure enough, one did!”

My grandparents were married for 55 years before Poppy died in 1990. Nanny wrote me a letter not long after, describing a poignant moment:

“You would have been proud of me last evening, for there was a giant (200 people) sit-down cocktail buffet here at The Downs and I was dragging my heels, hating to go all by myself. But I could almost hear Poppy saying, “Go on—and wear that new dress I bought you.” So I flapped around and got all dressed up in the peach dress.

“As I drove out of the garage, I realized I didn’t have the house key—I’d locked myself out! That didn’t add to my state of mind, but I went along and as I looked at that horde of people someone waved and said, ‘Hey! Liza!’ Two wonderful words that made my evening, and my nice next-door neighbor let me in when I got home. So now, I’ve climbed that mountain and next time won’t be such a big deal.”

As her letters drew to a close, Nanny’s script got smaller and her spacing became tighter as she tried to fit in a few extra lines. Sometimes her writing got so small on the last page that there was only enough room at the bottom of the page for her to squeeze in a tiny “Love and a big fat kiss, Nanny.”

I’m so grateful that Nanny took the time to write the letters I so treasure now. In this day of email, texts and instant messaging, she inspires me to do the same.

Hugs to all of you, and enjoy the weekend,

The signature for Eliza Cross

With my dear Nanny at a family reunion in 2004.

With my dear Nanny at a family reunion in 2004.

About Eliza Cross

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

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 a dozen books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.