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Last week, I took a quick quiz to determine what my mantra for 2015 should be. I took it for fun, just to see what it would say…I do these kinds of quizzes all the time. You know the ones I’m talking about:

  • What’s your personality type?
  • Which 80s movie defines you?
  • What job is best for you?
  • Which U.S. state should you be living in?

I see these quizzes on Facebook ad nauseum, as many of my friends take them and share the results. Sometimes I end up taking the quizzes myself, I’ll admit. It’s fun to see what they’ll tell me, you know? I usually get a good chuckle out of them. I don’t usually share the results for everyone to see, but sometimes I do. Guilty!

Last year, I signed up for a subscription to My Yoga Online, who recently merged with Gaiam TV. I joined because I love their stuff. Since they merged with Gaiam TV, they have a plethora of articles and videos about not just yoga, but also Tai Chi, Qi Gong, meditation and many others. They constantly have themes and challenges that I join in order to encourage my personal growth. I love it, as I don’t always have time to get to a class in a live studio.

Anyway, last week, I got an e-mail from them with this quiz to find out what my mantra should be for 2015. I had nothing else to do so I thought, “Why not? Let’s see what it says for me.” I’ve been trying to incorporate mantras into my meditation more, as it really helps me to focus my thoughts. So I thought maybe, if I could find one that REALLY resonates with me, it might make my meditations even more effective.

I went through the questions, and liked them right away. Just answering the questions themselves got me thinking and excited, for some reason. Questions like, “When you daydream, what do you find yourself thinking about most often?” I never thought about that before, but your daydreams are what often reveal your true passions and purpose to you, don’t you agree?

At the end of the quiz, it revealed my 2015 mantra to me. Ready? It was:

Iamhere

“I am here.” Hmmm…interesting.

At first, I was not quite sure about this one. But then, as I am sure the creators intended, I started to mull over it and really think about it. And then it started to sink in and I thought, “How totally PERFECT! This IS the mantra for me!”

“I am here.” All by itself, it’s profound. But then I started adding things to the end of it, and it became even more so.

  • I am here…NOW, in THIS moment.
  • I am here…for one more day.
  • I am here…for you.
  • I am here…to serve others.
  • I am here…to love unconditionally.
  • I am here…to spread happiness.
  • I am here…as God’s child.
  • I am here…to help where I am needed.

These are just things I came up with in a few minutes. Imagine how many more I will be able to add to the list as I think on it more.

I’m not even going to wait for the official first day of 2015. This one resonated with me to the point where I am going to start bringing it into my day, each and every day, starting now. I will wake up, breathing in the words “I am” and breathing out the word “here”.

What’s your mantra? What words could you incorporate into your daily life that would boost you to the next level? Take the quiz that I took, and see what you think. I’d love to know what comes back for you, so feel free to comment and share here.

Namaste,

Melanie

First of all, Happy Winter Solstice, everyone! I used to dread the winter season, as I hated the cold air, and the dry skin it gave me, and all the snow I was going to have to drive through (I used to live in Connecticut and Massachusetts, so bad weather was definitely a big concern for me up there). But now, I actually look forward to this time of year…with the shorter and colder days, it’s the perfect time to look within and become more introspective. It gives me a chance to get to know myself better, so I relish it now.

I’ve been following a blog called “Starr Struck” this past year, and it’s become one of my favorite blogs. It’s written by Mary Catherine Starr, a fellow yoga teacher, which is why I began following it. She writes several times a week, but by far, my favorite thing she does is something called “Simple Joys of the Week” (SJOTW). Each week, she lists her favorite things as they relate to the five senses: Hear, See, Taste, Smell and Touch. I like these posts because I think they’ve helped me find joy in ways I may not have traditionally thought of, just by becoming more aware of what my senses have to offer.

In her latest post, she did something pretty cool, which is to list out the sensory experiences that made the biggest impact on her from the whole entire year. It got me to thinking about what made the biggest impact on ME during 2014, so I decided to follow in her footsteps and list out the simple joys in life that have made the biggest impact on my life. I’m not trying to be a copy cat or anything, but I love this concept, and I think we could ALL do with a little bit more joy in our lives. So if putting together my own list helps inspire YOU to find joy in some new and unexpected ways in the coming year, then I’ve achieved my purpose.

Ready? Here we go!

HEAR: Spotify
I’ve been using Spotify for a couple of years now, but my use of it really exploded in 2014 once I decided to subscribe as a Premium member. For a music addict like myself, Spotify is DA BOMB! For those of you who come to my yoga classes, you know how much I love to weave in remakes of popular songs and make you guess who the original artist was (and you know that many times, a prize goes to the person who guesses correctly). Using Spotify has made my ability to find these crazy remakes super easy, and it allows me to organize things into folders and all kinds of other neat features, which means I don’t have to spend nearly as much time as I used to putting my playlists together. One of my favorite features is that I can create a radio station based on a particular song, and then all the songs it plays are “like” the song I created it from. I know other programs have this radio feature, but with Spotify, whenever I come across a song I think I’ll use in a class, I can actually add it straight to a playlist while it’s playing…LOVE! I know the free version of Spotify has an awful lot as well, so check it out!

SEE: My Daughters Reaching Milestones
Holy wow on this one! Both of my daughters achieved major milestones in their lives during 2014. My youngest daughter completed elementary school and began middle school this fall, which was a huge thing for our family…she is quite literally a pre-teen now, going to the middle school dances each month at the YMCA in town and hanging out with her friends ad nauseum.

 017(This is Casey a couple of months ago, enjoying a cupcake from CupCrazed Cakery)

But perhaps the biggest thing of all for our family is that my oldest daughter graduated from high school and just completed her first semester of college! It’s so hard to believe she is officially an adult now, as I still see her as my little baby girl every time I look at her. It took me awhile to get used to her not being around every day, but I am so proud of the woman she has become…I have no worries that she will do great things with her life…she makes me so proud!

001(This is Morgan at college, holding her dorm’s mascot, who is named Strawberry Shortcake…cute, isn’t it?)

TASTE: Gluten-free Cupcakes from CupCrazed Cakery in Fort Mill, SC
I’ve been gluten free for almost three years now, and let me tell you…it is TOUGH to find a tasty dessert that is gluten-free. One that doesn’t taste dry or rubbery, or make me feel like I’m missing out on all the fun. And if you know me at all, you know that I absolutely LOVE my desserts! Well, the CupCrazed Cakery in Fort Mill has got my back! First of all, they are located about 5 minutes from my house, which can be very dangerous when I am needing my sweet fix. But twice a week (and sometimes more), they offer gluten-free cupcakes. And I’m not talking your boring old yellow or chocolate cupcakes with white or chocolate frosting. No…this place switches up their flavors constantly and I’ve never tried one that is bad. My favorite so far was a gluten-free salted caramel cupcake…YUM! They post their menu daily, so you always know what kind of interesting flavors you can expect. Oh, and if you’ve ever heard of that lil’ TV show called “Cupcake Wars”, well, this place was featured on it…and they WON! Sweet (pun COMPLETELY intended)!

cupcrazed-logo-200x200.jpg

SMELL: Lavendar and Frankincense essential oils.
During 2014, I decided to be a dōTERRA representative, as using essential oils has done wonders with helping me with everything from stress to inflammation to keeping me from catching the latest virus going around. Two of my favorites are lavender and frankincense, especially mixed together in a hot bath with Epsom salts or in a diffuser. The frankincense helps pull out all the inflammation and boosts my immune system, and the lavender calms me down and helps me sleep. Can you say, “Heaven”? My favorite thing is that dōTERRA essential oils can be ingested (most of them, anyway), so you can add them to recipes or use them for a variety of medicinal purposes. Check out my dōTERRA site to learn more about these wonderful oils!  

TOUCH: This one is easy…my dogs! Nothing makes me happier than cuddling on the couch or in my bed with my dogs. I love the way their fur feels to me (especially Lexie…her fur feels like velvet to me!), I love the warmth they give off as they lean in against me (whenever one of them leans into my stomach, it totally takes my stomach aches away!), and I love the way their kisses feel! Loving on my dogs always makes me feel better. I know my husband agrees with this, because he and I constantly argue over who gets to have a “doggy nap” on the weekends. 🙂

026 035 011

Other MAJOR simple joys from 2014/this past year of life? There have been so many great things that have happened in this past year, it’s hard to list them all. But here are some of the top ones that come to mind:

  • My 30 Days of Happiness challenge. Each day, for 30 days in a row, I listed 3 things I was happy for on Facebook. It started off as only a 7-day challenge, but I decided to keep going at the urging of followers who wanted more. This made me the HAPPIEST of all! To know that others wanted more HAPPY stuff…well, that’s what I was shooting for, and before I knew it, others followed suit. It’s like we started a Happiness Revolution!
  • My full-time job in the Healthcare IT arena has been amazing this past year. I really feel like I blossomed in many ways and finally feel like I have a good handle on my purpose here.
  • I made great strides in moving through my Lyme Disease treatment. I have had my bad days, sure…but I have many more good days now, and seeing progress. I’m starting to feel more like ME again…that is something I wasn’t sure I’d ever see again!

There are a few other great things in the works, but they are not far enough along yet for me to mention them. More to come on these things in the New Year.

What are your year-end simple joys? Take some time to reflect on them over the next week or so, if you can! And if you wouldn’t mind, share them here by commenting on this post…I’d love to know what made you happy this past year!

Namaste,

Melanie

In November, I joined my company’s Toastmasters club. It’s something I’d been thinking about joining for a long time, and my recent promotion at work was sort of the kick in the pants I needed to finally get me off my keister and sign up. Today, I gave my first speech in the program, which was an icebreaker speech. The whole purpose of this speech was to “introduce myself” to the group in such a way that afterwards, they would have a much better idea about who I am and what I stand for. I decided to do this by talking about my purpose in life. Here is the speech in written form, complete with the pictures I projected onscreen. Note that I didn’t give the speech word for word as you see below…I love to adlib, as I definitely feed off the energy of the people in the room. But here is what I said, more or less…enjoy!

“Have a Sparking Day!” This has been my signature phrase for the past 23 years, since I was 19 years old. If you’ve ever called me and gotten my voice mail, you know that I always end my recorded greeting with “Thank you for calling and Have a Sparkling Day!” People often tell me they pray I won’t answer when they call because they love getting my voice mail, just so they can hear me say that.

For a long time, I wondered why that phrase has stuck with me for as long as it has. You know where I first heard it? I was dating a guy in college who still lived with his dad, and I called one night and got their answering machine. It was his dad’s voice, saying the standard, “Sorry we’re not here right now” message. But right at the end, he said, “Thank you for calling and Have a Sparking Day!” I don’t know why, but hearing those words made me break out in a HUGE smile and made me feel so good! So I adopted them as my own that very day, and I’ve been saying them ever since. When people hear those words from me, I want them to feel just as good as I did when I first heard them.

You might say I’ve been working at trying to make people feel good my whole life. My mom loves to tell the story about when I got my first immunizations as an infant. She took me to the doctor, they gave me the shots, and I screamed and cried at the top of my lungs! But as soon as the doctor turned my face to his, I stopped crying instantly and gave him the hugest smile!

Mel_Baby
(OK, so I wasn’t a newborn here…but I’m pretty sure this was what my smile looked like to that doctor!)

He got all flustered, saying that I “couldn’t possibly be smiling, as newborns don’t smile…it must be gas!” But he had a big smile on HIS face, and my mom says she knew in her heart right then that I was meant for good things.

As a child, I would always do whatever it took to make people laugh or smile. Putting on impromptu plays, making up silly songs, or wearing ridiculously loud outfits!

Mel_teen
(My dad affectionately referred to this as my Clem Kadiddlehopper outfit…he still talks about how LOUD the outfit was!)

When I saw the sparkle in their eyes, I was happy.

As a teenager, I got involved in community service activities. I participated in a teen theatre group in which we wrote our own skits about the problems teenagers face. We performed those skits at local middle schools and high schools, and it was amazing to me how many teens would come up to speak with us after each performance with smiles on their faces. It was cool to see that they finally realized they weren’t alone in the struggles they were going through, and to see that sparkle return just a bit.

Through my church in high school, I got involved with the Appalachian Service Project. For three summers, I went with a big group of teens and adults all the way from CT to locations deep in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains for a week at a time. While there, we’d fix the houses of local families who desperately needed the help. Not only did I learn some great handyman skills, but I got a chance to get to know these families. It was awesome to see these families show up each day throughout the week with bigger and bigger smiles on their faces. And it wasn’t just because we were working to make their homes safe and livable, but because we took the time to get to know them. Again, I had the chance to see some sparkle returning into their lives.

ASP_Pic2 ASP1

Once I became an adult, I didn’t have as much time to devote to these kinds of things and I definitely felt like something was missing.

But in 2002, something amazing happened. I’d been practicing yoga for a couple of years by that point. One day after class, my teacher suggested I sign up for a teacher training she was running. My first thought was, “What? Me? I’m the least flexible person in the world! I couldn’t possibly teach yoga!”

But I thought about it long and hard. When I began practicing yoga, I was going through a divorce, working to support myself and my daughter, all while trying to finish my Bachelor’s Degree. Yoga didn’t just improve my strength and flexibily and help me work through some injuries I had. It also showed me how to look within, focus on the important things, and let go of the things that don’t matter. Yoga brought the sparkle back into MY life and enabled me to find happiness. How could I not share that with others? So I decided to register for that training and haven’t looked back!

Melanie_DancerPose
(See how happy I am when I am practicing yoga!)

Yoga helped me figure out my purpose in life, which I believe is to help others find ways to bring a little bit more “Sparkle” back into their lives, each and every day. I’ve dubbed myself as the “Happiness Advocate”, and this role has permeated all aspects of my life: as a yoga teacher; as a wife, mother and friend; and even in my career here at Premier.

When I’m able to help someone work through an issue in any of these roles, no matter how big or small, I am fulfilled. I know I’m making a difference in someone’s life every day that I put myself out there, and that makes it very easy to get up in the morning. I feel like I’m putting the “Sparkle” back into the world, one person at a time.

I’d like to close by challenging each of you to take a look at how you can put a little more “Sparkle” into your own lives each day. Be your own “Happiness Advocate”. And who knows? Maybe, just maybe, it might spill over and do something wonderful for the others you come into contact with on your journey.

Thank you for listening, and “Have a Sparkling Day!”

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