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The Perfect Holiday Bucket List

I get...overly excited about the holidays, I'll admit it. I'm one of those people who get excited once September starts because first, it's Halloween, then it's Thanksgiving, and then it's Christmas. It all is just a snowball: one favorite holiday after another. Then, a stretch of months until summer returns. Oof, that stretch of January through May is hard. So I really believe in making the most of October through December. 

Halloween used to be my favorite holiday; however, as I've gotten older, I've found myself favoring Thanksgiving because it combines my favorite parts of Christmas without the pressure of giving gifts. Either way, though, I consider late October to be the start of the "Holiday season," starting with Halloween.

I wanted to share my holiday bucket list for this year. Sometimes, I frame these things as "goals," but they're not really goals, are they? They won't really improve my life in any way; I just really want to do them. 

So, here it is: my holiday bucket list. 

1. Take Forrest to a Halloween party

I have never been a fan of trick-or-treating, I should probably come clean about that, and I'm not 100% sold on Forrest doing it. I am, however, very into Halloween parties and festivals. Our town has a ton of options--including trick-or-treat at downtown businesses, several Trunk or Treats at local churches, and at least one Halloween festival. We'll be picking our favorite as Halloween approaches and taking Forrest. 

2. Go Christmas light hunting.

This is one of my favorite things to do at Christmas: load up the car with a snack and some hot cocoa and then, just drive around looking at the best Christmas lights. I love the houses that go all out, even if I don't!  

3. Get the perfect Christmas card photo of Forrest.

This is truly a bucket list item, considering the fact that Forrest barely sits still to eat, let alone for a photo. 

4. Buy matching Holiday pajamas. 

5. Find Forrest a really cute, entirely inappropriate outfit for Thanksgiving

I'm talking fancy suit level inappropriate! Last year, I dressed him in a tiny sweater vest at Christmas and it was totally adorable, totally uncomfortable, and totally inappropriate for a tiny baby. However, it made for some great photos, so I refuse to stop doing it. 

6. Sing Christmas carols with Forrest

Forrest is just starting to get the singing thing and he loves music. I like to imagine us dancing around the Christmas tree, in matching pajamas, singing at each other. But most likely, I'll just turn on a Spotify station while we eat breakfast. 

7. Help Forrest put ornaments on the tree. 

We probably won't do a real, or very big, tree this year because Forrest would undoubtedly tear it down, but I really want to get him involved in decorating. 

8. Make Christmas cookies

My absolute favorite Christmas tradition! I'll probably make some eggless cookie dough that Forrest can roll out and safely eat (because most likely, he will just put it in his mouth), and then he will get to try his first real sugar cookie. 

What's on your holiday bucket list this year? 

5 Reasons to Start Keeping a Journal Today

I started keeping journals not long after I started reading the Amelia series of books by Marissa Moss. (If you love 1990s style websites, do yourself a favor and definitely click that link!) I can basically judge a person's character depending on if they read the Amelia book popularized by American Girl Magazine in the late 90s and early 00s. If you haven't read them, I take pity on you, but you need to get on Amazon and start ordering. Trust me on that one. 

I have storage containers full of journals. Journals upon journals upon journals. At least 100 of them. At least. I was not very good at keeping things in order and I flitted between notebooks and diaries based on which one was prettiest or newest. Some are half empty. As I got older, they became more ornate; in  high school, I all about filling my notebooks with intricate pencil drawings, printed photos from the internet, and collages. In college, I was a straight writer: no frills, no fuss. By my senior year, I was drawing intricate dates, writing long entries, including random lists (ala Colonel Gentleman from the Venture Bros, embarrassingly enough), pictures, ticket stubs, and more. Part-scrapbook, part journal, I hit the journal sweet spot. 

I've continued my journal habit for about 16 years, if I guess that I started legitimately writing journals at 10 or 11. That's pretty impressive. I'm not an "everyday" kind of journal writer. I often forget or write about things that happened weeks ago. In general, my journal entries have always been more about my feelings than about what I strictly did that day or recounting conversations. I collect things: lists of books, sticky notes, general lists, disorder, whatever. I like my journals to feel as messy and disorganized as my life. 

As much as I love journaling, I've always resented those "journal your way to happiness!!" blog posts. Journaling can definitely help get rid of negative or harmful emotions, but it's not a cure all. That's for sure. If journaling really allowed you to realize your greatest dreams with simply writing about it, I would be a world famous author who was 6'1" and looked like Kendall Jenner by now. 

There are lots of valid reasons to keep a journal. Here are five: 

1. People who write down things they are thankful for are happier. 

Ok, this is a proven fact: if you write down a few things that were good about your day, or that you are thankful for from your day, you'll become a happier person. Basically, researchers did a study where they split a group in half; one half wrote down five positive things from their day and the other half wrote down five negative things from their day. It was a journal experiment and the results were that the group who wrote down positive things were happier people at the end of the study. Not too shabby, huh? If you're looking to find little ways to improve your life, writing down a list of things you are thankful for or positive events from your day (even on a rotten, horrible, no-good day) can be a good first step. 

2. It's fun to look back on your past self and laugh (or cry). 

Some of my best, funniest writing happened when I was 16. Why? Because my journals from my sophomore and junior years of high school are hilariously melodramatic. They're so boring, but looking back makes me appreciate how I somehow managed to be intelligent and really stupid at the same time. I'm sure this will continue to be a theme as I get older. Someday, when I'm 50, I'll look back my blog posts and journals and think, "What is wrong with you?" 

3. It's relaxing. 

I don't buy into the "journaling will make you so happy" mumbo-jumbo, but man... decorating a journal page and writing even just a paragraph can be a hugely relaxing activity after a long day of work. Sometimes, I find myself feeling on edge and cranky, and I slowly realize that what I really, really need is 45 minutes to myself to doodle, decorate, and journal. 

4. It can improve your memory. 

Everyday, I write a few of the same lists: things I need to do; things I've done; and things I've learned. As I write those daily lists, I find that I am better able to remember everything I have to do and everything I've already done. And I retain information better. Research has shown that list-makers (those list obsessed amongst us) have better memories, probably because physically writing information down (not typing it!) aids in memory retention. 

5. You create a record for your family and children. 

Ok, it doesn't matter if you have kids right now or not. But by keeping journals, you keep somewhat of a record of your life for your children, grandchildren, and distant relatives. How cool is that? Have you ever gotten a chance to read a great-great-grandfather's journals or ledgers before? Isn't it fun? I hope to leave something more than a Facebook page behind for future generations, which is part of why I keep journals. 

11 Steps to Being a Good Customer this Holiday Season

A gentle reminder that the Holiday season is a holiday for  everyone  - not just you. 

A gentle reminder that the Holiday season is a holiday for everyone - not just you. 

It's not hard to be a good customer any time of the year. It's especially not hard to be a customer during the Holidays. Here's how. 

1. Try your best not to berate sales associates or cashiers. I know, I know, it's a hard impulse to fight, but please, fight it.

2. "The back" is not some kind of magical backstage area of the store. It is also not an identical copy of the store with as many of an item as the store could possibly need. It is not a magical place where fairies make extra stock for the store. Most likely, the back is just a stockroom full of unlabeled cardboard boxes, mannequins that are missing parts, palettes, and mostly unnecessary items that is controlled by one person who only works from midnight to 7am. It's not magic. There are no PS4s or iPhones back there. Stop asking. 

3. The proper way to respond to "How are you doing today?" is not "I'm just looking, thanks." 

4. Everyone has to wait in line. This is not a conspiracy set up to hurt and delay only you. 

5. Don't show up to a store 10 minutes before it closes on Christmas Eve and expect to get stellar service. Everyone wants you to leave. No one loves you at that moment. 

6. "You've ruined my Christmas!" is potentially the funniest thing you can say to anyone, because a) no, b) you ruined your own Christmas, and c) no one really cares. 

7. Saying "thank you" and "I really appreciate it" are free. And say them nice. Thank you. (See? So easy!) 

8. The roads are crowded. The weather is bad. You're cold. Your feet hurt. You want to be home with your family. Imagine how that cashier halfway through a shift feels.

9. If someone says "Happy Holidays" to you, and you don't like it, keep it to yourself. If someone says "Merry Christmas" to you, and you don't like it, keep it to yourself. Guess what? They're saying it with good intentions -- not specifically to offend you. Sort your life out.  

10. Don't shop on Christmas Eve. 

11. I'm serious, do not shop on Christmas Eve