Gratitude Journal

A New Gratitude Practice

A few years ago, when I was new into my recovery, I started working on cultivating a gratitude practice. I had worked on being more grateful in the past, but I never really stuck with it. I knew that being thankful and paying attention to all the good things in my life would make me a happier person, but I couldn’t seem to be able to keep myself consistent.

Gratitude Journal

Then, around two years ago, I joined a “Gratitude Group” with a few other friends in recovery. The purpose of the group was to send each other a list of things we were grateful for every day. The hope was that by having others who were practicing with us, we’d all be more accountable and this practice would become a habit. We started out in a private Facebook Group, and then moved over to What’s App for a while (some of the members lived in other countries, so texting was too expensive). I loved that group, but after a year or so, it fizzled out. Nothing horrible happened, we all just sort of moved on to other ways of working on gratitude and recovery. However, one member and I decided to keep it going, and we still send messages (almost) every day with three things we are grateful for. We share huge and tiny things, but just the act of looking at my day and finding something to be happy about makes me a better person. I love this woman and being able to share my happy moments, large and small, with someone and receive her good news is such a gift!

Recently, I decided to try an additional, creative gratitude practice. While I love sending my daily messages to my “Gratitude Buddy,” I was finding myself stressed out about it! Yes, I was stressed about being grateful. I know, I know. But the ease of having it right on my phone meant often I was just realizing I needed to send my list at the last minute and rushing through the process. I’d quickly come up with a few things and send it off, without really thinking about it.

Gratitude Journal

Recently I was browsing Instagram (I’m so grateful for Instagram!) when I came across a photo in the feed of one of my favorite planner shops, the Get to Work Book. In their feed, they featured a photo where someone used their monthly layout in the planner to sketch out their gratitudes. I thought it was such an awesome idea!!! And since I have a Get to Work Book and rarely use the monthly spreads (I mostly use the weekly spreads and use my online calendar for monthly to-do’s) it was the perfect solution! Now, I am NOT an artist or illustrator…my drawings often look like my six-year-old created them, but I thought it was a fun way for me to sit down every day and REALLY THINK about what I was grateful for, and then spend some time drawing it. I’ve found it to be a fantastic way to end my day and to slow down when I feel my brain spinning out of control.

Gratitude Journal

I still text my daily list to my “Gratitude Buddy,” but I’m finding this illustration practice is an amazing addition to my life. I love looking at past months, seeing what I drew (and let’s be honest, laughing at my drawing skills) and remembering how truly lucky I am.

Farm Sunset October 2016

October at the Farm

Autumn is like an extended marathon around here. As the leaves start to change and the weather cools off a bit, our schedules and lives go into overdrive. Work and school and deadlines and sports and events and choir practice and class parties and all of the things start to meld together into one giant pile of “things to do.” Don’t get me wrong, I love fall. It’s by far my favorite season, but sometimes the pace can be a little much.

Farm October 2016

Farm October 2016

So when we had an unexpected open weekend, a part of me wanted to stay in my PJs all day and never leave my house. But the other side (the louder side) was craving clean air and open skies…so I packed up the kids and we headed to the family farm for the weekend. My mother-in-law, who doesn’t usually get visits from us to the farm this time of year, was so excited to have the kids there a few days before Halloween. She organized the cutest activities, from a Halloween scavenger hunt to bobbing for apples and an egg toss.

Farm October 2016

Farm October 2016

The grandparents had evening plans, so the kids and I ended up hanging out together and picking veggies from the garden they helped plant earlier this year. At dusk I somehow convinced them to go on a long walk around the property, and we were rewarded with the most gorgeous sunset! Kansas, I think I like you.

Farm October 2016

Greece 2016

Greece 2016 : Part 1

Greece 2016

How do I even begin…I’ve gone over the details again and again in my mind, and yet I still can’t remember how my friend Theresa and I decided to try and go to Greece together. We know there must have been a conversation at some point where we talked about it, but neither of us can really recall. So instead, I’ve made it up.

Theresa: I’m going to Greece for work, and am planning on visiting a Syrian refugee camp while I’m there to continue my research on education opportunities for refugee children. Wanna come with me?

Me: Sure, why not!

In all truth, we had discussed her trip several times in many conversations before it seemed like it could actually happen. But once the decision was made, things moved VERY quickly. I am so grateful to my family, especially my sweet husband, who not only supported me in this effort, but held down the fort at home while I was gone. I know it wasn’t easy for him to send his wife off to a foreign country on a mission like this one, but he was behind me the whole way, and that made a huge difference.

While I can’t wait to share stories and photos from the refugee camp, those must be approved in order to protect the safety of all the children and adults living there. Until then, you can follow the Bê Sînor – Sinatex Cultural Center on Facebook to learn more about the camp and all the magic that is happening there. The people truly touched my heart in ways I can’t describe, so I’m actually pretty lucky I have a bit more time to ruminate and get that experience put down into words.

Greece 2016

Until then, I am pumped to be able to share my images from the rest of our time in Greece. In reality, we weren’t in the country very long. We arrived on a Sunday afternoon, and I left at 6 a.m. the following Friday morning. We spent Sunday through Tuesday in Thessaloniki, in the Macedonia region of Greece. Thessaloniki is a huge tourist destination, especially for other Europeans and Greeks. We didn’t see many Americans or others from English-speaking countries, but it didn’t matter, since every Greek in Thessaloniki spoke English. It always shocks me to travel to another country and see how hard they work to learn several languages and accommodate tourists of different backgrounds. Americans could learn something from this! I certainly thought a lot about how I can get quickly frustrated when I can’t understand someone’s accent or broken English…this is something I am committed to working on, and I hope I can have as much compassion as those who nodded and smiled at me when I attempted to speak Greek!

Greece 2016

On Wednesday we took a train from Thessaloniki to Athens, and during the five hour trip, we got to see the incredible Greek countryside. To say that it was breathtaking is a complete understatement. This was also the day after we visited the refugee camp, so the train ride provided a perfect time to rest, reflect and process some of what we’d seen.

Greece 2016

I was only in Athens for one day, but we made the most of it! We stayed in Air BNB’s in both cities, and our spot in Athens was right near the Acropolis. I visited the Acropolis Museum, got very lost, drank too many frappes, ate my weight in Greek cuisine and bought some trinkets for family. I tried to travel fairly light, with my camera gear on my back and a small duffle bag to carry on the airplane, so finding souvenirs that fit was a bit of a challenge! After Theresa got off work, we hiked up the Acropolis to see the Parthenon and visited the original Olympic Temple as well.

Greece 2016

Greece 2016

The best part of this whole trip was getting to share it with one of my best friends. So many of my favorite moments were the quiet ones…long dinners out late at night, quiet coffee breaks, long conversations before we turned out the lights for bed…those were the times that made this hectic, busy, exhausting trip feel refreshing and fulfilling. I’m so grateful that Theresa asked me to come on this adventure with her. What a gift to have friends that are committed to doing big things to change the world…and it’s even better when they invite you along for the ride!

Greece 2016

Greece 2016

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I’ve shared before on the blog how much I love Snapchat, and I have to say, traveling and being able to share via Snapchat was one of my favorite things to do during this trip. For those of you who don’t follow me on Snapchat, I put together this compilation video of my snaps from the trip. This will give you a little more of a behind the scenes look at our trip, including our lodging, and shows a bit more of the friendship between Theresa and I. Man, that girl has put up with a LOT the past 25 years! Also, her yogurt spoon trick is AMAZING.

What Dreams May Come…

Today’s the day, and I should be frantically running around, trying to do all the things and check items off my list. But instead I’m sitting in bed with my laptop and the sleeping kitten. I feel oddly calm, which is so unlike me when I’m preparing for travel. Maybe it’s just because this trip is so different from any I’ve ever taken? Maybe it’s because I’m in denial this is actually happening? Maybe I just need more coffee?

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always told stories. I tell them through my writing and my photography, and most of the time they are meaningless to anyone else. But that’s okay, because they mean a lot to me. I am made of that stuff that just inherently NEEDS to share, or else my head and my heart might explode.

We talk a lot in our home about using our talents to help others. I may not be perfect or famous or have a million dollars, but I can share my gifts in a way that lifts others up. I’m a storyteller, and my life’s goal is to tell stories for good. To tell the stories that need to be heard. Sometimes those stories are mundane and sometimes they are magnificent.

I met my best friend and chosen sister, Theresa, when I was 8-years-old. In the past few years she has grown so much, and these days I’m the one who looks up to her. She has risen in the academic ranks at her job and in the past year she has begun a very intense research project, which is focused on education rights for Syrian refugee children who have been displaced due to the civil war there.

This summer she reached out and asked if I’d be interested in traveling with her to Greece to photograph the refugees and refugee camps there in conjunction with the United Nations. I couldn’t believe it. This is a dream opportunity for me! Our goal is to learn more about the current state of primary education for refugees in Greece. We want to heighten awareness for support needed for further development of access to education, and the bigger picture for the Syrians, Afghans and other nationalities of refugee children residing there.


I fly to New York today. Tomorrow we leave for Greece.

I am in awe of this opportunity. I know I can’t even fathom yet how this will change me. I think that’s why I’m still laying in my bed, instead of frantically running around. I am preparing, in the only way I know how.

Be still. Be still. Be still.

I will be off the grid while I’m away, but I hope to keep updating social media when I have internet access. I would assume the best bet for photos is to follow my Instagram and for video content to follow me on Snapchat under the name “crazeebananaz” (I love Instagram stories, but it’s still a bit glitchy for me, so I’m going to plan on snapping most things and then uploading to Instagram stories if I can). If you’re able, send some good vibes or prayers or juju or whatever into the universe for us, as we embark on this journey. We can use all the encouragement we can get…

Our Family Photo Session with Allison Corrin Photography

Family Photos with Allison Corrin

I talk quite a bit around here (and lately, on TV as well!) about the importance of getting family photos taken with your kids. I really and truly believe there is not a better gift to give to your children than photos of your entire family together. Some of my most treasured possessions are prints of images of myself, my siblings and my parents together when we were younger. I love looking at the clothes we were wearing, seeing the grins on our faces and remembering what life felt like. I feel equally as giddy seeing photos of my parents and grandparents when they were young…think of how incredible it would be to watch your own grandchildren look through images of you as a young mom and their own parents as kids! I get excited just imagining those moments.

Our Family Photos with Allison Corrin

So each year I do my very best to practice what I preach to all of you, and find time to get our OWN family photos taken. Now, mind you, this idea totally horrifies my family. They have me following them around with a camera all the time, not to mention the random commercial shoots our family has been lucky enough to participate in together, but for me, a family session with a pro photographer is different. It’s not for anyone else, it’s for us. We don’t have a director or a client telling us what to wear or how to act, instead we get to decide. And for me, as a photographer, I want to be included in the photos. We have hundreds of images of our family together…minus one very important component…ME! Because I spend so much time behind the camera, often our memories look like I wasn’t there at all. So even though my family may feel like doing a family photo session is overkill, for me, it’s just right. And I’m always so grateful when I get the images back and see my children, husband and I interacting, playing and having fun TOGETHER. All of us.

Our Family Photos with Allison Corrin

This year I asked Allison French of Allison Corrin Photography to not only take our photos, but create a short video as well. I love making Video Keepsakes for my own clients, so I really wanted something similar for my own family. We decided to do the shoot at Prospero’s Bookstore in order to focus on my children’s love of reading, and then followed that up with some portraits in the West Plaza neighborhood where we lived during our first years in Kansas City many (many) moons ago. The video is everything to me and I’m so grateful to have such a beautiful keepsake to remember this time in our lives!

Huge thanks to Allison to working with our crazy crew and for giving us such gorgeous memories! I love them all so much, I couldn’t choose just a few to share, so here’s about a million of them!

Our Family Photos with Allison Corrin

Our Family Photos with Allison Corrin

Our Family Photos with Allison Corrin

Our Family Photos with Allison Corrin

Our Family Photos with Allison Corrin

Our Family Photos with Allison Corrin

Our Family Photos with Allison Corrin

Our Family Photos with Allison Corrin

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