Cutting the cord with negative friends:

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I used to have a friend that leaned towards the negative side. She always had a lot to say about people, things, events. It was all bad. Nothing was above gossiping. I put up with it for a while because I still enjoyed the company. I enjoyed when we went out to do things. At my worst I’d play into the gossip a little, at my best I’d change the topic to something else.

The friendship didn’t go up in flames, or maybe it did on her side, maybe I’m the object of that negative gossip now. I wouldn’t have a way to know. What I do know is that despite red flags that this wasn’t the healthiest friendship I continued it till one night. That night we went to dinner, a normal occurrence. I remember walking out of the restaurant and saying goodbye. I felt awful. I was in a bad mood. I felt drained. I had gone in in a good mood and left a mess. After all the red flags, somehow that shift of mood told me that this was the last time I was going to dinner with her. So I went home and I put a lot of space between us until communications halted.

There are times in relationships were we need to bare our friends burdens. When our friends are going through hell they sometimes need to unload. We do it to them and they should be able to do it to us. Depressed friends need support, you can’t just drop people when they get negative about the things in their life. It’s when that negativity continues and spreads to all aspects of life once the circumstance improves. It’s when life gets better for them and they still want to trash on everything and everybody. It’s when the the conversations of others go from “they wronged me” to straight gossip.

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A combination of others: Absorbing traits of those we engage with.

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You know when you’ve been hanging around a friend for a long time and you start to pick up their slang words or their facial expressions? It happens subtlety, you normally don’t start to notice it until it’s pretty ingrained. Then suddenly it’s part of you, not just part of your friend.

These things happen to all of us and they happen on the regular. We absorb traits from those we are around the most. Sometimes it’s simple, like a phrase, sometimes it’s more complex. An example of that would be my growth in ambition. My fiance Chris is ambitious, and I’ve always teetered on the line. I’m ambitious about a few things, but for the most part good enough is good enough, but as we’ve been together my ambition has been growing. I want to do a better job at things that normally wouldn’t matter to me. I want to spend more time planning my actions instead of going with the flow. It’s a lot bigger personality change than gaining a phrase, but it’s a positive one.

Not all the things we gain are though. We gain peoples negative traits just as easily as we gain their positive ones. If we hang around a friend who is a gossip, chances are we’ll become a gossip before too long. It’s in our nature. We partake in something, we hang around something, and before long it’s a part of us too.

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The dying art of the thank you note:

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I’m planning a wedding, with that comes thank you notes. It and baby showers are perhaps the two occasions that we haven’t stopped sending thank you notes after. Everything else? It’s seen as going above and beyond. A text will do.

And it does do, I have used a thank you text many times. It’s certainly easier, but maybe that’s why it doesn’t mean as much. Handwritten notes simply mean more, and when do you really want people to know that something meant a lot to you? When you’re thanking them. I think it’s time to bring the thank you note back. After Christmas. After a surprise party. After being hosted for dinner or the weekend. I think we should work on how often we give hostess gifts too, but maybe I’m getting a little too southern. But hey, this is Anna Down South I’m writing on. My thank you notes currently have my monogram on them. Maybe my drive to bring in more hospitality into my life stems from my southern upbringing.

Regardless of what triggered this, I want to say that I too am lazy. In fact, I excel at being lazy, and these extra steps to show gratitude are not for the lazy, or the busy, or those of us that manage to be both. I understand that, but that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be a thing. If we become to busy for all common courtesies we’re going to get to the point where we slam doors in peoples faces instead of holding them open. And that’s just regressive.

So I’m proposing that we revive the dying thank you note. I’ve written about snail mail before and how it brings joy to people, I think a thank you note does that and more. Sure, it’s a bit traditional, but when you receive one you feel good about yourself, you feel like you matter, and it makes you want to act again. These are all good things, and we need a little more hospitality in this hostile world.

The role reminders play in self control:

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I’m trying to lose weight. Not a lot, but about ten pounds. I struggle with it because I don’t practice self control around food very well. Maybe it’s because I know I’m not that overweight. Maybe it’s because I like food too much. Whatever the reason, I failed at controlling myself for a week or two before I realized if I was going to do this I needed to find some sort of system to fix it.

I joined a Facebook group for weight loss support. I felt silly in it. People were trying to lose mass amount of weight and here I was trying to drop ten pounds. It seemed like maybe this wasn’t the place for me. But it was, not because I related to all the posts, in fact, a lot of them I don’t. It worked because I was constantly reminded of my goals, I was constantly reminded that I was trying to do this and I had decided that it mattered enough to me to join a group, or to comment.

I saw the posts when I logged on. I got notifications on my phone when people commented on something I had commented on.

Some people would argue that it was the support that I needed, but I haven’t made posts to have people support my journey. I’ve rather been supporting others. Dishing out support might be helpful, but it’s helpful in the same way giving your friend advice is helpful. It reminds you that you know what you’re supposed to be doing. You have all this knowledge, you just need to apply it! It’s simple if you get control over yourself.

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Why are we ignoring people needing help in our own backyard?

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People talk about mission trips all the time, we debate about whether they are positive or negative. We hear horror stories, like volunteers practicing medicine in Africa despite not having any medical training (one particular story says a Virginia woman is responsible for over 100 African children’s deaths). We hear about our donations killing the local economy. We hear about the good done too, the water brought to remote villages. The vaccines we get to people who need them.

It’s a mixed bag, but whether or not you agree with the practice or not, I want to know why churches and other communities have shifted their focus overseas when there is a lot of pain and suffering in our backyard.

I’m not claiming that these organizations or churches aren’t also helping people in their local community, but in church the guest missionary speakers are always the ones returning from overseas. Their stories are more exciting to us. The teenagers doing missions or other volunteer work would rather go to Africa than the neighboring state. You hardly ever see a go fund me to volunteer upstate. It’s easy to understand how it’s happened, but it’s hard to process why it is still happening in such volume when we know that these trips don’t always have positive effects. When we know that all the money we’re spending on plane tickets could be spent to clothe and feed children that need it in our backyard.

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Air them out: Why communicating our emotions is so important.

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I wear my emotions on my face, it’s a curse and a gift. It’s a curse because I have very little control over it, it happens in a split second and often by the time I get rid of the expression or slight tone in my voice it’s already been noticed. It makes people ask about my emotions a lot, which in turn, has gotten me to talk about my emotions a lot more. It made me realize how important it is to air out our emotions on a regular bases.

It also made me realize that some of my emotions are stupid. I’m not going to lie about that. Not every emotion needs to be spoken or written or told, some of our emotions seem to come out of nowhere and defy our common sense, but paying close attention to our emotions and which ones keep swinging around help us determine which emotions we need to be ignoring and which ones mean something.

Hint: If it happens over and over again, no matter how stupid it seems, you should figure out what is causing it at it’s root. It’s probably more important than it seems.

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Five ways to make your new house feel more like a home:

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We’ve moved into a new house, I know I’ve mentioned it a time or two, but I’ve been surprised at what it takes to make a house feel like home. Obviously a lot of it is time, those first few nights there you’re still waking up wondering where you are, but even after that passes and it starts to feel like home, you notice that certain things are missing. It’s a layering process, and it’s been interesting to learn. So here are somethings I’ve noticed help make a house feel more like a home:

  • Rugs, blankets, and textiles galore: One of the big things I knew I wanted but couldn’t get for a few weeks was a rug for our living space. The room felt incomplete without it, because with an open floor plan, there was nothing defining the space. I didn’t think getting a rug would make it feel more like home, but it did. It did so because it made it feel finished, sure, but also because it added a layer of personality and comfort. There was something softer about the space that made you feel more relaxed once it dampened the echo and gave your bare feet a break. I also picked the rug, so it felt like me, and that helped it feel like my home. I think pillows and blankets can do the same thing. Things that bring us comfort help make a room feel cozy. They’re important.
  • Bring personal items front and center: It’s easy to want to buy all new stuff for a space, most of us can’t afford that, so we like to decorate with the new stuff. Decorative items are cheaper than new furniture so it’s easy to replace them and change them out, but a lot of our decorative items from the past help make our place feel like our own. I’m not saying not to buy new, I’m just saying to put those personal items in the front and use the new stuff to fill in. The amount of people I see run off to Hobby Lobby and come back with all their house decorations is startling. There is nothing wrong with pieces from chain stores, but you need to make sure you have your memories mixed in.

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