Friday, January 29, 2010

Living Your Five presents... Paying It Forward ala Tera

Happy Friday! We're back with another installment in our series about paying it forward with a question we posed to all the Fivers:

What is your favorite way to pay it forward to other people?

Here's what Tera had to say:

Do you remember that commercial, where one person does something nice for a stranger, then we zoom back in time and see that a stranger did something nice for that person, and we keep going back along the chain of good deeds, seeing why everyone is paying it forward? Well, I learned that lesson long before I saw that commercial.

Right after college I worked in the box office of the Colorado Shakespeare festival. I was having a miserable time at work because my boss was my recently-former friend, and the situation was pretty tense. Sometimes I worked the front counter, dealing face-to-face with people, and I always put a smile on my face. It was customer service, after all. But most of the time, I was in the back, fielding phone calls about ticket purchases, changes, exchanges, and complaints. Since I wasn't dealing with the customers face-to-face, I usually didn't bother with a smile. I was miserable and didn't feel like making the effort. Besides, it seemed like half the customers were angry and rude anyway.

Then, one day, I decided to stop letting my former friend apparently get the better of me. The phone rang and I smiled as if I meant it (I didn't, actually, but I made the muscles of my face pull into a smile). And the strangest thing happened ... the customer on the other end of the phone was very friendly. I tried my fake smile again for the next phone, with the same positive result. For the rest of the summer, I made myself smile every time I answered the phone, and wouldn't you know it? I didn't have any more miserable customers.

I learned my lesson. Even if people can't see you, even if you're only faking it, they can hear the smile in your voice. (I swear, it's true.) And even if they're calling because of a problem, they respond positively to your positive response. Now, whenever I'm next up at the post office or calling in to tech support, I make sure to put a smile in my voice, because if I can share a little bit of positive, then maybe they'll share a little bit with their next customer. It's the butterfly effect ... and it all begins with a smile.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Living My Five -- Tera Takes Baby Steps

It's been a slow couple of weeks and, with my housemates (aka my parents) out of town for most of it, I've been on my own in living my Five. The fresh promise of the New Year is wearing off, so motivation is a little hard to come by. Here are the small steps I've taken:

  1. Vegetarian Night -- Last night I made falafel, vegetable frittata and Greek salad. Tasty, affordable, and easy on the planet.
  2. Reusable Bags -- Still using the cloth grocery bags instead of plastic.
  3. Saving Pennies -- I've been collecting all my loose change to cash in an donate at the end of the year.
  4. Writing Blogs -- I've written a couple of blog posts geared at writers, like one on character motivation and another on the self-doubt that plagues me (and all authors, I think) during writing of a book.

Small steps, that hopefully add up to something bigger in the long run. Have you had a crisis of motivation now that the New Year is behind us? Do you have any tips for keeping going? I'd love to hear them.

Are you Living Your Five?

Friday, January 22, 2010

Living Your Five presents... Paying It Forward ala Becca

Happy Friday! We're cruising along with our series about paying it forward--a favorite Living Your Five topic--with a question we posed to all the Fivers:

What is your favorite way to pay it forward to other people?

Here's what Becca had to say:

I think the value of a hand-written thank-you note is erroneously undervalued. When someone does something kind or helpful to me - even unintentionally - I like to make an effort to personally thank them.

I know when I receive thank-you notes, it motivates me to continue helping others. The mere act of saying thank you isn't just a way to show our appreciation, but to show people that they are making a difference, and it's worth their time and effort to continue down that path.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Alyson's Five--Haiti.

Since one of my Fives is to commit random acts of charity, when news of the earthquake in Haiti spread, my husband and I immediately sent in donations to both The Red Cross and Unicef—money that will go toward the purchase of much needed food, water, shelter, medical supplies, and other necessities for those who were left devastated by the effects.

And even though it feels like such a small act in light of so much destruction, any time anyone lends a hand to another, a difference is made.

Disaster can strike any of us, at any time, in any way. We are all in this together, and there are no small acts when it comes to kindness and charity.

If you’re interested in donating too, (no amount is too small!), click HERE for a list of charities and instructions on how to reach them.

Peace be with you!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Living My Five... family, friends and funnel cakes!

Happy Monday!

This week's post is very timely since I've been looking forward to today specifically for fulfilling one of my Five. On this U.S. holiday, I thought it would be fitting to devote the day to Putting family and friends first.

And so I did. I spent the day with my computer off. I had lunch with family and friends and spent the afternoon with them. I spent quality time with my own family in my serenity room (me reading The Hunger Games and them reading whatever they liked). And we talked about gratitude. Being grateful for the big things--our freedom, our country, our family, our health--and the little things--hot cocoa, the homemade funnel cakes I made yesterday, Snuggies on a cold snowy day, and the joyful sound of each other's laughter. (We did a LOT of laughing today. Much like most days, but today it seemed especially abundant.)

We don't get the opportunity to play hooky during the week like this very often, so it was a great opportunity for me to remember my priorities and live according to what matters most. :-)

Friday, January 15, 2010

Living Your Five presents... Paying It Forward ala Alyson

First of all, I get to announce the winner of last week's book giveaway! Meg Cox graciously offered to give away a signed copy of her awesome book, The New Book of Family Traditions, to one lucky commenter last Friday. Congratulations to...

The Graef Family!

Contact me here with your mailing address, and Meg will mail you your very own signed copy. Thanks to everyone who participated for sharing how you're making a difference!

This week, we're kicking off a series about paying it forward--a favorite Living Your Five topic--with a question we posed to all the Fivers:

What is your favorite way to pay it forward to other people?

Here's what Alyson had to say:

As a writer, I believe in the power of words to entertain, inform, heal, and inspire. And as a former flight attendant, I know just how far a simple, sincere “Thank you” can go to brighten a tough, dreary day. So, when I want to pay it forward in some small way, I usually do it with language.

When I see someone who’s feeling obviously uncomfortable or insecure, I try to say something kind that will give them a boost. When I see a beggar or someone down on their luck, I offer a silent blessing of healing to them. When I learn of a friend who’s got a reason to celebrate, I jot off an e-mail or call in a “Congrats!” And I’m always on the lookout for unique cards that I can send for birthdays, anniversaries, or “just because.” They can be funny, inspiring, silly, heartfelt, doesn’t matter—it’s all about the words, the message I want to relay.

It’s an easy, simple thing to do, doesn’t cost much, if anything, and makes both sender and receiver feel good—it’s a win/win!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Tera's 2010 Five -- Focusing on the Little Things

My turn to revisit and reevaluate my Five. While I still feel passionately committed to the causes I chose in my original Five (going green, supporting self-sufficiency, disaster relief, historic preservation, and writing mentorship), I am going to tweak my Five to more reflect the ways in which I want to support those causes, rather than focus on those causes themselves. Some will remain the same, while some will change drastically. Here goes....

1. Going Green

I'm maintaining this Five in it's original form. Environmentalism is probably my most passionate cause, and also the one that's been easiest to integrate into my everyday life. I will continue to find ways, big and small, to lighten my load on our overstuffed planet.

2. Push the Positive

Like many people, I often succumb to the temptation of negative thoughts. This could be stress or worry about my career (aka things mostly out of my control), dwelling on some (probably unintentional) perceived slight, or the car that cuts me off on the highway or doesn't offer the common courtesy of letting me out of a parking lot. I vow to focus, instead, on the positive. To channel my energy into things I can change, to worrying about my own life and let others live theirs, and to take a deep breath and count myself lucky for not having the kind of day that makes someone a rude driver. On the surface this my seem like an entirely personal Five, we all know that great things come from tiny beginnings. One smile instead of a scowl might change someone's entire day. And I plan to offer that smile.

3. Wipe Out Waste

This isn't about recycling or composting. By waste I mean anything done in excess which, ultimately, means taking away from something else. Like spending an hour (or two) a week playing games on Facebook when I could be interacting with friends, fans, and aspiring writers. Like buying a nice, fresh, healthy haul of fresh vegetables and then letting them rot before eating them. Like sleeping late when I could be spending time with my family or reading or volunteering at a service organization. It's so easy to let those things slip by--they seem to disappear without our notice--and I'm ready get them under control.

4. Make Little Things Count

For years now I've been collecting change in a jar. (It gets heavy in my purse, you know, and most of the time it's just easier to hand over a bill than to count out exact change.) Then, every few months, I drag the jar to the nearest CoinStar machine and cash in, usually getting either a Starbucks or Amazon gift card. While I'm not quite ready to give up that Starbucks bonus (I have lots of books to write, after all) and am now committed to having a second jar, just for pennies. At the end of the year I will cash in those pennies and donate the proceeds to a charity I support.

This Five isn't just about pennies, but about other little things. A few seconds to send a cheery email to a sad friend. Stopping to take stock of the pure joy of an everyday moment, like watching Burn Notice with me, my parents, and my dog all squeezed onto the couch. These things all add up in the best of ways.

5. Writing Mentorship

This Five will also be staying the same. I am still committed to providing the kind of advice and encouragement that is so necessary for aspiring writers of all levels. At my first writer's group meeting I made the serendipitous choice to take the seat next to the aspiring author who would eventually become my critique partner and my best friend. I often wonder what my life and my career would be like if I'd chosen to sit at another table. And I want to offer a seat at my virtual table for any aspiring author with the commitment and passion to go after this crazy career.

That's it. My revised Five for 2010. I'm a little sad to say goodbye to self-sufficiency, disaster relief, and historic preservation. But, like I said, I'm not abandoning them altogether. Instead, I will my my new Fives to support those causes, as well.

How about you? Have made a change in priorities or approach for the New Year?

Are you Living Your Five?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Becca's Five - The power of positive words

Hey, Fivers!

Welcome to 2010! I've spent the past couple of weeks evaluating my Five, and while I feel really good about the direction I'm heading, I've decided to make one modification. Looking back over the past several months, I've found that while I think volunteering in local schools is an important way of giving back to my community, and helping others achieve their goals, it isn't practical for me right now. I want my Five to be simple, attainable goals that I can strive for every day. I'm looking forward to continuing to accomplish my 2009 Fives as I carry them into 2010, and I'm also looking forward to putting my new Five into practice!

1. Bike it!

My family is fortunate to live within one mile of all of the following: my husband's workplace, my kids' schools, a grocery store, the library, restaurants, parks, my bank and Target. The city I live in has 250 days of sun each year. The roads in my neighborhood have bike lanes. I own a bike. And yet, more often than not, I find myself hopping behind the wheel to make a quick drive to the store, library or to school. With my Five, I'm challenging myself to drive only when necessary.

2. Random acts of kindness

My personality tends to be spontaneous, so I'm especially excited to see how I pursue my goal of spreading a little sunshine in the world around me. It could be anything from paying the toll for the driver behind me, to sending flowers to a stranger, to helping a child with their homework. I think random acts of kindness are small yet powerful acts that, with practice, can become habits in our lives – things we do without thinking twice. A habit of kindness – that's my goal.

3. Pay it forward

Pay it forward is about two things: gratitude and love. I want to show my gratitude to the marvelous people who've impacted my life over the years, and to the many more who will do so in the future, and I think the best way to do this is by being the kind of person who motivates others to be their best self. Mother Teresa said it best: “Spread your love everywhere you go.”

4. Reduce personal consumption

Did you know that Americans account for only five percent of the world's population, and yet we produce 50 percent of the world's waste? When I read this statistic, I felt motivated to make some changes in my life. Am I guilty of being wasteful? Yes. It's not like I wake up each morning and consciously decide I'm going to produce as much trash as I possibly can, but I do buy things I don't need. And when I buy things I don't need or even really have use for, it's inevitable that I will eventually have to throw it out. Which is why I'm committing right now to consume less, therefore using less of the world's natural resources and producing less waste.

5. The power of positive words

The purpose behind this new Five is to challenge myself EVERY SINGLE DAY to say five positive things to friends, family, neighbors, and strangers. These positive affirmations might be as simple as, "Thank you for holding the door for me," to "What a wonderful smile you have." As I look for opportunities to lift others up, I believe my thoughts will automatically shift to a more positive place, and I'll bring more joy to those around me.

There you have it - my Five for 2010. Do any of these resonate with you?

Happy World Changing!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Living Your Five presents... Positive Traditions with Meg Cox

We have a special guest joining us this week for the Friday FiveSpot! Last Thanksgiving, I mentioned a book that I adore called The Book of New Family Traditions by Meg Cox.

As luck would have it, Meg happened to see the post and chimed in about Living Your Five. So for a special treat, I'm delighted to welcome Meg to Living Your Five for a guest feature... and a special giveaway. Read on for all the details!

I asked Meg what she was planning to do in 2010 to make the world a better place. Here's what she had to say:

I always love to support the work of friends, but especially the efforts of my dear friend Lucy Steinitz, an American social worker who has lived with her family in Namibia for more than a decade. She helped build a national network of local caregivers for people all over Namibia suffering from AIDS (for the nonprofit Catholic AIDS Action - Namibia) and then got interested in the plight of those orphaned by the disease. She began a program in Windhoek, Namibia's capitol, called the Saving Remnant Program, which has helped put hundreds of AIDS orphans through high school.

Lucy is now devoted to putting some gifted high school graduates through college locally, so they can grow up to become the future leaders of this beautiful country. Lucy and her colleagues personally choose the recipients and they are supported through monthly meetings and regular dinners at Lucy's house: indeed, one of the orphaned scholars currently lives with her family. For me, it is so much more personal to give in this way, rather than to a big, faceless organization.

I have made a promise to raise additional funds for the Saving Remnant program this year and have made many copies of a DVD about the program produced by a Dutch journalist several years ago. It runs about 20 minutes, and if any of your readers would like a copy, just have them contact me, I used to write a monthly newsletter on family traditions (now it's just quarterly), and some of my readers were inspired to have birthday parties where they showed this video and guests brought money for this cause rather than presents. You can learn more about Lucy through her blog, even though she hasn't posted lately: go to

For anyone who wants to understand the world's needs better, a great way is to get together a small group of passionate girlfriends and form a "Heal the World" circle (call yours whatever you want). You meet weekly or monthly and work your way through a well-researched book: I heartily recommend "50 Facts That Should Change The World." This is succinct and well-reported and the group could cover more than one at each meeting. Different members could be assigned to do added research and report to the circle. Once you have digested and discussed the book, you may choose to become a "giving circle" of sorts and donate money collectively, or individually, to organizations that help solve some of these massive problems.

Great stuff, Meg! In honor of Living Your Five's commitment to making positive changes, Meg has graciously offered to give away a signed copy of The Book of New Family Traditions. (Sweet, right?) For your chance to win, simply comment below with one thing you'll be doing in 2010 to help make the world a better place. (US/Canada residents only this time.) The winner will be announced in next week's Friday FiveSpot.

Good luck and cheers to you!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Alyson's 2010 Five--Gratitude, baby!

I don't know about you, but every year, without fail, sometime around the time December 27th rolls around, I find myself eagerly waiting for the New Year to begin. There's something about the promise of a fresh start, a new beginning, a clean slate--that makes me feel like anything is possible.

Not only is it a chance to look back and see where I've been, but also to look ahead and plot where I want to go next. And while this year brings a whole slew of new goals, both personal and professional, as far as my Five goes, it's pretty much the same with one minor (but still major) tweak!

So here goes:

1. I, Alyson Noel, do hereby commit to frequent acts of kindness and GRATITUDE.
This one is basically the same as last year's #1 with the addition of the word "gratitude." A big one for me as I truly believe it's one of the most important things we can practice. Whether it's gratitude for a beautiful sunset, the song of a bird chirping, a fresh bloom on a stem, a favor from a family member of friend--expressing our gratitude is a positive force that leaves everyone feeling good. And when we feel good--we do good. So yeah, more focus on gratitude. I'm so there!

2. I will also commit to random acts of charity.
Las year this one played out in the way of lots and lots of charitable donations, which, due to time constraints, were primarily of the monetary and material kind. We'll see what this year brings . . .

3. Every time I buy something new like clothes, books, shoes, and/or purses--my usual vices--I will donate something similar to a person, place, or organization that needs it.
Okay, truth be told, I was really, really excited about this one, but also a little worried. As someone who likes not just my old stuff, but also the prospect of shiny new stuff as well--could I really do it?

Well, I did do it! And it felt so great I plan to keep doing it. Because not only did it cut down on my personal consumption, it made me really stop and consider the real reason I was tempted to buy something. Did I really need it as much as I told myself I did--or did I merely just want it instead? And if I so, -did I want it enough to get rid of something similar that I already had? Most of the time the answer was no, but when it was yes, I gotta tell you, it felt great to donate!

4. I will also commit to whatever acts I can to live greener and help lessen and/or offset my environmental footprint.
Yep, this one's the same too, and so far it's resulted in a major changing of the light bulbs, buying a hybrid car (and yes, giving up a gas guzzler to make room for the new one!), putting on a sweater in place of cranking up the thermostat (I admit, living in Southern California makes this one a little easier!), landscaping with native, drought resistant plants, and recycling in a big way . . . we'll see what 2010 adds to the mix!

5. This one also stays as it's hugely important to me: I, Alyson Noel, do hereby promise to firmly commit to positivity, to keeping all of my communications to a no snarking/no ranting zone, and will happily post about what's going right in the world, since I thing we're all too aware of what's going wrong.
By continuing to do this, I'm really, really hoping that I can convince at least one, maybe two, possibly even three others to follow suit. Because the truth is, I'm often saddened by the Internet. Saddened by how a tool that holds so much potential to bring us all together more often degrades into an acid-tongued snark-fest instead. I'm saddened by the amount of energy so many people put into such rampant negativity. I'm saddened that we're living in a world where the well-timed insult reigns supreme. Yes, there are shows I don't like, celebrities I don't care for, books that left me feeling bleh--but so what? Who cares? Those are just my opinions--it doesn't make them facts. Why invest all of that time and energy into something you claim to hate? Why tear someone down when you can lift someone up instead? Seriously? Why even go there? Anytime I'm even tempted to do this, I think of this quote by Deepak Chopra:

"The cheapest way to feel good about yourself is by feeling superior to others."

And I'm always stopped dead in my tracks.

Calling someone ugly won't make you pretty--declaring someone stupid won't make you smarter--tagging someone as a no-talent won't make you gifted--but taking the time to say something nice, never, ever fails to put you and your subject in a flattering light.

We can do this--all of us--one positive step at a time!

So there you go, that's my Five. Basically the same as last year's with the addition of GRATITUDE--a simple concept, but a powerful force!

What about YOU? How are you Living Your Five this New Year??

Monday, January 4, 2010

Kay's new Five for 2010 - a lean, green, happy life!

Happy New Year!

The end of another year is always a great time to reevaluate our lives and take stock of what's working and what could use some tweaking. That doesn't necessarily mean creating a laundry list of goals for the new year. Sometimes it's as simple (simple, not easy) as identifying what your priorities are so you can keep them in mind as you move forward.

Enter Living Your Five. :-)

Alyson, Tera, Becca and I are all going to be revisiting our Five this month and making tweaks to keep them current with where we are in our lives right now. It's something we encourage everyone to do, in fact! As our lives change, it's only natural that our Fives will change with them. What's super important today might not be as important to you in a different phase of your life, right?

In keeping with that, here's my new Five:

1. Embrace gratitude and pay it forward

This is a combination of two of my original Five. The more I work with gratitude and find ways to pay it forward, the more I realize that these are often two sides of the same coin. More often than not, the things I do to make a difference in one also make a difference in the other.

2. Choose kindness and harmony

One of Alyson's posts last year really got me thinking about how we relate to the world around us. It's not just about what we do, it's about how we do it. The how matters, in a big way. This part of my Five is my reminder that practicing kindness and encouraging harmony are two of the most basic, but profound, ways to make an immediate impact on the world around us.

3. Put family and friends first

Sometimes we spend so much time giving to others--often to people we may never even see--that we lack the time or energy to give back to the people we love most. As I looked back on what I accomplished in 2009, I was happy with the ways I paid it forward to the outside world. But when I looked at how much time I was able to devote to the people I care about most, it made me sad.

While it's wonderful to make a difference in the greater scheme of the world, it's just as important to make a difference to the people closest to you. As HGTV says, "Change the world. Start at home."

4. Seek out inspiring stories and share them with others

This is something I do naturally because I LOVE a good heartwarming story! And I have a lot of fun incorporating them in features like our Friday FiveSpots. But I want to do even more of this. Including the stories on my own You 2.0 blog, sharing them with my email buddies and my family... just spreading the word about all the great things people are doing to make their world a better place.

So much of the news is about what's wrong with the world. That's one of the things I love about Living Your Five: it's all positive, all the time. :-) We might not be changing the world every week, but we're making a difference in ways that matter to us. Lots of people are doing the same thing, day in and day out. I want to find those stories, cheer them on, and share the inspiration they offer with everyone looking for a bright spot in the world.

5. Live a greener life

This is another carryover from my original Five. And it's definitely one I plan to keep. I love finding new ways to cut my carbon footprint and embrace the reduce-reuse-recycle way of life. Every little bit helps!

So there you go... Kay's Five for 2010. :-) Do any of these resonate with you as well?

Friday, January 1, 2010

Living Your Five presents... Honorary Fiver Day!

Happy New Year!

What better way to celebrate a new year and fresh start than with our favorite day here at Living Your Five:

Honorary Fiver Day!

We'll be hosting this event on the first Friday of every month. Honorary Fiver Day is your chance to become a bonafide Honorary Fiver member of the Living Your Five community.

To become an Honorary Fiver, all you have to do is share your Five in the comments on this special Honorary Fiver post. Let us know the five areas you want to make a difference in!

Once you've shared your Five on this post, you are officially an Honorary Fiver and have our permission to nab this cute logo (designed by our own fab Tera!) to place on your blog or web site. Cool, right?

What does being an Honorary Fiver mean?

Being an Honorary Fiver means you're ready to join us in our quest to change our world... one person and one Five at a time. But posting your Five in the comments area of an official Honorary Fiver Day post is just the beginning. We want you to keep us posted on how you're doing on your Five! Any time one of us posts about our progress, please chime in and share your Five news too. Tell us what great things you're up to. All Fiver progress is worth celebrating, big steps and baby steps alike!

The more action we take, the more excitement we spread, the more momentum we build... the more impact we make as a Fiver community!

And yes, we encourage you to post about your Five progress on your own blogs too if you wish. Blog your Honorary Fiver hearts out, we say! Just remember to post your progress on Living Your Five too so you can inspire the rest of our community. :-)

An important note to keep in mind...

One of the tricky things about creating your Five is distinguishing between something that's beneficial to you vs. something that's immediately beneficial to others. Even we had to stop ourselves on occasion and ask "Who is really benefitting from this?"

Your Five must be things that directly impact others in a positive way, not something that is primarily for your own personal benefit.

In addition to our Fives, Alyson, Tera, Becca and I are all actively pursuing our own kinds of personal development. That's just part of being the best we can be. But that's a personal endeavor, not a Fiver endeavor.

Here's an example of what I mean:

Things like regular meditation and spiritual development are for your own personal growth. They're lovely goals, to be sure. And they may very well improve your ability to carry out your Five. But those goals would not be part of your Five themselves because the person who benefits most is you.

Stick to things that directly and obviously impact others first and foremost, whether those others are people, animals, the Earth, or whatever you happen to care about. Don't worry... if you're like us, there will be way more than just five things in your "Impacting Others" column.

NOTE: You must post your Five here to become an Honorary Fiver, even if you've already shared it in the comments of a non-Honorary Fiver Day post. (Having all of the Fives together on these special Honorary Fiver Day posts is the only way we can keep track of our growing Honorary Fivers membership.)

And now, without further ado, I introduce... YOU!

So there you go, dear readers! If you're ready to step up to the plate--Welcome! We're thrilled to have you aboard!--now is your time to shine. Share your Five in the comments below, nab the Honorary Fiver logo for your blog or web site, and go change your world!

Are you ready to Live Your Five?