Your Fierce Practice | #8 Write Yourself A Love Letter

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It's not just a love letter, but a permission slip to love yourself (as is).

A love letter to yourself is not a mushy sentimental thing. It’s a permission slip to love and accept yourself, and your light, fully. Take a moment at the start of this year to dive deep into your own spark and shiny-goodness. What is it, exactly, that you LOVE about the full and whole and robust person that you are? (Need some help getting started? See the questions below.)

1. What do you love most about your sweet self?
2. Envision one new thing ONLY YOU can create in 2018.
3. What makes you YOU?
4. What do you love about the woman you see in the mirror? (Name at least one thing, but please feel free to write one million things!)
5. What is your brilliant spark?
6. How will your light shine uniquely in 2018?

Once you get going with all your self-love, write it all down as a for-real-100% love letter to yourself. A real pen and paper letter (or collage or any kind of your own creative goodness). The important part, for right now, is recording all of the amazing goodness that you see and feel in yourself. Be sure to sign it from your own sweet self. Write it down and seal it up good and tight inside an envelope. 

  • Take that envelope, and write YOUR address on the front of it. And place a forever stamp on the front too.
  • THEN, take that envelope (the envelope addressed to yourself with your love letter in it) and put it inside a NEW envelope.
  • Address the blank envelope as below, and put on a stamp and put it in the mail.
  • (Yup, you just basically put a self addressed stamped envelope in the mail!)
  • Then, sometime in the future your magic words of self-love will boomerang back to you in the future, and just maybe at a time when you will most need to remember exactly how and why you love yourself so much. [The prompt will stay open for a long time, so feel free to send your envelope well into March 2018 if you like.]

Address Your Love Letter To:
Love Letters
Make Time Farm
6666 W Stuart Rd
Beloit, WI 53511

You see, the thing is that it's so important for us to love and value ourselves. And to know and see our own gifts and how we can use them in the world. And at the same time parts of this crazy planet can make us feel like saying anything nice about ourselves is too prideful or cocky or show-boaty. Or that loving and believing in ourselves (and having the gaul to actually WRITE IT DOWN) is somehow shameful. So, let's start the year off with a reminder that it's a practice to love ourselves sometimes - both in the finding things to love and in feeling okay about knowing how awesome and spectacular and light-bringing we are. So, start that practice today by thinking and feeling through all the reasons you love yourself and practice actually feeling and writing and OWNING all the reasons you are so amazing. 

I promise I'll take good care of your self-love letters. I also promise to take good care of your envelopes, and I promise I will not open them. All you do is love, write, and send. That love will come back to your loving self at some point in the future. I promise you there is nothing better than reading your own glowing review of yourself. 

- - - - -

And, just to have it all in one place, here are all the previous prompts:
#1: Magpie
#2: Six-Word Book Report (I can't wait to hear your book summaries!)
#4: Left Undone
#5: Let Go
#6: A Blessing
#7: Sorting What You Know
#8: Write Yourself A Love Letter

Find today's original missive HERE. Like this goodness? You can subscribe HERE.

Your Fierce Practice | #7 Sorting What You Know

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Here we are. At the time of the year (aka, the beginning) when EVERYTHING seems to be about IMPROVEMENT. Mostly, self-improvement. Sure, that's good and fine. But, there's something a little queer about focusing completely on making ourselves better...

Because it ignores the fact that we are 99.99% ABSOLUTELY PERFECT and strong and inspiring and exactly how we are RIGHT NOW. AND, it doesn't do anything to help us CELEBRATE the unique (and totally quirky) things that make us, us.

And, let's be clear - the reason that you are so incredible is because you are that unique, lit-up, sparkly person who is you right now. So, for that reason the rest of Your Fierce Practice is going to be all about finding, shining the light on, magnifying, and expanding the YOU that already exists. Because you are already whole. (And I think you know that already). 

Prep Work:
FYI this Prompt #7 requires a little printing. As in, computer printing. So, just in case you can't print anything at home, take a chance to print all nine pages of THIS (single sided) while you are out and about today. [aka, still at work :)]

Prompt #7: Sorting What You Already Know
Whether we know it or not, there are a million THINGS floating through our worlds and our words and our lives and our values. And we prioritize them without even thinking about it. There are so many things that are present that we are so good at ignoring because they don't pertain to us. They are almost invisible. Likewise, sometimes our most core values and beliefs and goals become invisible too - they are so present to us we almost take them for granted. Today's activity will shine some light on ALL of these things, make them visible, and then focus the spotlight on those things that are actually most valuable to us. 

The activity is called the PERSONAL VALUES Card Sort. And although it looks quite simple, it can become as deep as you like it to. Here we go!

1. Start by printing out all nine pages of the Card Sort activity (be sure to print front-side only). Gather a pair of scissors too! Here's the link:

2. Cut out all the 'cards' on the sheets. Start now by making this cutting activity your warm-up. Cut meditatively, let yourself become grounded and be present. 

3. You'll notice on sheet one that it starts with cards reading "Important To Me" "Very Important To Me" and "Not Important To Me". Pull these aside. 

4. The heart of the activity is sorting all of the little values cards into one of these three "buckets" (Important, Very Important, Not Important) that resonates most for you. If you want to make your 'buckets' more narrow, feel free to add a category for "Neutral" "Most Important" or whatever you want. Don't have any more than five 'buckets' for sorting into. Place your three to five "Buckets" on the table or floor where you are working, but give them space. (You'll be sorting all of those little white cards near them, so you'll want room to spread out if I haven't mentioned it already).

5. Sort. Here's the heart of it. Based on the name of the value on each card - and the description below it - sort each card into the appropriate bucket. A few quick notes: don't over think it. Trust your gut. DON'T JUDGE YOURSELF. (And, maybe, be prepared to be surprised.)

6. Once all of your 'cards' are sorted into their 'buckets' - take some time to notice. Notice how it felt. Notice your feelings. Notice anything that surprises you. Notice discrepancies. Notice how many things are in each pile. No judging. Just noticing. 

7. If you can, leave your piles where they are for a few days. Should you live with tornados or small children or not-too-much space, collect your 'values' into their own bucket piles and put them in their own envelope.

We'll come back to this later - the seeing and the sorting and the noticing is the place to start. 

Oh - and have fun. Be open to the subtext. And don't do what you think you should, just listen to that quiet voice on the inside and go forward. 

- - - - -

And, just to have it all in one place, here are the previous prompts:
#1: Magpie
#2: Six-Word Book Report (I can't wait to hear your book summaries!)
#4: Left Undone
#5: Let Go
#6: A Blessing
#7: Sorting What You Know

Find today's original missive HERE.

Your Fierce Practice | #6 A Blessing

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This is the first day. And it also feels like a grace period. 

This day which is offered to you, and in which you are not required to offer much to the world.

A soft landing into the new year. 

Use this gift, this slow space, to plan your approach (that soft landing) to the year ahead. 
Keep some light on hand (the reflecting is always needed), but get yourself ready for everything else in store for this year ahead. In this next week (even if you return to work, to family, to exercise, to practice) make time for rest, for organizing [define that as you will], aligning your heart compass, setting intention, and setting off in the right direction. 

This is a new beginning after all*. Why not do everything possible to imbue it with as much of the goodness and grace that you want? 

So, here's your Prompt #6: Create your own blessing to ring in this new year. (There's a little etymological love below to help you think outside the box if you like.) Start to think about what you want this year to hold FOR YOU, and then think about how you can bless, celebrate, pray, wish, ceremony, mark or otherwise imprint and permeate these next 365-ish days to hold everything you want for you.

Sage smudge? Prayer? Laying out all of your art supplies and thanking each one? Walking in your favorite woods with intention? Reciting your favorite poem in every room of the house? Mindfully carrying out the day's chores? Napping? Curling up with all those seed catalogs? Something you recall from an elder in your childhood?

A blessing does not have to be religious. Nor does it have to be a one-time-only-affair. A ritual at each of the new beginnings throughout this year may be a powerful thing for you as well.

You don't have to have the answer in this moment. But as you plant the seeds of joy and love and plans for this year ahead, think of how to best tuck them in the soil for a blessed (or blest) year ahead. 

1 1 12 Blessing
1 1 18 Bless

*It's all a beginning, isn't it? A new year? A new month? A new day? A new hour? A new minute? We have all these chances for fresh, clean, new, bright starts all the time.

- - - - -

And, just to have it all in one place, here are the previous prompts:
#1: Magpie
#2: Six-Word Book Report (I can't wait to hear your book summaries!)
#4: Left Undone
#5: Let Go
#6: A Blessing

Find today's original missive HERE. Today's quote from Muriel Rukeyser, Elegy In Joy

Your Fierce Practice | #5 Let Go

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Here's your Prompt #5

There's a pretty good chance that when you read this, we'll be in the new year.

H A P P Y  N E W  Y E A R.

As in, into 2018. So...

I'd like to place all the emphasis on the N E W part of that greeting.

So, here's your last prompt of the old year, #5: Let Go.

Right? Everything from that last year, that's last year's business. And, quite frankly - there's probably a whole lot of STUFF AND JUNK that doesn't need to come with you.

SO. Write it down on a piece of paper. One thing or a million things. Things, ideas, feelings, memories, anything that you don't need to bring into the new year ... and burn it or bury it. 

You heard me. Burn that paper. Or bury it. 

Because you don't need it anymore. 

So, here's to a new year and a very clear and fresh start. 

And, just to have it all in one place, here are the previous prompts:
#1: Magpie
#2: Six-Word Book Report (I can't wait to hear your book summaries!)
#4: Left Undone
#5: Let Go

Find today's original missive HERE. Today's quote is from Alfred Lord Tennyson In Memoriam, [Ring out, wild bells].

Your Fierce Practice | #4 Left Undone

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Here's your Prompt #4, which may or may not seem and feel pessimistic. It's not supposed to be a downer, just a different way to check in. 

Grab your journal or notebook (or a huge piece of butcher paper and a Sharpie, clearly I am a huge fan of big paper and big writing). Then write down all the things that didn't happen this year.

I know. This sounds like a terrible activity. To think about all the goals and resolutions that were not met? What a totally horrible wet blanket. But, that's only one way to look at it. 

Because, the things we don't end up doing actually tells us a lot about where our energy and values and activities actually are (like, in the real world). And that's only if you tackle this activity by 1) finding your 2017 goals and 2) listing all the things that didn't happen.

However, that's not the only way to look at this. There are a lot of things that didn't happen this year that are maybe good things. Like all that talk a few weeks back about how powerful it is NOT to do something. Or how absence is a good thing, and not a bad thing. (I did not use Facebook. I did not stay up too late. I did not say yes too often. I did not take on this project.) You get the point. 

Plus, there's the whole category of 'in process' - those things that you have started but aren't yet complete. (Because we know that some things take a long time to grow on their own, or with others, and simply can not be contained within one calendar year - no matter how hard we try.)

All I'm saying is, take some time to think about this. And then set some candles of reflection next to your list and see if any themes or patterns or ideas jump out at you. Is there any certain type of thing that re-appears over and over on your list? Anything that (should you have done this for many years) would appear year after year on this list? And use this as a gentle guide as you set your plans in place for the new year ahead. 

And, just to have it all in one place, here are the previous prompts:
#1: Magpie
#2: Six-Word Book Report (I can't wait to hear your book summaries!)

Find today's original missive HERE. Today's quote is from Marge Piercy's The birthday of the world.

Your Fierce Practice | #3 PHOSPHORESCENCE

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Oh words. Oh poetry. Oh inspiration in all its written and visual and auditory and tactile forms.

Your light-seeking work for today is straightforward:

A. Reflect on / think through / wait for / know deep in your bones instantly the poem, essay, quote, song, piece of art or anything that most stuck with you in 2017. Maybe it's something old that came to the rescue and tug-boated you through hard times. Maybe it's something hot off the press that you just ran across and it lit up your world. Maybe you found an old poem for the first time digging through dusty anthologies at the library. It doesn't matter what it is, or how you found it - just identify ONE piece of art or writing that has been pivotal (or life saving or buoying or striking or refreshing or anything) for you in 2017.

B. If possible, grab a big piece of paper and re-write it in your own hand. Make the time for this to be a meditative practice. This is not a hand-lettering competition. This is about absorption. Absorbing the work into yourself. And becoming wholly absorbed in the present moment of connecting with the words. (If your thing isn't written words, get creative. If it's a song, write out the lyrics or the music. If it's visual art, draw it or re-create it or just post it somewhere you can see it.)

C. Hand it somewhere you will see it for the next few days. Or weeks. Or all of 2018. Consider it your security blanket to transition into this new year ahead. Place a candle or shine a light on it. Take a moment to think about why this piece has become so important to you this year. What lessons does it have to teach you? How can it hold your hand across the threshold into 2018?

D. Share. Drop a note into the comments below and let me know the name of the poem / essay / song. Or take a photo of your hand-written version. Share it online with #MyFiercePractice2017 and #FiercePhosphorescence. I'll share back what I hear from you all, and I'm really excited that we can all inspire each other with the words that have inspired and ignited us this year. 

And, just to have it all in one place, here are the previous prompts:
#1: Magpie
#2: Six-Word Book Report (I can't wait to hear your book summaries!)

Find the original missive HERE.

Your Fierce Practice | #2 Six-Word Book Report

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It's here. The prompt you've been waiting for...

Your life is a story. Did you know that you are a chronicle? And 2017 is a very big and important book in that series of publications. This year probably has a plot, a main character (you), a hero (also you), a villain (okay, maybe also sometimes you). It may also have a moral, a lesson, an arc, a lightning bolt, an unexpected twist, birds, unicorns. Okay, maybe not birds or unicorns. But, you get the point. We all know that each year is intertwined with those before it, and also sets the path for the magic of the new year ahead. But each year is also it's own, unique entity. Your 2017 is a book. And your task is to write A Six-Word Book Report about this year. 

Based on the Six-Word Memoir developed by Smith Magazine, the concept is pretty clear. Craft a six-word sentence summarizing this year. But, because we always need a twist, frame your year as a novel or a story, and your six-words as "a book report" (if you have a preference for middle school) or "a book review". (As usual, apply these terms as liberally as you like.

Take the time to think of this year as a story, a novel, an essay. Give it some structure, from open to close. Envision it (pretty illustrations and all) in your head. And then (simply) summarize it in a six-word sentence.

Of courses: 1) have fun. 2) don't take it too seriously. 3) let your brain mull it over in the background while washing dishes. 4) no due date. 5) play at your leisure. 6) please share in the comments below or on social media with the hashtags #MyFiercePractice2018 and #SixWordBookReport or by email at

Please please please do send your six-word book review. We'll compile and share our collective (very short) stories for all to see.

Can't wait to hear from you!

Find the original missive HERE (which also includes stories of my #FierceMagpie light collecting).

Your Fierce Practice | #1 Magpie

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Scout like the infamous Magpie* for bright and sparkly things. Bring them back to your nest.

Glittery things. Eye catching things. Whatever it is that catches your eye.

But, mostly, bright things. Positive things. Light things. Gather together objects, thoughts, memories, mementos, candles, glitter, sequins, that essay you wrote that was accepted for publication, your solstice crown, an icicle, a list from nature - all of it. The literal and metaphorical magpie trinkets that you can see from long distances, that grab your attention, that shine, that spark, that are begging to be brought home. Gather them all in a place (a kitchen table, a notebook, the edge of the bathtub, the bedside table, snapped in your camera) and take it all in and see what kind of light they cast together.

Bring the light to you. Compile. Celebrate. Admire. Keep space for your magpie nest into the new year. Add to it over time if you like, at least a few days. Think about objects (or not-objects) that bring light and meaning. Notice the places the light and the reflection and the sparkle show up, and weave them into your nest. Sometimes, just sometimes, it's nice to make a pile, make a nest, make a collage, make an anything and add to it (without that feeling that it needs to be cleaned up right away). So, you Magpie, steal your shiny things. Put them together in your nest to make light. Hoard them, and let them glow. Let that light shine tho way to your upcoming reflections. 

Interested in sharing? Take a photo of your magpie nest (now, daily, later, whatever) and share on social media. Let's use the hashtags: #MyFiercePractice2018 and #FierceMagpie. 

P.P.S. Remember, stay loose and metaphorical. Maybe glitter and sequins do not make anything in your life sparkle...but milkweed pods and winter rosemary and snowflakes do. This prompt is just a starting point. I know you glow and sparkle in your own way. Make time for it.

You can find the full, original missive HERE . And HERE is Marge Piercy's poem in full - The Head of the Year.

Here's to you, Magpie. I want to see what's in your nest.

*P.S. Magpie's might not actually like to steal shiny things...but let's just pretend it's still true.

Your Fierce Practice | Shining Light Back and Forward

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#1: Magpie
#2: Six-Word Book Report (I can't wait to hear your book summaries!)
#4: Left Undone
#5: Let Go
#6: A Blessing
#7: Sorting What You Know
#8: Write Yourself A Love Letter

It's Here! IT'S HERE!

This may have a tone of rushing to it, and that may be because I feel like I am rushing. Rushing through everything and trying my d-a-r-n-d-e-s-t to be present. To be grounded. To wonder and wander. To make art. To make time. To not worry about what 'needs' to be done. To give myself small moments to get lost in time. Time of making. Relaxing. Reflecting. 

And, it's the reflecting part that's finally here. And I am excited. 


Because I am craving time to hold still and reflect. And I suspect you may be to. And because the end of the year is upon us, which also means the beginning of a fresh new year is emerging, I want to make that effort to sort and sift and see what this past year has been. I want to make the shape of it, and I want that shape tell me something. To teach me something. And because this year ahead is not quite here yet, and because it is still blank and shapeless and full of opportunity, I want to set a light so that it will glow from the inside. Because, like I said a few days back, reflections require LIGHT (or HEAT). And since I also require light and heat, it seems like a particularly good idea to go out in search of some of that light. The source for our shape and shadow-making. The dazzle in the glitter. The thing that makes the moon glow and the stars twinkle. I want to light all of this up, and see it, if only for a briefly illuminated moment.

How? With two(ish) weeks of prompts and activities to shine the light - both backwards and forwards. You can find them all here on the blog, or subscribe to the A Fierce Practice TinyLetter to receive a fresh lightbulb in your email each day. Be warned, they are interactive, and I LOVE to hear back from you. So feel free to drop a comment on the blog here, or send me an email at All of your responses are compiled and shared back anonymously.

Want To Prepare? 
Gather this list of things before you start. Tuck them in a corner or a box. We'll use them over the next two weeks. Sometimes it's handy to have everything on hand. No worries. You don't have to do any of this ahead of time if you don't want.

  • A few sheets of paper
  • Pens and pencils
  • 2 envelopes
  • 2 forever stamps (*not in the US, drop me a line)
  • Print this 9 page PDF. (No peeking!)
  • Really Big Piece of Paper (and maybe masking tape).
  • Matches or shovel
  • Your journal or notebook
  • A favorite writing utensil or medium

The only rule is that there are no rules. You can tackle these prompts at your own pace over the next few days (or weeks, or the whole month of January). You can make them as actual or literal or metaphorical as you want. You can make them as fast or as slow or as long or as short. It can be a thought activity while driving carpool / commuting / washing dishes or it can be a full-out messy craft table adventure. As always, I would love for you to share (photo/hashtag notes below), but truly it's all up to you. These are the things I need right now, so I offer them to you as well. You can scroll through the blog to find all the prompts, but I'll include them here too (at the top).

So, I hope to run into you over the next few weeks. May you have lots of love and light in ending this year that is, and welcoming the year that will be. Below is the Lucille Clifton poem with today's quote. Hugs to you!

i am running into a new year

By Lucille Clifton

i am running into a new year
and the old years blow back
like a wind
that i catch in my hair
like strong fingers like
all my old promises and
it will be hard to let go
of what i said to myself
about myself
when i was sixteen and
twenty-six and thirty-six
even thirty-six but
i am running into a new year
and i beg what i love and
i leave to forgive me

More from the December 25th missive HERE.

Wishing You Más

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Hi. It's me. Your Christmas Wet Blanket.

I hope you have a good day. A good day for you. Probably the most 'appropriate' thing to say is Merry Christmas. But, let's be honest. It's not really merry for everyone. For so many different reasons. A bad day. Memories. Loss. The gloomies. Too much stress in a hot kitchen with people coming over too soon. No people coming over and not soon enough. It's fine if it's not merry, because it just is.

The problem is requiring it to be merry for everyone.

So, please just remember it might not be merry for everyone. And that's okay. We're complex and feelings are weird shape-shifters. Just don't force it. For yourself. Or for anyone else. (And please let everyone have their feelings, and please don't tell anyone how to feel today. And please don't tell anyone they don't feel how they actually feel.) 

So, we're down to xxxxx Christmas. And, well, Christ may or may not actually play a role in your day. (Or, Baby Jesus, if you're a baby in a manger sort of person) So - I'll just wish you Más. As in, Spanish for more.

More light.
More quiet.
More room for feeling.
More room for figuring.
More room for _____________.
(You can fill in that blank absolutely however you want.)

And, if this time around (or every time around) Silent Night or chocolate haystacks or driving in the dark or dog sad or disappointment or anything is making you feel all the things, which are then magnified by the merry and the Christ part of December 25th, just know that you are not alone. And that you own your feelings and that no one can force you to feel anything today. It is a holiday after all. 

So. Take care of yourself. And take care of those around you. (In the real way, which means watching out and being kind and soft and gentle.) 

Today's quote is from Carrie Newcomer's Abide. See more (and read more) HERE. Or listen HERE.

Reflections Require Light

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In thinking about and preparing for some end of year reflection (and hopefully holding still) I’m swirling around the concept of reflection. By definition it means casting back a light or a heat. Which requires some source if light to begin with. There’s something paradoxical about this to me...this dark-season navel gazing and year-ahead planning during the darkest days of the year. So how, and where, so we find that light for reflection? Or is our reflection about finding that light to begin with? Are we generating our own light for our own introspection? Or are we finding our light in order to investigate it more deeply?

To say they least, I think "light" (both casting and finding it) will be a tenet (the thread!) of the "Your Fierce Practice" activity for wrapping up 2017 and welcoming 2018. Expect light, sparkles, candles, glowing, and warmth.

Last night, in searching for my keys in the car, the glimmer of two small mirrors caught my eye. How did two, tiny star shaped pieces of glitter get into the back of my car? Turns out the escaped from an envelope from Miss P, which I only noticed after more tiny glitters fell out of the envelope later last night.

I ran the hose for about an hour today, in twenty degree weather, washing out the pump and the water lines. Wasting water while waiting for clear water to run through. A fine mist escaped the joint where I connected two hoses together. When I went outside to check on the water status after an hour, I discovered I created a glimmering ice landscape in the pasture grass where the hose mist floated and froze. I suspect there were tiny, tiny gnomes and mushrooms in there too. It was beautiful, and magnified by the few sparse glints of sun from the day.

Walking the dog tonight, with the weather in the teens, the grass looked like someone blew glitter all across it. Lit only by parking lot lights, dark otherwise, there were sparkles winking at me from the grass everywhere I looked.

The light is here my friends. Even at night. Even in darkness. Forming in thin, cold air. The light is all around. Let's find it and reflect it back to the world. We'll do some of this together starting December 26th with the Your Fierce Practice prompts to shine a light on the fullness of 2017, and blaze a path forward into 2018. (Join us HERE!)

Gifting Guide | Gifts For The Creative Spark!

A Fierce Gifting Guide Creative Spark

QUICK LIST! (Read More Below)
1. Flow Magazine
2. The Found Object Creativity Kit by Molly Anthony
3. Starry Night Embroidered Christmas Ornament by Jennifer Bilton
4. Vintage Postage Stamps
5. Stationery and Letter Writing Tools, Screech Owl Design
6. Bored and Brilliant (The Book!) by Manoush Zomorodi
7. Duh, Sharpies!!!!!
8. Powder Keg Writing Workshop Hand Painted Prompt Cards by Suzi Banks Baum

Oh how I want to write glowing reasons why these are all perfect gifts for living A BIG, CREATIVE LIFE, and why (in the case you want to give a gift) these are all EXCELLENT options. (Especially if you want to give YOURSELF a gift.) But, since it's curfew and I'm zonked - dig around in the links about and it will take you all of five seconds to know why and how these are excellent gifts for sparking juicy, positive, creative goodness!

Gifting Guide | Quick, Easy & Useful Gifts Under $36

A Fierce Gifting Guide Quick Gifts

QUICK LIST! (Read More Below)
Wheel Thrown Mug, Toast Ceramics 1.
Flower Bulbs, American Meadows 2.
Charcoal & Mint Soap, Madison Soap Company 3.
Milk Frother, Target 4.
Social Preparedness Kit, Egg Press 5.

6. Pollinator Postage Stamps, USPS
7. Letterpress Cards, Squeezebox Press
8. Weapon of Choice Pencils, Holly Oddly
9.  All you need is sleep PJs, Alphabet Bags
10. Super Sassy Patch, Meriwether of Montana
11. Smartwool Socks @ Duluth Trading Company 

Are you ready for the good stuff? I am! I get it, you've been exceptionally patient with all of the words and assessments and're just ready for the gift ideas! So, over the next few days I'll share a Gift Guide with a different theme! Today, we're starting with the original. THIS is the list that got me thinking about putting together a gift guide in the first place. Personally, these are a few of my favorite gems from the last year (or so), and I want to shout from the mountaintops about how exciting and colorful and useful and beautiful these tiny little things are (and most fit within the bounds of the Manual for Meaningful Giving. Let's get started...

The goal of this gift is fun and useful gifts for people you love AND they all can serve in a pinch when you need to gift something spirited (an actual thing) to another person. Consider this your easy access guide to all things good. Bonus points, all of these gifts range from $4.50 to $36! One of the main things folks on the Fierce Practice Tiny Letter said is that shopping in real life (like getting in and out of a car and driving all over and parking and schlepping bags and small children) is a total pain. The short way of saying is that ALL of these items are available online - INCLUDING beautiful handmade items crafted by super talented artistic folks across the country. (So, my note to you on that is...THESE ARE REAL PEOPLE who also want to make time for a holiday - SO THE EARLIER YOU ORDER THE BETTER!)

Here's a little bit of a deeper dive:

  1. Wheel Thrown Mugs ($35) by Toast Ceramics. I am a firm believer that sprinkling little pieces of functional art throughout your day is the best way to stay close to beauty. In my opinion, Jackie Matelski of Toast makes the perfect items to add that dash of joy throughout the day. I am also a firm believer that any person who drinks a warm beverage in the morning will have a better day if sipping from something special. Be it a mug, a pour over set, or one of the fantastically clever bowls, these truly are "Considerate Objects to Punctuate Everyday Life". 
  2. Flower Bulbs and Seeds. These are Paperwhite bulbs for forcing from American Meadows ($6.50 for a bag of 4), but any bulbs (amaryllis, daffodil, hyacinth and more) will add fresh color and glorious scents in the middle of (depending where you live) a slightly gray winter season. Blubs and seeds bring with them the potential of growth, and hope for the warmer seasons ahead. 
  3. Wisconsin Charcoal & Mint Soap ($6.50) by Madison Soap Company . Sure, I called out this midwesternly magical moisturizing body soap from Madison Soap Company, but frankly - any of these responsibly hand crafted gems is the perfect gift. The best part about gifting soap and other small self-care products? These are the things we often forgo for ourselves, so consider it a way to give others a smidge of extra luxury and care. EVEN BETTER, you can shop for everyone on your list with one purchase when it comes to small items like soap and lip gloss - just find a different fragrance, shade or flavor for each giftee on your list.
  4. Don't laugh, but I can't not put a Milk Frother (Target, $8) on this list. Two years ago one of my oldest and dearest pals introduced me to this tiny and cheap little gadget, which truly does add a flurry of fancy to warm dairy products. This gift doesn't really fit all the criteria of the Meaningful Gift Manual (it's not handmade, it's surely stuff, it may not be useful to everyone) but it's fun potential is high up there, and it's easy to give away if someone isn't sold on the concept. (Also, frother is a really funny word. Frother. Frother. Frother.)
  5. Stationery is a go to gift for me. Whether you're gifting to a inveterate letter writer or someone who begrudges the thought of even having to write a thank you note - it's always handy to have some kind of stationery on hand. This Social Preparedness Kit from Egg Press ($32) is like a Swiss-Army knife of good correspondence (and you make it easy for that thank you note to go in the mail!)
  6. Don't forget the stamps! The most thoughtful addition to any correspondence gift is a handful of postage stamps. Did you know you can purchase stamps through the mail from USPS? It's the best way to get a prime selection, like this "Protect Pollinator" series Forever stamps.
  7. Did you know it's possible to send warm hugs, beautiful art, and a heartfelt card all at one time in one, flat envelope? It's true! Letterpress Cards, like this Dare to Dally hand designed and pressed piece from Squeezebox Press can serve all your gift giving needs. A) For those of us testing the limits of less, consider using one of these beautiful cards to write a personal letter as a gift to a dear pal. Yes to your thoughtful words, AND the card can be framed as a small piece of wall art too! B) If you're pals with inveterate letter writings who appreciate beautiful stationery, a handful of these blank cards is a gift that can be opened so many times.
  8. These Weapon of Choice Pencils ($7.50 for a 5 pack) by Holly Oddly are sure to bring joy to anyone with the need to pick up a writing implement (which is pretty much everyone, right?) Holly's shop is chock full of small gifts the we may or may not know we need, but can be integrated into any life. (P.S. I conjured one of her "Bad Decisions Brought Me Here" motel keychains earlier this year and it brings me so much joy.) Yes, the Gift Guide is all about giving less stuff, but clever crafts by witty artisans who are real people making things doesn't really fall into the stuff category.
  9. After the lengthy conversation on the TinyLetter about getting more sleep and the importance of real pajamas, it seemed like a good idea to include some sleepwear here. This is a fun All You Need Is Sleep Tee ($38.50) from Alphabet Bags. J.Crew and Lake come highly recommended in the PJs department too, but don't quite fit in the "under $36" category. 
  10. Sassy Patches like this from Meriwether of Montana ($6) may not be perfect for everyone, but it's a great example of a tiny, thoughtful gesture that bring quite a laugh (and not take up too much space). Bonus points, it's iron-on, so no one has to worry about sewing anything (but maybe you do have to worry about finding the iron). I found this little patch of joy at a local art and card shop in town. So, now it's possible to shop your local shops AND find adorable crafty goodies supporting artists across the country. 
  11. SOCKS! SOCKS! SOCKS! I can not tell a lie: hearty, well-made, long-lasting socks are my most favorite gift to receive. Both Smartwool and Duluth Trading Company make excellent, long lasting socks for everyone, but really hot the mark for us folks who live in colder climates. This is the exact kind of little luxury that I can rarely justify purchasing for myself ($10-$29) and always cross my fingers they show up in a Christmas stocking. The main challenge here is picking up the best options (there are SO MANY!), but Duluth Trading Company has a well-curated and manageable selection for easy shopping, (and, they are on sale right now)!

A Fierce Gifting Guide | Manual for Meaningful Giving

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Get out your heart compass and let's get to work. What exactly does it mean to give a meaningful gift? And meaningful to whom? Especially in this time of easily accessible stuff and already having everything we need - what does it mean to give a true gift, and how can we radically rethink the gifting time of year. First, take a peek at the Gift Giving Self-Assessment...and then come on back for this!

A Fierce Gifting Guide | Manual for Meaningful Giving

  1. Just in case you need it, this Manual is actually your permission slip to let go of all your previous associations, expectations, assumptions, habits, traditions, and everything else you hold about how you give gifts. Obligation breeds resentment - so let go of all of that and start with a fresh slate. 
  2. Should is for suckers*. Just keep that in mind. And then notice anytime a should pops into your gift giving thought process.  Treat should like an indicator - a warning light reminding you to pay attention and dig a little deeper.
  3. Gifts (much like puppies) have needs. Not all the time, but often. So, consider what impacts your gift will have on the person receiving it. Does it fit in her life: energetically, emotionally, spatially, financially, and otherwise?
  4. For whom are you actually purchasing this gift? Is it truly because it's something the giftee will love and use and cherish or enjoy, or is it because you love it and think everyone else will too? (4a. The parallel here is Are you gifting based on what you want/need/crave?)
  5. Is your gift wanted or needed? (This is just my personal opinion...but as a person who is truly trying to collect less stuff - this is a really important question.) Consider if, and how, a gift fits in someone's life - literally or metaphorically.
  6. A. If you do have to gift something (as in a tangible, wrappable item): consider something handmade or locally made that supports a real person, artist or livelihood. B. Even better, entertain the idea of something that doesn't stick around forever because it has a useful, and useable lifespan: adult beverages, holiday baked goods, festive wreaths, soaps, quality candles and the like. The joy is in actually consuming these little gems, and they never steal permanent closet space. 
  7. Do you find yourself giving just to give? (Just press pause, see what happens.)
  8. There's no rule that everyone has to get a gift, or that everyone has to get a different, unique gift. Would the world end if you just skipped it, or if you gifted the same letterpress stationery set (in different colors) to all your pals?
  9. Once you give a gift, it's gone. It's out of your hands. You have no more power over it. You can't complain or bicker if the gift doesn't get used, or gets used differently than you planned or sits in a drawer or whatever. Real gifts don't have strings attached. This rule always helps me decide on a gift option...thinking through my own attachment and expectations. So, remember - once it's out of your hands, it's truly out of your hands. (Okay, fine - you can totally judge if you don't get a thank you card, but other than that you don't have any say about how a gift is used.)

Well, how about that? Anything that you really want to add to the Manual For Meaningful Giving? Plunk your ideas in the comments, or drop me a line! Happy Holly-Jolly Gifting Season! Stay tuned for easy gift guides for small gifts, kiddo gifts, gifts for creatives and so much more over the next couple days!

A Fierce Gifting Guide | Self Assessment

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(Well's here!) 

Welcome to The Fierce Gifting Guide! Since this Gift Guide is all about challenging the status quo and breaking down walls and creating new habits and noticing (that's what we do around here) - Let's get down to business with some quick introspection.

When was the last time you actually stopped to think about the gift part of the holiday season? Do you ever pause to ponder all this gift giving, and why it happens? And, more importantly, why and how you choose to participate in it?

Yes, I want to focus on the "choose" part of gifting because all of gifts we give are actually a choice, even if it doesn't really feel like it. And, by choice,  I mean more than just the decision between Barbie or Ken or both. Even though the entirety of the world is now told to go out and buy! buy! buy! immediately after washing the Thanksgiving dishes, there's no rule set in stone that you actually have to do it. (PS: Just notice the lack of emphasis on give! give! give!) Sure, there may be a lot of tradition and expectation and peer pressure and noise from the world around you - but you actually have the agency to choose if, how, when, where and what to gift throughout the holiday season. (It may not feel that way, but I promise it's true.) 

So, although you may already be knee-deep in shopping lists or purchases or already wrapped presents (who the heck are you? you overachiever!) ... here's a 15 point check-in list to orient you to some of your deepest and truest feelings about gift giving. (Psst, there's no judgement here, okay. None from me to you. And I hope certainly none from you to you.) This little list of questions is intended to be a chance to really pause, undo all the layers, and poke around at your MOST TRUE AND HONEST FEELINGS (gulp) about the gift-y time of year. I fully recognize that we all come to the gifting process with very different likes and loves and dislikes and loathes and histories and things that make us excited (or groan). Maybe your responses (and your most gust-level-feelings) can provide some guidance for your attitudes and actions around 'gifts' season.

Instructions. Grab a writing implement if you feel like it. This can be done in your head, but it's less fun. Read each question below and sit with it. Take a moment to notice how it makes you feel. (In your gut, on your skin, wherever and however you feel things.) Then jot down a few notes. Just go for it. There's no answer key. There's no other page to flip to that tells you what your gift giving profile is based on your answers. (Geez, this isn't Cosmo). And believe me, there is no right or wrong answer. Just consider this a chance to start from scratch and ponder how you may actually feel about giving (or not giving) gifts.

A Fierce Gifting Guide | Gift Giving Self-Assessment*

  1. Draw a horizontal line on a piece of paper. On one side write "I LOVE GIFT SEASON" on the other side write "I HATE GIFT SEASON" draw an X on the line indicating where you fall on this spectrum of loving and hating gift giving season. (Don't think LOVE/HATE suits you? Use whatever modifier you want).

  2. What do you love or like most about gifting season and the gifting process? List as many things as you like. (Think broadly. Here's some suggestions: coming up with gift ideas, shopping, finding the perfect gift, supporting local artisans, pretty wrapping paper, presents under the tree, spending money, making people happy by giving, making dreams come true. It's your list, just get to it.)

  3. What do you loathe or like least about gifting season and the gifting process? (Suggestions: Shopping, crowds, spending cashola, unappreciative receivers, shipping stuff to far away places, a sense of obligation, socks, the feeling that everyone already has everything so what's the point of gifts.) [Okay, I see that those suggestions may be a bit biased, so just think about what it may be for you. Even if you LOVE gifting season I bet there is at least one thing you dislike.)

  4. Think of FIVE WORDS that describe WHY you give gifts during the holly season. Any five words that feel true to you. (Even if they are negative words. This is your chance to be honest. Once you've scribbled all five words, re-write them as a list with the most important word at the top of the list, and the least important word on the bottom.***

  5. Think back to Gift Season 2016 (and all the gift seasons before). Is there one (or two or five) things that you remember feeling strongly during or after gift season? Any mental notes or Next year I want to remember to's... that you should actually remember while you have the chance? (Maybe it's about what you gifted, or how you gifted it, or when. Maybe it's a feeling you had. A memory? Jot it down. If it's still with you, it's probably important.

  6. What is the ONE most favorite gift you have received in your whole entire life? Who gifted it to you? What made it so special to you?

  7. Draw a large square. Draw a line down the middle. At the top of the left column write "GIFTS I LOVE TO RECEIVE". At the top of the right column write "GIFTS I AM LESS EXCITED TO RECEIVE". (Sure, replace "less excited" with any word you want.) This list can be more than just the gifts themselves: consider types of gifts, what a gift requires of you, how the gift is used, etc. Then, translate this to your gift giving mentality.

  8. Do you buy a gift because you like it OR because you know that the recipient will like it (or needs it / has space for it / has asked for it / can afford to use it, etc.) [Yup, I know that's a leading question]

  9. Do you give gifts because you usually give gifts and it would feel weird / bad / odd / not generous to just stop giving gifts or give radically different types of gifts? (This is in line with the whole challenge of "not doing", and noticing just how hard it can be to stop habits and actions that we've engaged for a long time. And the only way to practice is to actually not do - and that can be a very scary way to test if not doing is going to serve you or not.)

  10. Is there a whole group of people that you give gifts to but don't feel you have the time / money / capacity / interest / desire to actually give gifts to? (EG: office mates, teachers, super-extended family, neighbors etc). [Flip side: is there anyone (or a group) of people you really want to gift, but can't find the time / money / etc?]

  11. Do you ever give gifts just because you feel you should? Out of a sense of obligation?

  12. Is your heart in it?

  13. Money Money Money Money...Money! (Sing it!) What's the relationship between your wallet and your gift giving? Do you set a budget? Do you end up spending more than you want or planned? Do you pay the price (or interest) throughout the year? Do you feel like you should be giving more? How does this all make you feel (like in your bones or belly)?

  14. Do you gift out of habit?

  15. Do you like opening gifts in front of other people?

Okay, that's it. You're all grown ups, so now that you have all this information from yourself, YOU can choose how to act on it. Maybe the Meaningful Giving Manual will help sort things out more. Or maybe some of the gift ideas over the next few days will spark new gifting routes for you (if that's what you think you might want to do).

*Dear goodness, help us all. This is a terrible name. If you have suggestions for what to call this, please drop a line when you read this.
**For sure my answer to this is Dad's tradition of identifying something he wants, buying it, wrapping it and putting it under the tree. The first year he did this it was a bag of white tube socks. He tore open the gift with utter surprise, then wrapped his arms around himself in a hug while saying "Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you" I laugh every single time I think about this. My present-giving memories are almost always about sitting down together and opening presents. I think it's the presence that I like most.
***I feel like "OBLIGATION" may end up on a few lists.

Gifting Guide

A Fierce Practice Gift Guide

For the past few months, I've really wanted to put together a Gift Guide for this holiday season. Something simple. A list of a few of my favorite things that also make great, quick, easy gifts for the season of (obligatory and laborious) gifting. As soon as the topic came up through the A Fierce Practice #TinyLetter, it took all of three seconds to realize the whole topic of gifting is WAY MORE COMPLEX than just a one page infographic with my favorite soaps and mugs and a short treatise on buying nice things from real people. 

In so many cases we have so much, and need for so little. And we recognize that everyone else has SO MUCH STUFF too. And that STUFF is a problem...just as much as the obligation to give stuff during this time of year. So, stay tuned over the next couple of days for a Gift Giving Self-Assessment (if you have a sexier name for this, please let me know), a Guide to Meaningful Giving, permission to give (and do) less - along with fun gift ideas for kiddos, creatives, experiences and consumables, low cost quick gifts, and a few more things that I haven't quite put my finger on yet. 

More to come!!! Hope to see you back here, or over on the Tiny Letter.