Thanksgiving via Oprah Magazine


A More Festive Feast…This is something I will definitely be incorporating into my Thanksgiving celebration this year. I absolutely love the idea of not only recognizing and acknowledging what you are grateful for but documenting it, as well. Being able to reflect on your gratitude the following year is a charming tradition to bring to the table.

Plateful of Grateful

“Pass these out during dessert and ask guests to write what they’re grateful for this year. Once everyone has read their answers aloud, pack the cards into an envelope with the date written on it so you can pull them out next year, starting an annual tradition.”

For each guest, cut a 4¼” x 5½” square of colored card stock and 2 rectangles of brown kraft card stockone 3¼” x 4½”, the other 2″ x 4½”. On one side of the colored card, glue the larger rectangle; on the other side, glue the smaller one. In the center of the larger rectangle, stamp a seasonal detail (like a pumpkin or a turkey). Above it, stamp a banner design, where guests will write their name.

(via Camille Styles)

{Oprah Magazine, November issue, p.40}

Oprah’s Book Club

810MjVs1+ILWhat I’m reading:


Oprah’s Book Club 2.0 – pick #3

I just started reading Sue Monk Kidd’s acclaimed novel, The Invention of Wings because it was selected as the latest pick for Oprah’s phenomenal book club. As I’ve discussed before, I am extremely passionate about reading and anyone who promotes reading with the gusto and fervor that Oprah Winfrey does, always has my support. So I read her selections religiously. And what I find when I read a book club selection is that I’m not just reading it for the story or the characters or the writing, I’m reading it for the life lessons. I believe that we learn so much from reading. We learn who we are, what we love, what we hate. We discover our fears and we challenge our beliefs. Reading is life’s classroom.

I also feel that books come to you at certain times in your life for specific reasons. Fate brings a book into your hands and turns the pages. In the latest issue of Oprah Magazine, Oprah writes about The Invention of Wings as a book that “heightened my sense of what it meant to be a woman – slave or free.” She talks about all of the “unsung heroines who played a role in getting us to where we are.”  As I mentioned in my earlier post, I have just welcomed my first child into the world and it has changed everything. It has changed the way I view a woman’s life, a mother’s love, family and the future. Now I look at my actions as lessons to teach my son. I want to show him how to be a good person, how to be brave and strong and hopeful and optimistic. Strength and bravery above all else because this life will test you and challenge you and bring obstacles at every turn.

Kidd explains the inspiration behind the stories she writes,”I’m always captivated by stories of women who find a way to be daring – misbehaving women.” She continues, “I was interested in how my characters could invent their own freedom, their own voices in the world – their wings.” I have found that in many ways life (and the people you meet throughout your journey) can sometimes try and push you into the “normal” and “accepted” way of life. Follow the pack, do what everyone is doing, obey the rules. But sometimes this doesn’t feel right, it doesn’t sit well in your heart. You yearn to break free and live a life of your own design. To be daring, to misbehave, is often condemned even if it is what your heart desires. As Steve Jobs once said, “Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes…the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules…You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things…they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.” What I am learning is that we are going to find times in our life when we have to rebel, we have to break the rules and be “crazy” enough to change the status quo.

“I can feel the voices of all those who yearned to be heard, to leave their marks, to say, ‘I existed.'” Don’t we all want to prove we existed? Don’t we question what marks we will leave behind? Nevermore is this more evident then when you have a child. You want to know that what you have done for them, the life you have helped them create, will be lasting, that your memory and the memories you create will live on. That you will teach them to be strong and good. That you will show them how to find happiness. That you will help them leave their marks as you have learned to leave your own.

The Invention of Wings is an open door, an invitation to see ourselves and our history in a way that allows us to heal even more,” said Oprah in the January issue of Oprah Magazine. I want to see myself more clearly. I want to step through that open door and learn from every moment of my life. I want to get my hands dirty with life and see the beauty of all that has happened to me and all that will happen.

So I am beginning my journey into motherhood, my journey into a new year, with a new book, The Invention of Wings. I want to see how its lessons can be applied to my life. I want to see if I can find similarities within the pages of this book and relate to them on a personal level. I am excited to take part in this book club and to continue to apply the lessons from books I read to the life I am living. We are all living a shared experience and literature helps highlight our similarities. There are a number of books I am looking forward to reading over the coming months (The Goldfinch and The Signature of All Things, to name a few) and I’m looking forward to relating my literary journey here, with others. Read along with me. Voice your opinions. Speak your mind. And feel free to throw out some recommendations. This blog is my journal, my space for sorting out my thoughts, learning about myself, showing my gratitude and allowing my curiosity for life to run wild.

Elizabeth Gilbert on Marriage

Great interview with Elizabeth Gilbert over at the Seattle Post. She discusses the phenomenal popularity of Eat, Pray, Love and gives insight into her next book which I’m sure more than a few readers are eagerly anticipating!

Here’s what she had to say about her upcoming book:

I spent a year studying the institution of marriage. I wanted to think my way into an institution that I do not feel much comfort with. We’ve now been married two years.

I wouldn’t mind doing “Eat, Pray, Love II” if that’s what were on my mind, but it isn’t. The book I’ve just finished writing is what happened to me and the Brazilian guy, the romantic guy in the book. He’s been my husband for two years, my partner for four. It’s a very different thing …

Update: Here is a fantastic speech that Elizabeth Gilbert gave this month. Check it out! It is completely worth it and something you will thoroughly enjoy!

5 Steps to Reduce Stress

I don’t think there is a person alive on this planet who hasn’t suffered the heavy burden of stress at some point in their life. I am a great sufferer of stress. I let it keep me awake at night, it affects my digestions, my thoughts, my anxiety level and can steal happiness from a joyful moment.  That’s why I was so thrilled to see that Oprah had a section on her website that covered the issue of stress. It provides five solid tactics to help reduce stress. You can believe that I am going to begin incorporating all of these into my daily life.

The article states that, “on the most basic level, all emotions are experienced in the body.”

We might notice stress by how we feel emotionally or by what we are thinking, but there is also something happening physiologically in your body, too. How well we are taking care of our body will have a major impact on how we experience our stressful emotions. Just like our mothers always told us, we need to get enough sleep, we need to eat a balanced diet, we need to exercise regularly and we need to go to the doctor when we aren’t feeling well.

Here are the five steps to reducing stress:

1.) Sleep:

When you don’t get enough sleep, your body produces extra stress hormones, making you more vulnerable to stress. But too much sleep can also cause problems. The key is to get balanced sleep, which for most people means, on average, about eight hours a night.

2.) Diet:

Not eating enough can cause moodiness and irritability. And skipping breakfast is one fo the most common reasons for dips in blood sugar and midmorning crankiness.

3.) Exercise:

Exercise is one of the best stress relievers. Not only does exercise lead to greater muscle relaxation and increased production of antistress chemicals, research also shows that people who are physically fit exhibit less extreme physiological responses to stress. This means they are less likely to experience the health problems linked with chronic stress.

4.) A Focused Mind:

Multitasking—keeping a million balls in the air—this is the sign of a successful person, right? Wrong! Productivity and sense of well-being decrease when we have a scattered focus. In addition, when we are overburdened by details it is harder to be present in the moment, making it harder to connect with people and feel supported.

There are inherent rewards to having a single-minded focus. Our attention, sense of well-being, concentration, memory and productivity are all improved. Slowing down and taking in one thing at a time gives us the space we need to respond to stress, rather than merely reacting to it. We can use techniques such as meditation to cultivate this single-pointed focus.

The next time you realize that you are feeling scattered and overwhelmed, take a moment to just breathe and notice the sensation.

5.) A Healthy Body:

With our busy schedules, we often don’t take the time to attend to the regular maintenance of our bodies. Seeing your doctor and dentist for regular checkups is important. Taking time out from your schedule when you aren’t feeling well is another important self-care practice. All too often we push ourselves to keep going even when our body is telling us to sit still. When our bodies don’t feel well, we also are much more likely to feel bad emotionally.

{Information from}

The Gift of Fear

I was going to post all about the topic of today’s Oprah show, “HOW FEAR CAN SAVE YOUR LIFE.” It was about listening to our intuition and trusting our gut in the face of fear and how it could possibly save our lives. If you feel nervous walking down a dark street, turn around and go somewhere bright and filled with people. If the elevator door open and someone suspicious-looking stands alone in the elevator, don’t feel bad saying, “I’ll wait for the next one.” The purpose of this episode was to point out various ways in which intuition has saved lives, but the unfortunate aspect of this show is that it was fear building. I’m already a bit of a baby when it comes to scary situations and I may have seen one too many scary movies for my own mental well-being. So really this show just reinforced my own perpetual fears. I actually had to turn it off after about 25 minutes because I found myself locking doors and looking over my shoulder, repeatedly.

One point that was made with regards to unhealthy relationships and warning signs to look out for was the aspect of controlling men. Gavin de Becker made a good point when speaking with a woman who was in an abusive relationship but unaware of it for a long time leading up to danger. He said, “anytime someone doesn’t hear ‘No’ it means they are trying to control you.” He then followed up with a point that struck a chord with the audience because they were audibly roused by his statement, “When a man says ‘No’ it’s the end of a discussion, when a woman says ‘No’ it’s the beginning of a negotiation.” Hearing the audience rise up with this statement made me very aware that women across the country have all experienced some sort of a controlling aspect to relationships. Why is it so common? Why do some men feel the need to control? Oprah immediately instilled a sense of power to her audience by making a fantastic statement to combat those stuck in controlling relationships. “Sometimes saying ‘No’ to someone else means you are saying ‘YES’ to yourself!”

I don’t want to live in fear, but maybe it is a good idea to listen to your gut, follow your intuition and ere on the side of caution. It is also important to be the only person in control of your life. You are in the driver’s seat and you shouldn’t relinquish the keys to ANYONE!

What She Knows For Sure

This month’s issue of O, The Oprah Magazine is absolutely filled to the brim with fabulous articles, pertinent advice and anecdotes to help us all deal with being “overwhelmed.” There are so many articles and thoughts expressed in this issue that I want to mention and all I can say is how excited I am that I decided to begin this venture at this point in my life. I am at a crossroad, that stage where you can still feel all of the vibrancy of childhood, but are on the brink of major adult decisions and events. What better time to begin a personal revolution of change and adventure? When I began my Oprah Project, where I was planning on reading all of Oprah’s Book Club selections and documenting the effect they had on my life, I ended up discouraging myself by being my own worst critic and asking “Why Bother?” As Martha Beck writes in her column, ARE YOU ON THE RIGHT COURSE, I let my “Clever Critic” overpower me. I listened to my own self-doubts and was discouraged before I truly let myself begin. I over thought my Oprah Project and put in on the creativity crushing back-burner.

So when I read about Robyn Okrant’s challenge in The New York Times, I was both inspired and discouraged. Inspired because I had a similar desire to improve my life through a well thought out plan and encouragement from a media figure whom I admire and respect, Oprah. Discouraged because I immediately thought, “Why Bother?” Why bother because Robyn is already doing it, so why should I even throw my hat in the ring? Here is why I should bother…because this is MY life. Only I can have this particular perspective. Only I can see the changes that occur in my life by becoming more present, more aware and more grateful for all of the blessings in my life. In Martha Beck’s column, one of the women she profiles decides that she is going to write a love letter to cigarettes because that is what she really wanted to do. Martha writes,

“For the first time, Maida’s voice didn’t sound clever; it sounded real. Raw, alive, filled with emotional energy. When an email arrived that very day, I thought Maida’s superhero was unleashed. But no, her message came from the paralyzing Clever Critic. Another author, it appeared, had a new book about quitting cigarettes. This announcement,’ Maida wrote, ‘has stymied my enthusiasm.’ The email I sent back wasn’t gentle: “As your coach (and I mean this lovingly), I’m ordering you to cut the crap, cork the dithering in your brain, and write what you were planning to write. Now, soldier!”

If I had not taken the time to fully immerse myself in this month’s Oprah Magazine, which I typically don’t allow myself enough time to just sit and read a magazine cover-to-cover because I am usually too busy crossing things off my to-do list, I would not have read all of these inspiring articles. I am following Martha Beck’s advice and pursuing my adventure. I am unleashing my superhero and I am ready for great things.

Living Oprah

I just read this article in The New York Times and it closely relates to the project I was undertaking, READING WITH OPRAH. It reminds me of my own desire to see if following the Oprah doctrine can help change (and improve) a life, that I am taking on this challenge as well!

Starting today, August 17, 2008 and continuing straight through for ONE SOLID YEAR, I will be following my own Oprah Project. It will also include following my own previously mentioned book club. That way I can incorporate not only the standards set forth through Oprah’s program, but also through her magazine AND her books.

Right now I am reading the September issue of Oprah and will report back soon because it is PACKED with things I want to get a jump on incorporating into my own cluttered, confused and disheartened life. I am really looking forward to seeing where this adventure takes me. I am grabbing hold of my life with two strong hands and I am ready to jump in. I am excited, I am ecstatic and I am ready for change.


I feel like I am letting myself down. I haven’t posted in a few days…a drought, it seems…and the reason is my own frustration. I was enjoying Pillars of the Earth and my Oprah challenge, but then a new book struck my fancy and POTE kept creeping further and further away from my nightstand. It is now across the room in a pile of books that have been sadly neglected at around the page 50 mark. My secret is out…I am easily distracted by books and end up leaving many neglected and unfinished. Ugh! Why do I do this to myself?! Pillars is such a good read but it is very long and very detailed and very historical. It’s not really beach reading. But then again, many of the books I pick up for “beach reading” leave me feeling unsatisfied and empty…I’m not going to make the potato chip comparison because we’ve all heard that one far too many times. But I am going to ask a question…what is more important from a book, learning or enjoyment? I know that you have struck gold if you can both learn from and enjoy one book, but that doesn’t always happen. Many times you will suffer through a book and feel either bored senseless or like you lost a few brain cells somewhere around chapter 2.

So, should I stick with Pillars and ultimately feel the pride of accomplishment or move on and find something that I really, truly enjoy…even if that means only getting halfway through a handful of books before finding the right one?

PS- Please, please, please…if anyone knows who the above picture was created by, let me know. I found it a long time ago, saved it, LOVED it, and have no idea who took it. I want to credit the beautiful artist behind this creation so drop me a note and I will link it up!

The Journey of Ambition


The first section of Pillars of the Earth has already begun to delve into one of the overall themes that I have heard relates significantly to this book, ambition. Ambition is a wonderful and powerful quality. It is respected among men and admired in women. In the book, Tom Builder, has so much ambition to become a builder of great cathedrals, “once he tasted that wine, Tom was never satisfied with anything less.” His strong desire to build these cathedrals was of great concern to his wife. She respected his life’s passion and his ambitious pursuit of success, even if it was to the detriment of their financial stability. She could not understand the decision but she respected her husband because he was a good man.

However, ambition can turn ugly when the person driving that ambition does not respect the people in his life. This fall from grace is not a charming or gracious quality. It turns quickly from ambition to greed and selfishness. Pursuing your life’s passion with great abandon is about creating a path towards fulfillment, but if you arrive there alone, knowing you have hurt everyone who tried to stand beside you, your path to ambition will have been unsuccessful and your life’s journey will have been a failure.

Be ambitious, but also be gracious, caring, loving and kind. Be sensitive and inspired and devoted. As the picture says, the world makes way for those who know where they are going. Where ever you are going, go there with love in your heart.


About a year ago I made an ambitious decision. I decided that I would read every book selected by Oprah’s Book Club. Unfortunately, life got in the way, as it tends to do, and I continuously put off my goal.

Well, now I’m back …and more motivated then ever. Because here’s the difference, not only am I going to read every book on Oprah’s list…but I’m going to see how each book relates to my life at the time I am reading it. I am going to see how much I learn about myself, my life, my surroundings and my own thoughts while exploring the lives of others in Oprah’s selections. Something has to be said for books that have sold millions of copies and a woman who has changed the face of reading. We all know how hard it is to get a book chosen by Oprah, so what is it that makes these books different and life changing?

I have started with what I thought to be the most ambitious of the list…and also one of the most recent, THE PILLARS OF THE EARTH by Ken Follett. THE PILLARS OF THE EARTH is a book written about the building of a church in medieval times. If I can find a way to learn something about myself from this book, then I will believe in miracles and the power of pursuing the unattainable. The book also happens to fill up nearly 1,000 pages. I chose to start my Oprah Project with this particular book, at this particular time (beginning of summer) for a reason. It is now up to me to determine what that reason was and how it will affect my life.

I am looking forward to this journey for no other reason than I will get to explore books I would not normally have read and learn something about myself along the way.

Here is the breathless description of PILLARS OF THE EARTH from Oprah’s website; In the quest to build the greatest Gothic cathedral ever known, a struggle between good and evil erupts – turning church against state and brother against brother.

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett