Sunday, December 27, 2015

5 Tips for Giving Gifts

I had been planning on writing for the past couple of weeks a small gift-buying guide to help people out. These plans were reaffirmed when I read about my ISFJ personality today at church. It says, “When it comes to gift-giving, ISFJs have no equal, using their imagination and natural sensitivity to express their generosity in ways that touch the hearts of their recipients.”

Just an hour after reading that, a good friend texted me how much she loved her birthday/Christmas present. She said it was “seriously the perfect gift.”

I’ve been complimented many times in my life on my ability to give the best gifts. I don’t know if it can be taught (I don’t say that to toot my own horn; I say it because some people seem to really struggle with it). But I thought I should at least try and share some of my gift-giving strategies in a few simple steps.

1. Listen Carefully

This strategy works especially well when you spend a lot of time with someone or spend a lot of time talking to somebody. It takes a keen ear and a good memory. But you need to be listening all year long. You’ll hear people tell you about what things they like (or don’t like). People love to talk about their favorite stores to shop at, things to eat, and what they’d buy if they had a lot of money.

Not only that, but people will tell you what they need without really saying it. Make it a habit to really listen when your friends and loved ones are with you. For example, perhaps a friend says she really wants to get organized. Or more specifically, she wants to organize a closet. Cool! There’s so many things you can do with that. What kind of organizers can you get them that you like to use? Do they have a filing cabinet? Can you wander around the Container Store when you hang out, and see what things stand out to them? Could you just get them a gift card to the Container Store, or be creative and give them a coupon for “three hours of closet organizing assistance”?

Another example is that my roommate mentioned in passing that she needed more workout tops. I went to Old Navy to find something for her, but the selection wasn’t awesome, and I wasn’t sure what she would like the best. So I got her a gift card and specified that it was for new workout clothes.

Listen to what people like, what’s important to them, and what they need. They’ll tell you more than you could ever come up with.

2. Take Note

Many people have a hard time remembering things others say. Do what I do. Start a new Note on your phone titled, “Gift Ideas.” And keep a list of people!

While I was in my last relationship, I had an ongoing list of gift ideas for him. I have to keep this kind of list because birthdays, Valentine’s, anniversaries, and Christmas. I put a variety of ideas on there, regardless of price, because you never know what kind of financial resources you’ll have. So “Brian Regan tickets” stayed on that list for the day when I’d be able to afford it. Alas, the relationship is over, and I never got him tickets for that. But I had plans to!

My dad is a type 2 diabetic. So when I see people making low-carb recipes online, or using low-carb products, I make a note of it in my phone. I bought him “Carbquik” for Christmas, which is a low carb mix kind of similar to Bisquick. It can be used for waffles, pancakes, pizza crust, biscuits, and more. To me, this is a gift that keeps giving because not only will he get several meals out of it, if he likes it, then he can buy more.

When you see something that reminds you of a friend or loved one, make a note of it. You won’t remember. Seriously. Write it down or type it in your phone.

3. Think About Them

Here are some questions you should answer to help you get the right gifts for people.
1) What are their hobbies?
2) What are their passions?
3) What things do they find beautiful or attractive?
4) What are their goals?
5) What is important to them? (What do they value?)

Answering these can help you focus your energy on getting something that they will use and appreciate. If you know what their hobbies are, you can ask yourself any variety of follow-up questions. If somebody likes reading, what do they like to read? What are their favorite books or authors? If somebody likes to watch movies, do they have a favorite director or type of movie? Do they enjoy going to the movies? If somebody likes working on their house, is there a certain tool or supply they need? If they have pets, would they enjoy something for their pet to use, like a toy or collar or sweater of some kind?

For example, my brother Jake is a total hippie. He is a creative, musical type. He spends his time playing guitar and singing. He likes to collect stones and be in nature. He is drawn to anything “natural” or “organic.” You can bet that if it says “tea tree” on it, he’ll be interested. He also enjoys yoga and is interested in spirituality, particularly Hindu. Now, he may be my brother, but we’re not especially close. I see him only a few times a year, and we don’t talk much in between. But I can answer those questions about him. So this year, I got him a “dream catcher making kit,” and a set of the 7 Chakra Stones. He was super excited about it!

I’m very easy to buy gifts for because I am so vocal about what I enjoy. All my waking moments are focused on fitness and health, reading, writing, or watching movies. How many things could you do with this? Seriously? You could get me a Groupon deal for some kind of gym. You could get me workout bottoms. You could get me a new sweat towel (I’ve had the same one for a decade). Any equipment that’s useful for running, especially in the cold (running gloves, a headband, etc.). With reading, you could get me a book by a favorite author, or a self-help book. If you know I’m trying to grow my business, maybe a book to help with that would be cool. If you know I like movies (and love popcorn and Coke Zero), maybe a refillable cup or popcorn bucket from a local theater would be a continuous, useful gift.

I’m not telling you these things about myself so you know what to get me for my birthday (ok maybe a little). I’m showing you that there are tons of directions you could go with each hobby or passion that somebody has. Just take what they like and break it down.

4. Do a Google Search

You knew this would be on here. If you’re stumped at step 3, you know what someone likes or enjoys but can’t think of a good gift related to those things, Google it! I went on Amazon for my friend’s birthday and searched for “Paul Rudd” because she loves him. It turns out that anything with him on it right now is super pricey. But then I saw an Anchorman channel 4 news mug. Paul Rudd was in that movie, and my friend works for a news network. A simple online search helped me find something very cool and personal for her.

5. Get Gift Cards

I think some people find gift cards impersonal or burdensome. But they’re not, if you get the right ones. My roommate, as I mentioned before, needed workout clothes, but I wanted her to pick her own, so I got her an Old Navy gift card. She also loves books and book stores, but I didn’t know which of her favorite author’s books she had already read. And we go to Kneaders almost every Saturday night for half off goodies. So I got her a gift card for Barnes and for Kneaders. Why not? It’s money for her to spend on something she’d like at these particular stores.

My brother Jared loves video games. I don’t know what games he wants. I’m not around him enough for that. He also likes to go out to eat because he has an aversion to leftovers. So I’m safe getting him a gift card for Game Stop and for any fast food place. Again, he can pick something he wants that he’d like.

I hope that helps! I usually stick with the first four steps and try to avoid step 5. Steps 1 and 2 are habits and things I’ve had for a very long time. But hopefully it’s easy enough for you to at least start to be conscious of and implement over the next year as you prepare for any birthday, celebration, or holiday. Happy gift giving!

What tips do YOU have for giving "the perfect" gift? Comment below!

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Christmas 2015

I always make a list of everything I got for Christmas, whether it was a material item or not. I've clarified before that I'm not sure why I do this. I just like lists, and it's fun to look back on Christmases from years prior.

Coming soon, I'm going to write a gift buying guide because many people say I'm a great gift-giver.

This year…

From Carmen I got
-          A rainbow scarf
-          A coffee set (had to give it to my brother)

From my roommates
-          A Wal-mart gift card
-          Sliding fitness disks

From Kristen
-          A TGI Friday's Gift card

From Julie
-          An awesome house plant

From Rachel
-          A letter
-          A big mug and hot chocolate from World Market

From Parents
-          Workout bottoms
-          Better Than Before paperback
-          Cash (I’m gonna get a grill what what!)
-          Thor DVD
-          M&Ms
-          Dove dark promises with almonds
-          Dish towels
-          Knife set
-          Mason Jar lamp

From Jason
-          A sapphire/gold plated ring
-          A coconut lime candle
-          A card

From Jake
-          A letter

From Jared
-          Slipper socks
-          A letter

From students
-          A candle + holder
-          Letter and Hershey bar
-          Lindor truffles
-          Fudge
-          Muffin
-          Letter
-          Letter and $1 (so cute)
-          Popcorn
-          A homemade card
-          World’s Finest dark chocolate bar
-          Hot cocoa kit
-          Scentsy wax and Lindt chocolate bar

From my coworkers
-          A card and cash (so crazy)
-          Starbucks mug and hot chocolate
-          Caramel corn
-          World’s Finest chocolate covered almonds

Sunday, December 6, 2015

A Summary of My Life

(Disclaimer: Please don't take this post as me being negative or ungrateful. I have so many blessings in my life, so many simple comforts and conveniences, and so many supportive friends and family. I have my health, and that's so important. I am grateful, always. Just struggling. And I'm just reviewing the past few months in brief.)

I have a lot of blog ideas typed into my phone but figured I would need to write some kind of catch up or summary post. I've actually intentionally avoided blogging because of how many things have happened in the last few months. But here goes.

You already knew Patrick and I had been house hunting. I closed on my condo on July 7--financially it was all in my name. We couldn't go in to the condo for a while after closing, as a courtesy to the sellers who still needed a place to stay. It was pretty horrific when we finally got in. It took us over a week to clean it completely. I could write an entire post about that. Maybe I will.

Patrick moved in pretty quickly, like July 18, and worked on projects throughout the condo. He only ended up being in it for maybe a month.

As most of you know, we sent out our wedding announcements on July 28. Then on July 29 I found out some very surprising and heartbreaking things--life shattering things. As I got more information over the following 24 hours, I was quickly able to decide that there wouldn't be a wedding. Obviously, I could go on and on about this. I could give details. I could make others look bad. But I won't because I've grown up in the past seven years and realized people can and will make assumptions, and I don't need to be tacky and air other people's dirty laundry on the Internet.

I've been in hard situations before and haven't dealt or responded very well with what happened. But I will say that this time, I think I've carried myself very well. Granted, I felt like I was going to die. And I was upset and bitter and all kinds of things. But I never called names. I never was degrading. I never yelled.

I'm not trying to pat myself on the back here. I'm trying to recognize growth. I feel bad at how I've reacted in the past in other ugly situations. I wish I had been more composed and rational. I guess the difference this time is that I knew I'd survive, and I knew I didn't want to feel bad later for my cutting words.

I had searched all summer long for jobs. I had applied and redone my resume, and written so many cover letters I can't even count. But I guess nobody wanted me, and it's probably a good thing. Because on July 28 at 11 at night, I texted my principal and asked if my position was still open. He texted the next morning saying it was, but that I should apply online just in case, and the posting was set to close the next day. So this was a huge blessing--now being single in a financially difficult position and having resigned from my job in July. You've figured out that I got my job back, and it's been my roughest year of teaching in five years. But I'm trying to have a good attitude about it.

My summer wasn't relaxing since I spent the whole thing planning a wedding that didn't happen, and looking for jobs. Going back into teaching after not having a break has been really rough. I escaped home to Glendora for a couple of days before the school year started. That helped a little bit. I got to go to the beach, albeit alone.

Since we broke things off at the end of July, Patrick stayed in the condo for another couple of weeks to finish up projects and other things that needed to be done. He didn't want to leave me with the burden of unfinished things. He moved out on August 14, found himself a room for rent around the corner, and got a storage unit for his stuff. I moved in on August 15.

I made a posting for roommates on an LDS housing group on Facebook. He was still around finishing projects while people came to look. We kept it amiable and not awkward for the girls who came to look. He even helped me pick which ones he thought I'd like. So at the end of August I had two girls move in to the extra rooms in my house.

He helped me put up some decorations in my living room on Labor Day, after my grandma took me to Hobby Lobby to get some stuff. It makes a huge difference. After that, we didn't see each other for eight weeks, and only messaged on Sundays. Sundays are always the hardest days.

We've seen each other a handful of times in the past few months. We had a sushi making class. Once was for Home Depot and home repair assistance he gave me, plus to buy me a new laptop. Another time was for him to drop off a new FitBit for me. We went for dessert once.

It's been hard. I can't lie and say it's been easy. It hasn't. I've been weak and texted him, even after saying I wouldn't. I haven't really moved on, and I don't know if I've seriously tried. Because I don't really have the hope that anything will ever work out for me. He has started getting out there and meeting women. And that's good for him. He actually signed up on a dating website just a few weeks after we were broken up (which I might have freaked out about). He told me last night that the more he thinks about it, the more he believes everything happened for a reason, because I would have been unhappy in our marriage.

I hope I can just focus on the fact that he said that, the next million times I'm tempted to text him or tell him I miss him.

In November, I did National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. I ended up with over 55 thousand words by November 30. It was a good experience, and I'm glad I did it. I added even more to it this morning (hence my last post).

I've been working on building up my Beach Body business in the past couple of months. Having just ended an engagement, I jumped into the 21 Day Fix  during August as planned because I felt I owed it to myself. I lost five pounds doing it, and felt awesome and proud that I did it. If you need help or want a program, let me know! And as I said on Friday, I am in the process of starting my personal trainer certification.

In September, I completed a Beach Body Coach Training boot camp sort of thing to improve my knowledge and abilities as a coach. I took four classes on t-shirt cutting. And I got a hair cut.

I constantly try to stay busy, challenge myself, and become better because that's who I am. But sometimes I feel like I just want to give up on everything. I'm tired of being the girl who has to be strong. I am ready for things to just work out for me for once. And right now it's impossible for me to think that they will.

I've decided that sometimes, good people finish last.

A Ghost of You

He is everywhere.

He’s in the imperfections of the paint on my condo walls, and my freshly enameled doors. He’s in my beautifully remodeled master bathroom—in the tile he put up, the new baseboard he installed, the shower head he got me for Christmas, and the bathtub he paid to have installed. He’s on the shelf he fixed in the living room, and the TV that’s mounted on the wall. He’s hanging up my wall decor in my living room. His fish is swimming in the tank he bought for me. He’s in the bedroom we were supposed to share, and barely squeezing his things into that closet with all my stuff. His vacuum cleans this house. His router gives me wi-fi. I think of him when my water drains quickly down my bathroom sink instead of clogging. He’s in my car telling me how dirty it is. He’s here on my laptop, which he got me a discount on, and my FitBit too. He’s in my water that comes from the fridge he replaced.

He is everywhere.

This condo was his. It’s a product of him. And though it’s full of three women now, I feel alone. I feel empty. I feel his ghost, and the ghosts of the family we were supposed to start here. In our home.

He is everywhere but here.

Friday, December 4, 2015

A Step Forward

I have a lot of blog posts that I want to and need to post. 

For today though, I'll just talk about today. 

It's a Friday, which is already good. 

It started off with donuts, which is also good. 

Then in walked a friend and coworker to my classroom with a Christmas card for me. I opened it, just excited to be getting a card and the words inside were beautiful. Not only that, but there was a $100 bill in there. My mouth fell open. What on earth? This was so unexpected, and too much. I ran up to her classroom and hugged her and yelled at her saying it was too much, and she must be kidding. How amazing and sweet is she? Wow. I have been in awe all day from her generosity and love. 

My kids were pretty good today, too. Especially for a short day and Friday. 

I got an email early this morning from the National Academy of Sports Medicine. I did a free trial a couple months ago, and talked with my rep, telling him I wouldn't be able to start the program financially until February. They've emailed me for months with random temporary deals. I just delete them because they literally email me every other day. But not today. Today, it was a "today only" deal. And the deal was, "No payments until February." This is exactly what I wanted and needed. So I called and picked the program I wanted to do. There's no interest or anything. 

I am now enrolled in the Certified Personal Trainer program through NASM. My book is in the mail. And I can start my online course whenever I'm ready. It includes weekly quizzes, midterms, and a final exam. 

I went to donate plasma today, but my hermatocrit was too low by 1 point. :( I even had egg whites, spinach, and Shakeology today. Dang you, low iron! But it's OK.

I came home and did an Insanity workout and ran a mile. I copied my music and document files onto my newish laptop, so everything's pretty much all set up like I need. 

My roommate and I went to TGI Friday's for dinner. I had a coupon. We got a couple things at Michael's and Wal-Mart (including a new tree topper that is sadly too heavy for my little tree). And we got Cold Stone. Because you know. I wanted to feel like hurling the rest of the night. 

Since getting home, I've uploaded a lot of pictures I need for a Christmas project I'm working on. And I also taught myself how to make a Windows backup disc, and have begun a formal reset of my old laptop so my roommate can use it. 

I'm feeling happy, accomplished, and very smart today. 

Most of all, I'm satisfied to have taken a step in the direction of my goals, regardless of how life has kicked me around this year.

Soldier on, and happy Friday!