Hold On To Your “Ors”

For today’s creative tip, I want to focus on choices – and the beautiful fact we have them.

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If you’re feeling stuck, challenged or downright uninspired, lean into the idea of choices. They don’t have to be life-changing decisions. Start with a tiny fork in the road and let it guide you to a better place.

For instance…

If you’re in between creative projects and don’t know what to do next, you could pickup your camera or sketchbook like usual or try your hand at watercolors or crocheting. Challenge yourself with a new medium, and you might discover a whole new hobby. That you love!

Have you taken on too many projects and feel overwhelmed? You could stew in your stress or take a quick minute to stop. Delegate what you can. Say “no” where you need to. And handle the rest one thing at a time. It’ll all get done in due time.

Maybe you’re writing a book and are struggling with dialogue? You could continue to sit in front of your computer and feel frustrated or you could pack up your laptop and head to a coffee shop where you can eavesdrop on conversations and gather inspiration. A simple change in location could be just what you need.

Let’s say you want to share a creative idea at your next meeting but are afraid of rejection. You could sit in doubt and smother the idea or take a chance on it working out. Like they say with the lottery, “you can’t win if you don’t play.”

And if your idea doesn’t go over well, you have the choice of feeling deflated or inspired to make it better next time.

There’s always an “or” when we really look for it. Hold on to it and maybe even see what’s on the other side?

Still need a nudge? Elizabeth Gilbert gives us this empowering thought from her book Eat, Pray, Love. It reminds us to stay in charge of our choices. >

Many blessings,

Kate

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3rd Blogiversary + Book Bundle Giveaway!

Hello, dear friends! I’m super excited today because it’s not only lucky Friday the 13th, but also the 3rd blogiversary of The Neat Nook. Threeee years!!!

This is my all-time favorite creative project. And at the same time, I can’t believe I’ve kept up the discipline (some months better than others, I’ll admit) and the courage to keep writing and sharing. This has become a sacred a spot where I can be myself, explore new topics, dig into projects, share a few perspectives, and even journal about my family from time-to-time. I’m terrible at filling scrapbooks, so some of my posts serve this double purpose.

I love that you’re here right now and thank you for reading. Hopefully you’ve been inspired at some point along the way. I’ve certainly learned a lot over the past three years and know there’s still plenty of room to grow. My hope is that we continue to cheer each other on and learn together. I encourage you to leave comments when you can, and introduce yourself so I can get to know you better!

And just for being here today, whether you’re new or a long-time Neat Nooker, I’m offering a special giveaway:

It’s a Blogiversary Book Bundle with FIVE amazing titles that will go to ONE lucky reader. It’s valued at $80. Each book was handpicked with a focus on five topics I love to talk about on the blog.

{ONE} Creativity

You may remember my recent post about “unleashing curiosity” that was inspired by this book. Well, I think my favorite synopsis might be by Daily Beast: “Big Magic will resonate with writers and artists who find the process of producing work to be particularly painful…Through anecdotes about her creative failures and resourcefulness, as well as those other artists, Gilbert encourages readers to pursue a creative life ‘that is driven more strongly by curiosity than by fear.” Let this book be your muse!

{TWO} Organization

This “Do It All Planner” is beautiful – and designed to keep you on track in 2018. It includes monthly and weekly planning pages, tear-off shopping and to-do lists, inspirational quotes and 300 stickers to keep you all sorted out!

{THREE} Inspiration

Ok, y’all. I listened to the audiobook version of this on my way home from the beach this summer and was astounded by how much truth Jen Sincero packed into these pages. You Are A Badass is described as “…an entertaining how-to guide of hilarious stories, sage advice, easy exercises, and the occasional swear word, helping you identify and change self-sabotaging beliefs that stop you from getting what you want, and create a life you totally love.” You won’t be the same when you put this book down.

{FOUR} Simplicity

As you may know, I recently discovered the Swedish philosophy of Lagom (the art of a balanced life.) So I was super excited to see this new release in Barnes & Noble. Consider it a primer on how to introduce Lagom to your personal life, relationships and broader world. A lovely little read that would also be sweet on your coffee table.

{FIVE} Relaxation & Fun

This book is called Peaceful Dot-to-Dot, which is full of thoughtfully constructed illustrations designed to help you find a sense of peace. Think of it like those adult coloring books that help you get into a meditative state by chilln’ with your colored pencils. This amazing book has more than 150 images waiting for you to reveal them – one dot at a time. This might be my new jam.

There are multiple ways to enter, so be sure to check ’em out below. The drawing will be held next Friday night, that’s October 20, 2017 at 10:00 pm CST. Open to all U.S. and Canadian residents.

Good luck and many blessings to you!

-Kate

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PS. I’m linking up with all of these fantastic bloggers again this week. Be sure to check them out.

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10 Beautiful Bookmarks (that you can make!)

I love curling up under a fuzzy blanket and reading a good book. I might even brew a cup of peppermint tea and claim some official “mom time.”

Every good reading sesh comes to an end, though. And I never seem to have a bookmark on hand. Gripes! I’m usually reaching for a bobby pin in my hair or the nearest magazine so I can tear off a corner to use as a makeshift solution.

I’d love to have at least one better option lying around. So…

I decided to gather up some DIY bookmark projects for us!

{one} peppy pom poms

Making pom poms out of yarn is super easy, and I love how they look popping out of the top of a book.

{two} buttoned up ribbons

This requires a tad of hand sewing, but nothing too difficult. I love the use of patterned ribbons with darling buttons.

{three} corner hearts

With a little paper folding, this sweet heart slips right over the corner of the page.

{four} crochet bouquets

Okay, quick confession. I have no idea how to crochet.

So I either need someone to teach me how to make these gooorgeous bookmarks, or I’m headin’ on over to Etsy to find a little purchase. #treatyoself

{five} paper clip ons

Now we’re back to something I can handle: gluing and tying. Aren’t these dainty flowers so adorable?

I actually made a batch of these (below) for my office makeover. Remember that??

I use my paper clips all of the time for officey things. I haven’t thought about using them as bookmarks until now. Duh!

These were my rendition. PS. I still love the black and gold in my office.

{six} magnetic magic

Probably the coolest thing about these bookmarks is the no-slip factor. They’re made with magnets on the tips, so they stick together when in place.

This first one uses washi tape, which is brilliant. And the second one uses pretty ribbon.

{seven} light as feathers

This is probably the most basic idea…using paper as a bookmark. But these beautiful feathers certainly don’t look basic.

You can have fun cutting out your own or downloading that second set (below) with inspirational quotes.

{eight} paint chippin’ in

This is really stepping up the craft game. These bookmarks are made with (free) paint chips from the hardware store that have been embellished with stamps, doodles and a pretty ribbon tab.

Notice the flower-shaped grommets around the base of the ribbon, too. Love the detail on these.

{nine} kids’ play

This one made me laugh. And who wouldn’t want the sweet faces of their kids dangling from their books?

I’m thinking you could do this photoshoot at any park. Have your kids hold onto a monkey bar and snap away. Too fun.

{ten} pop art

Ending with the KISS method (Keeping It Simple, Sister), these popsicle sticks actually look pretty cool decorated with hand drawn tribal prints.

Here’s some additional inspiration for your patterns.

I hope you enjoy some of these projects. You’ll have to show me your bookmarks!! Snap a pic and tag me on Instagram or Twitter. My handle is @KateJandersen.

Blessings,

Kate

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You’ve Got a Nose for Creativity

There’s a chance the only thing standing between you and your next big creative idea could be the smell of vanilla and cinnamon. Whaaaat?!

I know. It sounds crazy, but there’s research that says the combination of these scents has been linked to creativity.

In fact, this article talks about several fragrances that help us in various ways. For example, did you know the smell of oranges can reduce anxiety?

Fascinating, right?! So for today’s creative tip, I encourage you to light a candle like this, bake a batch of these cinnamon-vanilla monster cookies, or whip up a pot of simmering scents.

{Here’s a great recipe to try: Toss one sliced apple, three cinnamon sticks, a pinch of cloves, one teaspoon of vanilla and two cups of water in a pot to simmer down.}

Once you have your means figured out, head to the place where you do your creative thang, take a deep breath, and let nature take its course. Haha!

Have fun soaking in the scents and being brilliant, my creative friends.

Blessings,

Kate

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5 Things We Can Do When The World Feels Crazy

I don’t typically post about things like this, but it’s hard not to be affected by the state of our country right now.

We just had the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, Puerto Rico is in ruins, and Houston is still recovering from the devastation of Hurricane Harvey…among so many other situations around us.

The fear, anger, and desperation can feel overwhelming. How do we even begin to process and even make sense of it all?

Like many of you, I want to do something. So I opened my computer and pulled out my planner, (because that’s what I do), and I made a list of how I can help. How any of us can help, really.

The list is small by comparison, and I know it won’t completely fix our crazy world, but at least it’s progress. And I’ll take that over complacency any day.

{ONE} Give of ourselves

We can do this quite literally. Blood donations are needed now more than ever in Las Vegas. You can go to www.redcross.org and click on “donate blood.” Type in your zip code to see donation sites closest to you.

There’s still a lot of need in Houston and Puerto Rico (and will be for quite some time). Maybe consider an ongoing donation to an established charity in those areas?

This list includes local Houston charities with boots on the ground and are providing some of the best support in the area.

Puerto Rico’s first lady, Beatriz Rossello, launched an emergency fund with help from private companies. United for Puerto Rico (Unidos Por Puerto Rico) lets you donate through PayPal or directly to its bank account.

Maybe you have a cause that’s closer to home or your heart? Find a way you can give of yourself. Volunteer your time, share your money, or round up much-needed supplies. Be a contributor.

{TWO} Stay open minded

I get mental fatigue sometimes scrolling through Facebook and Twitter and reading hateful posts from people who only care about their own opinion – and forcing it down everyone else’s feed.

Free speech isn’t a one-way right. It should be okay to disagree…have different thoughts about issues and intelligently work toward solving problems, but it seems like egos keep getting in the way of meaningful discussions.

I was enlightened by this article that was recently shared by a friend. Here’s an excerpt worth noting:

“…You have to read deeply, listen carefully, watch closely. You need to grant your adversary moral respect; give him the intellectual benefit of doubt; have sympathy for his motives and participate empathically with his line of reasoning. And you need to allow for the possibility that you might yet be persuaded of what he has to say.”

(Love that last line.)

{THREE} Inform our kids, with guard rails

I think it’s important for kids to be smart about life. They need to know how to protect themselves from strangers, bullies, severe weather, and people with guns. So I talk to my kids about safety tips and even talk about what’s going on in our country – but not in too much detail.

I try not to let them watch the news, which is full of terribly graphic images. I don’t want to scare them into becoming hermits or doomsday preppers. We take the Skimm approach and talk through just the headlines.

This great article outlines how (and how much) we should inform our kids at various ages. I found it extremely helpful.

{FOUR} Watch what we consume

Heavy news can be hard for adults, too. It can be hard to avoid it, though, as it fills our social feeds. And we fall into the rhythms of checking statuses so often.

When we do give ourselves a break, we might sink into a Netflix series that’s a little more violent than we’d like, but the storyline is just so good. I get it. I’m in the same boat.

All of the content we consume adds up, though, like calories in our minds. How healthy are we, really? How much of what we’re consuming is good for us?

A few weeks ago I was feeling a little down in the dumps…for no apparent reason. As I was brushing my teeth before bed, I looked in the mirror and realized I was behaving like a character in a show I had been watching. A sad, lonely dude…and here I am a vibrant woman, mother of three, with plenty of people around me to love. It really made me stop and recalibrate what I’m feeding my mind.

We’re more affected by what we see than we realize.

I’m not going to bury my head in the sand about current events, but when I’m given a choice between a murder mystery or a funny episode of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, I think I’m going to let myself laugh for a bit.

{FIVE} Pray for everyone involved

There are plenty of people offering their prayers right now – politicians included. And I truly hope everyone treats this word as a verb, not a noun that can be tossed about for the sake of niceties.

Prayer is powerful and necessary.

And regardless of your religion, if you believe in a higher power, now is the time (more than ever) to actively pray and ask for healing, understanding, and peace to wash over us. To help us see what’s truly going on and what’s needed from us to correct course.

I’d love to know what you think about all of this. And maybe share what your families, friends or co-workers are doing for others? There’s plenty of room in my day planner to add ideas 😉 

Many blessings, my sweet friends.

-Kate

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Looking for a Life of “Lagom”

The word lagom (pronounced: laaw-gum) is a Swedish twist on minimalism, and it translates to “just enough.”

I read about this philosophy in a recent Skimm update and was super intrigued. We live in a world of wild contrasts. We spend too much time with our phones, iPads, and Netflix, and at the same time are encouraged to reduce things from our diets and simplify our workouts and schedules. So it makes sense the idea of lagom hits home with so many of us.

It’s a way of life that strives to be in constant and steady moderation. So essentially, you can have your cake and eat it too, as long as it’s a reasonable bite.

Fascinated by this idea, I decided to assess my home and see where I could use a little lagom makeover. Where were areas of excess and stress?

Well, I found five specific places. Here’s where they are – along with inspirational pictures of what I hope to accomplish.

 {ONE} My Closet 

Doesn’t looking at this picture make you feel so calm and happy? I strive for a closet that’s this simple – and downright pretty.

Problem: I keep too much variety in my closet at any given time. I have at least three different pant sizes going on: aspirational, just right, and PMS/holiday. And I let the seasons overlap too far, as in wool scarves and bathing suits. I also hang on to things that I don’t totally love, but they fit. So, eh, I’ll keep ’em.

Plan: Get real about my size, what feels good, and what I really love wearing – then donate the rest. I’ll take my nicer things to our local Dress for Success location to help women who are truly trying to better their lives. The rest can be shared with friends or donated to other local shelters.

I’ll also be smarter about how I divide and organize the clothes I want to keep. For example, I’ll sort fall/winter and spring/summer and only have one set in the closet at all times. The clothes not in my closet will go in clear, labeled bins and stored the attic.

Also, I think having matching hangers and grouping clothes by similar colors will make me feel like I’m going shopping every time I open my closet door!

{TWO} The Pantry

As a mom who feeds three square meals a day (plus snacks) to five hungry mouths, the pantry can get a little crazytown. Everyone has their own favorite foods, and I like to plan ahead for at least a week’s worth of meals, so that = a lot of pantry items. What’s a momma to do??

Problem: My pantry always feels like it’s crammed with stuff, and I’m not even a doomsday prepper. I keep a reasonable amount of food. I think the problem is that I don’t have the right kind of storage solutions to fit the space. For example, my pantry shelves are really deep, so I can’t reach the very back of the space.

Plan: Invest in sliding baskets so I can easily store and reach items in the entire space. I will also group like items, such as all of the canned goods together on a shelf and all of the lunch items (chips, granola bars, etc.) together in a basket.

I do have some room to reduce the amount of items. The next time I plan meals, I’ll start with what’s already in the pantry and just add what’s needed to round out the meal. That way I can finally use up the extra wide egg noodles that keep looking at me every time I grab my morning cereal.

{THREE} Bathroom Closet

Bathroom storage can be a hot button for many of us. For starters, we rarely have enough room to begin with. Where are we supposed to put all of the towels, linens, toilet paper, cleaning supplies, and sometimes even our makeup and hairstyling tools? Serenity now!

Problem: Space. I have a small closet in the bathroom that’s trying too hard. Poor thing.

Plan: Spread the love. I can put spare toilet paper in our laundry room (where there’s more vertical storage) and the cleaning supplies can go in a caddy under the kitchen sink. In fact, I could probably stand to reduce a few cleaning solutions.

The things that are left in the closet, such as towels, linens and some lotions, I’ll do a better job organizing and labeling. Ahh. I feel better already just saying that.

{FOUR} The Bookshelves

I love books. With my whole heart. Real ones, too, that you can hold and turn page by page. The side effect of this passion, though, is having piles of books teetering on shelves.

Problem: Thinking I’ll read all of these books again, or that my kids will want to read them one day. #nope

Plan: Give myself a set number to keep. And a realistic number that allows room for other interesting objects on the shelf, like a beautiful shell we found on our recent trip to the beach or the cool beer stein I brought home from my girls’ trip to Germany years ago.

Then I’ll donate the rest of the books to the library so I can feel good releasing them into the wild – where others can be inspired or learn from them.

{FIVE} Craft Supplies

Craft supplies. My love language. Even my family knows it. There’s a spot in my garage we call “mom’s craft corner.” It’s my mini Hobby Lobby that continues to grow – and get a little out of hand from time to time.

Problem: I tend to keep every scrap of pretty wrapping paper, ribbon, and fabric swatch. And since I don’t have a specific craft hobby, I’ve collected a large variety of items.

Plan: Toss anything that has been cluttering my space for more than two years. I mean, if I haven’t used those pink glitter pipe cleaners by now…I can donate to the art department at my kids’ school.

Everything else that’s left will go in clear plastic bins that are clearly labeled by type. For example, all of the ribbon will go in a “ribbon” bin and my scrapbook scissors and punches can go in a “paper tools” bin. Sounds reasonable, anyway. I also love the idea of pegboard storage. So I foresee a project in my future!

Wish me luck as I dive into this whole idea of simplified living. Here’s to beautifully simple weekend ahead!

XoXoXo,

Kate

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Unleash the Power of Curiosity

Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it could be our saving grace. When we allow ourselves to get curious…really intrigued…about the things that bring us joy, it can lead to more fulfilling jobs, exciting days, and a life that feels on track.

Curiosity is a direct path to finding our true selves – and what we were uniquely created to do.

I’ve been told many times and in various ways that “passion” is the way forward. When we find our passion, we find our purpose.

For me, that always felt like such a big commitment. I feel pretty passionate about lots of things, so it’s hard for me to nail down the one thing I need to do. And that leaves me feeling stuck.

I found myself reading Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert recently and was nudged out of my boring stuck-ness with her thoughts about curiosity.

{This is an inspiring read to add to your book list!}

She encourages us to relax about it all and simply “Do whatever brings you to life. Follow your own fascinations, obsessions, and compulsions. Trust them. Create whatever causes a revolution in your heart.”

Finding our passion, and subsequently our life’s purpose, doesn’t have to be singular or come through a grand epiphany. All it takes is a little self awareness and an internal nudge to take action. And that’s the key. Act on what makes you smile, and see where it takes you. It doesn’t have to immediately turn into a money making opportunity or personal mission statement.

Start by cheering yourself up with fun stuff to do. If you still feel stuck, think about the answers to questions like:

  1. What would you do with an extra 15 minutes in the day – all “adulting” aside?
  2. What topic do you Google most often?
  3. Which Pinterest board has the most pins?
  4. What issues get you really fired up?
  5. What was the last thing that made you laugh until you cried?
  6. What activity makes you lose track of time?

Let your intuition take the front seat, and see what pops up. Use these answers as clues. Get curious about the “why” behind each of these answers. Follow those leads.

Elizabeth Gilbert reminds us that “the universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them.”

I love that. Let’s go see what we can uncover!

To help boost our motivation, I rounded up some of my favorite quotes about the topic. Feel free to Pin, share, or download as wallpaper on your phone to keep them top of mind. >>

Here’s to a day spent in constant curiosity…and discovery!

Many blessings,

Kate

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Back from the Beach & into the Blog

Hello, lovelies. I’ve missed you and am excited to be back on the blog.

I had a fantastic trip with the family (many weeks ago) and had to jump right back into the real world the moment we got home. School, soccer and work all came calling…at once.

Coming to this space and writing on the blog gives me a lot of joy. So, I’m happy to carve out this moment to sit in front of the computer – and not for a work assignment!

As we dive back in, I thought I’d share a few things we’ve been up to in the Andersen house these past few weeks:

{ONE} Creating fresh starts

My twin girls are in middle school this year, which completely blows my mind. Top that off with my son starting 9th grade, and I plunge into denial. They’re still babies, right?! Just a little taller and several shoe sizes bigger than me. >>

{Um…he’s not even standing on anything – other than his own two feet!}

In my effort to slow time, I decided to spend more of it focused on my kids…getting ready for new schools, different experiences and deeper friendships.

For my girls, it also meant getting ready for a locker. (Another “first” for the books.) As you can imagine, we had a blast cruising the aisles of Hob Lob looking for everything and anything to glue to magnets.

Here are a few of our favorite projects >>

Project 1: We decorated a round mirror with folds of ribbon. Upper left shows the finished product. Upper right shows the supplies: mirror, ribbon, magnets (not pictured are glue gun and felt). Lower left shows how I looped and glued the ribbon. Lower right shows the back. I used felt to soften the edges of the ribbon.

Project 2: We found small aluminum letters and just glued magnets to the back. A super simple way to personalize a locker!

Project 3: Another easy one. We found these darling metal flowers in the jewelry section of Hob Lob and just hot-glued small magnets to the backs. We went back for more of these little pretties.

Project 4: This is a small craft supply tin with a clear lid. We took a magnet sheet (available at Hob Lob) and cut it to fit the entire bottom of the container. Then the girls filled them with mints so they can freshen their breath between classes!

Project 5: We found these clothespins already decorated, but we decided we could also make more using washi tape. Then we glued magnet strips to the back to make them locker ready!

This magnet (and the one below) were purchased “as is”. We found them on our way back from the beach. There was this darling pecan farm that also had a gift shop and deli. We stopped for treats and couldn’t pass these up.

Aren’t these great messages to greet the girls every time they open their lockers?

Yes they are!!

{TWO} Spreading kindness through rocks

Speaking of rocking, kindness rocks are still on my agenda of life. The girls and I recently made a new batch and plan to keep making more this fall. Yay!

I painted all of the rocks a base color (using acrylic paint) and the girls decorated with designs and messages (using fine tip paint pens). I loved how this one turned out.

Avery had fun turning a few of them into critters.

Clara worked on this one. I love her twin popsicles.

PS. I love that this trend continues to grow across the country. I hope you’ll give it a try, if you haven’t already!

{THREE} Making not-to-do lists

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I was inspired by my Day Designer to create a list of things NOT to do. How liberating is that?

We’re encouraged to fill this list with things we would be better off eliminating from our daily routine. Things that have turned to habits that prevent us from accomplishing our to-dos and deplete our time and energy and affect our happiness and success. Not-to-do lists help us be more productive because…

“What you don’t do determines what you can do.”

For example, my not-to-do list includes:

  • Check email before coffee in the morning
  • Sit for longer than 30 min at a time (this is a thing, y’all!)
  • Focus on my mistakes

What would yours include?

{FOUR} Chillin’ with my furry babies

Even through all of the busyness, I still make time to hang out with our pets. It’s so amazing how calming they are.

Rosie is our resident chubby bunny. We’ve had her for about five years now.

Leo is our two-yr-old mini Goldendoodle who looks like a forever puppy, because he’s a mini. He’s full of kisses – and energy!

{FIVE} Decorating for fall

Today is the first official day of fall! While I haven’t gone into full pumpkin mode just yet, I’ve started the transition into fall around the house.

Like on the front door. I pulled out my chalkboard sign, which is the perfect way to handle in-between seasons. The style doesn’t have to change, just update your message! >>

I’m excited to have some time next week to decorate the inside of the house – and maybe even get it smelling like the season.

I’m a fan of this cranberry woods candle because it’s not too sweet. I’m taking suggestions for a new fall fragrance this year. What’s your favorite?!

I hope you have a fantastic fall weekend. Excited to see you back next week.

Blessings,

-Kate

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Lessons from My Father-in-Law

Hello, dear friends. Just as soon as I wrote about all of the joyful things going on in our lives this summer, something sad happened. My father-in-law passed away unexpectedly.

A few weeks ago today we were standing in a funeral home saying goodbye to a deeply kind and loving man. It was a tough experience, but I wanted to spend a minute remembering his life, which was so well lived.

He was an incredible father to my husband, a playful and fun Papa Don to our children, and a sweet father-in-law to me…making me feel like part of the family from the moment I met him.

We all learned so much from Don, and these are a few of my favorites. >

{I love this picture of my in-laws. Such a beautiful couple.}

{ONE} Teach everything you know

Don was a teacher at heart. So anything he was passionate about, like dancing or cooking for a crowd, he would learn to do it so well that he could teach others. It wasn’t in a know-it-all kind of way, either. He was humble about his gifts and sincerely wanted to share what he knew.

He was a dance instructor with my mother-in-law, Polly, for nearly 60 years. Teaching in studios, at colleges, and in their basement for private lessons, they’ve probably had 90% of the residents in Lincoln, Nebraska in their classes. It’s hard to go anywhere in town without someone introducing themselves as a student of theirs. They’d share how learning to dance brought them confidence or happiness in their lives. Many students, including Don and Polly themselves, met on the dance floor.

Don also loved cooking for people. He got such joy from serving up a stack of hot cakes or a plate of burgers and fries. He owned a restaurant for several years and then moved to the Nebraska State Fair where he had a food stand. Through these experiences, he also taught my husband and his sisters how to cook, count back money, and most importantly, treat people with attention and care. As a true gentleman, Don taught by example.

{TWO} Don’t settle for a desk job when you’re a dancer

Don knew himself well, and he understood the importance of finding happiness. He tried working at a desk job selling insurance for a short time, and he quickly figured out that wasn’t for him. It was probably decent money and consistent work that supported the family, but he wasn’t happy. So he moved on. I admire that level of honesty, courage, and faith.

I’m sure we’ve all found ourselves in a situation where we weren’t completely happy, but it was easier to stay put or we were too scared to move. Once Don left that corporate job, I’m sure he had plenty of challenging moments. He was willing to work through it, though, because he enjoyed the freedom he had from being his own boss. He enjoyed just being himself.

{THREE} Be generous with your compliments

One of Don’s more endearing qualities was his love of food. He would enjoy a meal and offer the most adoring compliments to the chef, and then he’d remember that meal for years. I’m not exaggerating. I served him a pot roast during one of his visits. Two years later, when he was celebrating his 80th birthday, all he asked for was another serving of my pot roast. He and my mother-in-law drove all the way down to Arkansas for that meal. Talk about the ultimate compliment.

I also loved how he would compliment Polly. Whether it was her cooking or the way she dressed, he always had a kind word to share. One of my favorite and most recent memories was when he asked Polly to play a song on the piano for the family. He told all of us how beautiful her music was, and he wanted to be sure we all had a chance to hear it. As she sat down to play, I looked over at Don, and his face was beaming with pride, love, and adoration for his lovely wife. It melted my heart for the both of them. True love in action.

{FOUR} Every gesture matters

As I listened to each family member share stories about Don after his funeral, it was clear he made each person feel important. Even when he was a young, busy father, he took time to have one-on-one breakfasts with his daughters, and he’d play basketball in the driveway with his son. He loved surprising them with gifts at Christmas and cars for their 16th birthdays. And even the small gestures, like helping with their homework, were deeply appreciated and what people remembered most.

As I joined the family and got to know him myself, I had similar experiences. Don would always take time to chat and ask how things were going. He remembered that I liked half a packet of Truvia in my coffee when we came to visit, and he’d serve it up with the most delicious donuts in town. Don’s whole life was spent loving his family one memorable moment at a time, and that’s quite a beautiful way to live.

{FIVE} Always remember to laugh

Since my husband was the only boy in the family, Don would call him his favorite son. He loved that joke. In fact, Don was full of jokes. He was always smiling and laughing. That’s something my kids adored most about him. They would play countless hours of card games and dominoes and laugh pretty much the entire time. And I loved that sound echoing through our home. Just thinking about it reminds me not to take life too seriously. It truly is short.

Even though we lived far away, Don never felt far from us. He was such an important part of our lives and made an effort to stay that way. We’re going to miss him dearly and deeply, but we know he’s in eternal peace now.

Don, we love you so much and promise to live life to the fullest, just as you did.

All my love,

Kate, your favorite daughter-in-law 😉

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