A Pen Pal Friendship Story

A Pen Pal Friendship Story

Have you ever opened an envelope that says “Magic Inside”? It’s something my pen pal friends and I write on the back of our letters to each other to signify that something exciting has just been delivered. The most recent letter I received from my pen pal, Makenzi, had that phrase neatly written on the back bottom corner and I gasped when I saw it. I ripped it open and the first thing that fell out onto the kitchen counter was a crystal oracle card that she enclosed. This is the second crystal card she’s given me and it made me smile. The first was a carnelian card (to stimulate creativity) and this one is a turquoise card (for when you want to express something).

I then found a note from her about what’s been going on in her life in the past month. She also included a patterned piece of paper with “Mail Tag” questions like “Favorite holiday?” and “What are your moon and rising signs?” Astrology lingo for those wondering!

Makenzi’s letter to me

There’s something about hand-writing a letter, putting a stamp on it (I recently bought these flower stamps), and sending it off into the world that feels like a warm hug. My friends call me “Mabel” because I’m like an “85-year old trapped in a 33 year old body”. Don’t get me wrong – I love technology as much as the next Millennial, but old-fashioned stationary and markers are really where my true love lies.

Back in 2015, I started a pen pal program called Happsters Mail on this blog and had the best time matching up readers with each other. One of the people I matched up was one of my childhood best friends, Maggie. She and her pen pal, Kylie, are still writing to each other to this day! I’m always so curious to hear the ins and outs of their pen pal friendship when Maggie brings up their letters, so I wanted to share the interview below featuring Maggie and Kylie. I hope that it inspires you to mail a note to a friend or family member soon.

First up, my interview with Maggie about her pen pal friendship with Kylie:

  1. Where do you live?

San Diego, California

  1. How long have you been writing pen pal letters to each other and how often do you typically write to each other?

We have been writing to each other since the beginning of 2015. We used to write to each other monthly, but the turnaround time has gotten longer as life has gotten more complicated. I would say it’s maybe 4-5 times a year now.

The first letter Maggie received from Kylie
  1. What do you think it was that helped you continue to be pen pals after all of these years?

I think we have stayed pen pals for so long because we have truly become friends. When we first started writing to each other, I had just gotten engaged. Now we are both married with kids! We have also supported each other through job changes, personal/family life events, and of course the pandemic.

  1. What’s one or two of your favorite things that Kylie has sent you?

Kylie sends really thoughtful birthday surprises! She sent me some cool beeswax wraps that I love, and always nails it with the snacks. But my favorite part of every correspondence is just reading what she has been up to in her life.

  1. Have you met in person or are you ever planning to meet?

Since we live so far away, we have never met. I would love to meet her someday! We started following each other on Instagram a couple of years ago, so it allows me to sort of see what her world looks like.

  1. Do you ever have themes for letters depending on the time of year (i.e. your birthdays, certain holidays, etc.)?

We definitely have themes depending on the month/season of the year. I love getting Kylie’s Christmas card every year (and sending her mine when I have the energy to make one)!

Holiday snail mail
  1. What’s something you love about having Kylie as a pen pal?

I love having a friend that I haven’t actually spoken to in person. It’s unique and old timey and cool! I never would have crossed paths with Kylie, and yet she is a really supportive person in my life. It brings me a sort of grade school nostalgic joy when I receive her letters in the mail. Then I get to be creative and tactile in return, which is wonderful too.

I hope that we always continue to write to each other. Maybe our kids can be pen pals someday!

Here’s what Kylie had to say about writing to Maggie for all of these years:

  1. Where do you live?

I live in rural Southeast Iowa, just outside of a very small town, Keosauqua.

2. Had you ever written to a pen pal before? What made you want to sign up for one this time?

The only time I’ve previously written to a pen pal has been through school assignments growing up and those were always short lived. This is my first real, long term pen pal. I decided to sign up because I was just fresh out of college, had a lot of time on my hands, and was looking to add something new to my life. I thought having a pen pal could lead to some fun experiences and hopefully a new friendship!

The first letter Kylie received from Maggie

3. What kinds of things do you typically include in your letters to each other?

Our letters vary depending on what’s going on in our lives but it’s usual a general update of what’s been happening in our lives since the last time we wrote to each other, holiday or vacation plans, books we’re reading, and often small seasonal gifts, stickers, trinkets, etc.

4. What’s one or two of your favorite things that Maggie has sent to you?

My absolute favorite thing Maggie has ever sent to me was for my birthday a few years ago. She sent me the cutest tin seed organizer (I’m a big gardener). Not only was it super cute, but it’s super useful and I still use it to organize my seed packets and keep track of my gardening!

The tin seed organizer Maggie sent Kylie

5. Do you have any tips to give someone who is just starting a pen pal relationship?

My tip to someone who is just starting out with a pen pal is to be open and playful. I loved that Maggie and I started out with exchanging an “about me” card that asked silly questions we wouldn’t normally think to ask but really helped us get to know each other. By being open to answering questions (especially silly or playful ones) you can find things you have in common or maybe find out something about them that you want to learn more about.

6. Where do you come up with ideas on what to include in your letters? Do you look online, at Pinterest, or just come up with them on your own?

When we first started out I initially looked to Pinterest for inspiration but have found that I don’t really need to anymore. Our letters are pretty intuitive anymore and we always include a “mail tag” card that asks different questions that don’t flow in our letters, seasonal things (what Summer foods are you enjoying right now?/ Any New Year’s resolutions?/ What are you dressing up as for Halloween? etc)

7. What’s something you love about having Maggie as a pen pal?

I love that Maggie and I live very different lives (Iowa and California are very different in lots of ways!) but we have SO MUCH in common! I almost feel like Maggie and I are the same person in some ways and we could definitely be best friends that hang out every day if we lived near each other. Her letters are so warm and she feels like someone I’ve been friends with my whole life so I have no problem opening up to her like I would with any of my other close friends. I love that I have made a lifelong friend out of being her pen pal!

I’m so grateful that I signed up for a pen pal and that you set me up with Maggie. She was definitely the perfect choice for me and has brought a lot of joy to my life! To anyone contemplating getting a pen pal, you should do it! It’s so much fun!

Thank you Kylie and Maggie for sharing your pen pal friendship with us today!

If you’re interested in getting your own pen pal, here are some organizations that match you up:

I’ve been considering opening up the Happsters Mail Program again soon as well. Send me an email at happsters@gmail.com or comment below if you’d be interested in being matched up.

Have you ever had a pen pal? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

A Christmas Miracle & Lessons Learned in 2021

A Christmas Miracle & Lessons Learned in 2021

Happy 2022! Welcome to my first of 50 blog posts this year. Thank you for reading! I can’t tell you how excited I am to connect with you all on a regular basis again.

At the beginning of each year, in addition to making goals for the coming year, I like to think back to the previous one and write down the lessons I learned. A few lessons I learned in 2021 include:

  • Wait at least 2 weeks before making a large decision about anything in my life. I will probably change my mind.
  • Always have a book next to the bed that I’m really excited to read. Right now I’m reading A Year of Loving Kindness to Myself: & Other Essays.
  • Use Notion to organize my entire life (trust me: it’s free and easy and this is not an ad!)
  • Get dressed even if I don’t leave the house the whole day (work from home life). People told me to do this throughout 2020, but my stubborn Aries came out and I didn’t do it. I get it now.
  • Decorate for all holidays. It’s worth the hassle and makes me happy.

One of the biggest lessons I learned is to release expectations and go with the flow. Easier said than done, right? While this is going to always be a work in progress, it came up big time at the end of 2020 when my husband, Billy, and I got our first dog. He was the cutest, sweetest puppy and we couldn’t have been more excited! Once we got him though, we quickly realized that I was allergic to him. There were many tears and conversations about whether or not we could keep him, but we ultimately decided after a week that we couldn’t. We ended up finding the best family to give him to whose son had been wanting that type of dog and they were able to pick him up on Christmas Eve and give him to their son on Christmas morning. A true Christmas miracle!

Very soon after we released our expectations of what we thought our lives would be like as dog parents and gave him to his new family, a neighborhood cat started coming around every day. I grew up with cats, so this was a thrill for me. We quickly found out that he’s an outdoor cat who has an owner a few houses down from us. His owner loves that he comes over to our house and it now feels like we share this amazing kitty with our neighbors! He’s brought such joy to our lives and even my husband, who did not like cats previously, is so in love with him. We call him Peaches and he spends so much time at our house that we got him a cat bed (among many other things), where he watches TV with us every night. Releasing expectations allowed us to bond with Peaches (Instagram video of him being adorable here) and now he’s truly a part of our family. We feel like he adopted us and we couldn’t be more thrilled.

Peaches thinks he runs the place…(and he does)

In addition to my own lessons, I asked others what their biggest lessons this year were. First, I want to share a beautiful heartfelt answer from Kirsten Allen, who said her biggest lesson was:

“Don’t take anything for granted. Be a good person and live each day in a way that brings you joy.”

When I asked if she would elaborate, here’s what she said:

“Ok, the short answer is that my dad suddenly passed away in May. He was 59 and healthy. It was a shock to everyone.”

“The long answer… I’m incredibly fortunate because we had a wonderful relationship my whole life, and especially in the past few years. He was big into rock climbing – a pioneer in the southeastern US and climbing wouldn’t be what it is today in this region without what he and his friends did to establish access in the 70s and 80s. He also worked until the day he died to ensure proper mentoring in the younger generation. He and I were climbing partners for the last 5 or so years. He taught me a lot through that and I learned even more about him as a person. I was so lucky to take a 3 week road trip with him out west in sept 2020. We lived in the van that we built out and that I have now inherited. On that trip, we had many conversations about life and death and I know without a doubt he left this world with no regrets. I feel like because of that time, I have more closure than others around me do and I’m so grateful for that…”

“Basically, he was a really good person. If you met him, you were a friend, and friends were considered family. I’ve tried to emulate that in my own life. I’m working every day to go to bed with no regrets and to make sure the people in my life know what they mean to me. I’ve learned to be more open about my feelings and gratitude than ever before. We aren’t promised tomorrow.”

Kirsten and her dad

Thank you, Kirsten for sharing your profound lesson with the Happsters community. Sending you and your family so much love during this difficult time.

Other powerful lessons that were shared include:

  • “The biggest thing I’ve learned is that I need to advocate for myself in all aspects. You need to ask for the jobs you want, the love you want, the things you want. I used to wait and wish they would just happen to me. Once I took charge of that, that’s when the magic happened!” – Steph Clark
  • “In order to learn and grow, I needed to put myself first for the first time ever! Even if that means letting go of relationships that didn’t serve me any longer.” – Mary Maheux (Instagram: @bigmommamare)
  • “I think the biggest [lesson] I have learned was patience and to truly live in the present. I lived my whole life worrying about the future and sitting too much in the past. It always really put a toll on my mental health. Once I realized that and practiced being more patient and truly living in NOW, and accepting sometimes things can’t be changed and just work with what life has thrown at me, my mental health and mood has gotten so so much better.” – Hannah Albert (Instagram: @flowitoutcreations)
  • “I have learned that finding the humor, absurdity, and silliness in a situation is the easiest way to dispel any feelings of frustration, irritation, or anger. I’ve embraced not having control in the best way. All I can do is be present, be loving, and do my best and what will be, will be. Que sera, sera!” – Annie Kell
  • “If you believe in your dreams, you have to do something about it and not wait for them to show up! Loving yourself will allow more to flow in.” – AnnaLynn Waterman
  • “You do not have to hold any guilt for other people’s actions and priorities. Helped me so much in dealing with my relationship with my dad (or lack thereof!)” – Anonymous
  • “It’s okay to ask for help. And it’s okay to feel all of your feelings.” – Anonymous
  • “It’s okay to set boundaries and stick to those boundaries regardless if it’s family or friends. It’s okay to walk away from things and my absolute favorite “No” can be a complete sentence!” – Anonymous
Life lessons quote

What’s a lesson you learned in 2021 (big or small)?

Happsters Weekly 3: Monday Intention // Wednesday Gratitude // Friday Joy

Happsters Weekly 3
 
 
Hi Friends!
 
 

Today, I’m talking about a ritual I’ve created called the “Happsters Weekly 3.” I’m a huge fan of rituals because I find that they ground me and keep me focused. The Weekly 3 is super simple and effective.

 
Here’s what I do:
1. Every Sunday, I pull out an index card and divide it into 3 sections: MONDAY INTENTION // WEDNESDAY GRATITUDE // FRIDAY JOY
 
2. On Monday mornings, I write what my intention is for the week under “Monday Intention.”
 
3. On Wednesday mornings, I write 3 things I’m grateful for in that moment.
 
4. On Friday mornings, I write a simple thing that I’m looking forward to that day. It’s always something that I think will bring me joy. Sometimes it’s more than 1 thing!
 
5. (OPTIONAL) At the end of the week, I snap a photo and text it to one of my friends and she sends me hers.
 

Happsters Weekly 3

This practice helps me because it:
 
  • Gets me in the right frame of mind on Monday morning. I’m able to start my Monday off with an intention that I keep in mind every day that week.
  • Helps me appreciate what I have instead of focusing on things that are going “wrong” in my life.
  • Encourages me to look for the little things that make life fun and joyful.
  • Starts my day off on the right foot since I keep it by my bed and do it first thing in the morning (before looking at my phone!).
  • Keeps me in the loop with what’s going on in my friend’s life and gives us a reason to connect every week.
 
Want to do it with me? If you want to do the Weekly 3 on your own index card and share it on social media, tag me @happsters and use #HappstersWeekly3 so I can re-share on my story!

Happsters Gratitude ABC’s Challenge

WELCOME TO THE (2)

Raise your hand if you’re in for a gratitude challenge!! It’s all going down August 15th-September 9th.

Why gratitude? Here are just a few reasons. Gratitude:

  • lowers stress levels
  • helps you sleep better
  • improves self esteem
  • and can even help you manifest your dreams. 

Will you join me in giving thanks?

All you have to do is write down one thing you’re grateful for that starts with a different letter of the alphabet every day. That’s what it’s called the ABCs challenge :).

This free challenge starts next week! Every day I will post a new prompt with the letter of the day and ideas for words that go with each letter in case you can’t think of anything. You’ll also have the support of the Happsters community to help get you through the challenge.

Fill out this form if you’re in so I can send you all the details:  https://goo.gl/forms/d3orTpZifQ6jI3H43

Marie Coté on Gratitude, Coaching & Loving Yourself

marie
Happy Friday, friends! Today I’m excited to introduce you to Marie Coté, an inspiring holistic coach who uses her natural intuition to help others transform their lives for the better. I’m so excited to share her interview with you today – I think you’ll see her genuine soul shine through! Enjoy ♥♥♥

1. What does a typical day look like for you?

A typical day for me would be to wake up feeling grateful for another day of life! I did not always feel this way, but I truly do now. It is not because my life has gotten so much better, it is more about my perspective being changed on life. I wake up early to meditate most mornings because I have two young boys, a dog and a husband. A quiet house for my morning meditation is amazing! I try to always get exercise and eat a healthy, protein rich breakfast with lots of water. I choose to take excellent care of myself everyday because I believe I am worth it. That does not mean I do not have indulgences like chocolate, bread and wine, but it means I try to have balance. Typically I am then busy getting my boys to school and working on my business. The day ends with a simple dinner and some tv or reading. Unless I have fun plans, I typically enjoy relaxing at night!

2. How did you decide to become a holistic coach and how do you describe what a holistic coach is?

The call to do the work I do came to me at a very young age. I observed so much suffering around me and within myself that I knew deep down there had to be a better way to live. Through much of my studies over the years, I have grown and changed so much, but the lasting changes came when I saw my own anxiety and depression leave my life completely. I came to discover that my suffering came from my thoughts and beliefs about life. Once my perspective changed my whole life changed. My mission with holistic coaching is to help guide others to find their own freedom from suffering as well. Holistic coaching is a powerful form of life coaching that approaches every aspect of a person’s life – body, mind, and spirit – in relation to the whole. It can help you access your full potential and make transformational changes.

 
3. What book have you suggested the most to friends and why do you love it?

Loving What Is by Byron Katie and The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle would be my two favorite books of all time. They both teach you to love and accept this moment as it is. If you can love life as it is in each moment, you can do anything!

marie3

4. What has been the biggest learning experience in your life?

Becoming a mother made me feel more vulnerable than ever before. It was terrifying to love someone so much and know you could not ultimately control their future or keep them always safe. It really opened up some big questions for me and helped me learn how to trust life on a deeper level than ever before.

5. It’s often said that life is about enjoying the little things. What are the little things that you appreciate?

I really appreciate laughter, sunshine, exercise, good food and good company simply because I didn’t always appreciate these things. To say that I do now, feels really good.

6. What gives you energy? What depletes your energy?

It gives me energy when I do something positive for myself and others. I am depleted of energy when I am being negative towards myself or others and when I say “yes” to something that I wanted to say “no” to.

7. What is your favorite mantra right now and why?

“I love myself.”  If I love myself, I can truly love others. Life also finds a way to love you when you love yourself. It is simple, yet it can be so challenging. It just takes consistent practice!

8. Do you have any upcoming retreats or courses coming up that you’d like to share?

You can go to www.miraculouslyyou.com to find more about what I do and how to work with me! : )
___________________________________________________________________________________________

You can follow along on Marie’s journey on Instagram at @miraculouslyyou and at her website http://miraculouslyyou.com/.

This interview is part of Happsters Happy Questions, an ongoing series of interviews that take a peek inside the lives of inspiring women around the world.

New Year’s Resolutions

It’s almost the new year. Have you made any New Year’s Resolutions for yourself? Below are a few of my resolutions for the year. What are your resolutions? Let me know in the comments!

For more happy inspiration, join over 89,000 other Happsters on Instagram here: www.instagram.com/happsters

Today’s Happy Quote (New Year’s Resolution Edition)

2015 New Years Resolutions - Happy Quote

P.S. If you’re reading this at the start of 2022, come on over to my newest blog post about lessons learned in 2021 here.

More Love Letters

More Love Letters

A few weeks ago I stumbled upon a website called “More Love Letters“. The title intrigued me and when I dug deeper into what it was, I was sold. The concept? To leave letters of encouragement throughout your community and mail letters to strangers who send in love letter requests. You can visit this page on their site to find requests from people who need a little cheering up. They give their story and an address where you can send them a note.

So I decided I had to send some out and called one of my favorite blogger babes, London to do it with me!

More Love Letters

We wrote to Rosie, who is just going off to college and broke her arm right before leaving. Three weeks in a cast, but I know she’ll bounce back!

More Love LettersMore Love Letters

And we sent notes to Victor, whose friend wrote in asking for us to make his birthday extra special by sending in a fun card.

More Love Letters

More Love Letters

We had lots of fun writing these cards and I can’t wait to mail them out. Hopefully it brightens their days a little bit. My challenge for you this week: Grab a friend, pick up some stationary and write some love letters to strangers!

P.S. While I’ll be updating the Happsters blog a little less frequently, I’m still very active on Instagram, where you can get daily Happsters inspiration.

5 Ways to Get Yourself Out of a Funk

It’s normal to be in a bad mood every now and then. You may even feel like you want to hide like this kitten at times:

5 Ways to Get Yourself Out of A Funk

But if you notice that you aren’t snapping out of your funk for a few days, try these 5 tips to shake your bad mood:

1) Journal

5 Ways to Get Yourself Out of a Funk

Writing down your thoughts is a great way to let go of something you’ve been holding onto. Another one of my favorite things to do is to write down 3 things I’m grateful for. If you don’t want to write them down, just think about them. It’s surprising how effective it can be!

2) Watch something that will make you laugh

Laughter reduces stress and releases endorphins into our body.

3) Hang out with a friend

5 Ways to Get Yourself Out of a Funk

Spend some quality time with a friend. Bonus: Give them a bear hug! Hugging someone releases oxytocin (also known as “the cuddle hormone”), making us feel better.

4) Go for a walk

5 Ways to Get Yourself Out of a Funk

Researchers at Cal State Long Beach found that there was a clear and strong relationship between the number of steps people took and their overall mood and energy level. 

5) Lend a helping hand

5 Ways to Get Yourself Out of a FunkPhotography by Jack Bates

Help someone out or pay them a compliment. It’s helpful to take the focus off of yourself so you can get some perspective.

What do you normally do to get yourself out of a funk? Let me know in the comments!

Awesome Things Thursday

Hi Happsters! How’s your week going? It has been crazy hot here with 8 fires breaking out in San Diego yesterday. I’m hoping things will improve soon! On a brighter note…Here are some things I’m finding awesome this week.

1. 7 Ways to be Good to Yourself Even When You’re Stressed & Overworked

2. Smoothies for these hot days we’re having in San Diego.

Smoothies on hot days

3. Lifehack’s 16 Inspirational Instagram Accounts You Should Start Following Now (So cool to be included!) I found @junantoherdiawan in the list and love his photos. His photographs are of people levitating!

4. The incredible table tennis enthusiast with no hands. You have got to watch this video.

I’ll be back this weekend for my Happy Explosion post! What are you loving this week? Who is your favorite person to follow on Instagram? Let me know in the comments!