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!

12 Monthly Mirror Messages

12 Monthly Mirror Messages

Today, I want to talk about a project I’m doing for the first time this year that I call “Monthly Mirror Messages.” This project is pretty simple and is exactly what it sounds like. Each month, I’ll tape an affirmation on my mirror to motivate me during those 30 days. Then on the first day of the next month, I’ll switch out one affirmation for another one. That’s it! Here are the step-by-step instructions if you’d like to do it yourself:

  1. Write down 12 affirmations (one for each month of 2022), each on its own small piece of paper.

Here are the affirmations I chose:

  • I make a difference in the world by simply existing in it.
  • I focus on what I can control and I let go of what I can’t.
  • I attract positive people and experiences into my life.
  • Success follows me.
  • I am the master of my abundance.
  • “I am in the right place at the right time, doing the right thing.” – Louise Hay
  • The perfect moment is this one – Jon Kabat-Zinn
  • I am full of energy and optimism. I am ready to have fun.
  • Creativity runs through me and leads me to great ideas.
  • I don’t chase. What belongs to me will simply find me.
  • I listen to my intuition and trust my gut.
  • I am well-rested and excited for a fun day.

Looking for others? You can get great ideas for affirmations by searching Pinterest for “inspiring affirmations,” “affirmations for self love,” “affirmations for confidence,” etc.

  1. Optional: Decorate the pieces of paper around the affirmation. You can add paint, doodles, stickers, or whatever you’d like or keep it simple. I glued some dried flowers from my garden onto the paper and used those as the art.
  1. Put every affirmation card into a bowl or jar.
Beautiful bowl created by Elise Joy
  1. At the beginning of each month, choose one affirmation at random. I believe that whichever one you happen to choose will be the perfect one for that month.
  2. Use washi tape or clear tape to put it on your bathroom mirror where you’ll see it when you brush your teeth every day. Say that affirmation out loud or to yourself every day.

Curious if there’s science that backs affirmations? I was too. I was pleasantly surprised that there is quite a bit of good research on daily affirmations. Here are a few benefits of using affirmations:

  1. Affirmations have been shown to decrease health-deteriorating stress (Sherman et al., 2009; Critcher & Dunning, 2015)
  2. They have been used effectively in interventions that led people to increase their physical behavior (Cooke et al., 2014)
  3. They may help us to perceive otherwise “threatening” messages with less resistance, including interventions (Logel & Cohen, 2012)
  4. They can make us less likely to dismiss harmful health messages, responding instead with the intention to change for the better (Harris et al., 2007) and to eat more fruit and vegetables (Epton & Harris, 2008)
  5. They have been linked positively to academic achievement by mitigating GPA decline in students who feel left out at college (Layous et al., 2017)
  6. They have been demonstrated to lower stress and rumination (Koole et al., 1999; Wiesenfeld et al., 2001).

Have you ever created affirmation cards or mirror messages for yourself? Do you plan to? Tell me in the comments section!

P.S. Living with Kindness interviewed me recently about what I call the 4 G’s of happiness. Check it out here.

I Made a Digital Vision Board for 2022 & Here’s How You Can Too

I Made a Digital Vision Board for 2022 & Here’s How You Can Too

Hi friends!

In the last post, we talked about lessons learned in 2021. Now I think many of us are ready to look toward the future and manifest some amazing things for 2022! In this post, we’ll dive into a few of my favorite things: Vision boards, manifesting, and words of the year.

Now if you know me, you know I’m into all the crafty things. Give me some glue, paper, and markers and I won’t come out of the room for a day. Anyone else spend hours and hours with their childhood friends making huge poster boards filled with magazine images of their favorite bands, glittery backgrounds, and Jonathan Taylor Thomas (JTT)? Shout out to my 6th grade BFF, Danielle, for doing with this with me.

I look at those poster boards from 20 years ago as the training ground for making vision boards as an adult. And while I usually make real vision boards with paper and pen, this year I decided to try something new and create a digital vision board with Canva that I’ll use as my phone background.

Below are the steps to creating your own 2022 digital vision board:

  1. The first step to manifesting is to get clear on what it is that you want. I wrote a bulleted list of about 20 things I want to happen in 2022 including places I want to go, goals I have for the year, hobbies I want to do more of, people I want to be with, feelings I want to have, etc.
  2. Second, you’ll want to decide on the general layout of the vision board. I used a Canva layout from this page as the base.
  3. Next, decide if you’re going to stick with a color theme. One major benefit of creating a virtual vision board is that it’s easier to choose photos from the same color family than if you were cutting pages out of a magazine because there are more photo options online to choose from.
  4. Now is the fun part where you’ll find your photos. I chose a pink and white theme for my virtual vision board, so I searched in Canva for images like “rose quartz,” “pink ocean,” and “white flowers” to find the perfect photos that matched my vision. If you can’t find ones you love on Canva, there are other free photo sites like Pixabay.com that you can get great quality images from.
  5. Next, drag and drop your photos to the location you want them to be in. If you are layering them on top of each other, click “position” on the top right if you want to move the photo in front or behind another one.
  6. You may want to also add in words using Canva’s “Text” function. The word I chose for 2022 is “fun,” so I included that word on my board. If you’re looking for some more word of the year inspiration, a few past words of mine have been community, connection, and joy. I also love the idea of adding in an affirmation, so I chose one of my favorites: “I lead with kindness.”
  7. Once you’re happy with your design, you can download it and add it as your phone background. The size that worked for my iPhone was 1080 (width) x 1920 (height) px. You can resize your design through Canva for a different type of phone or you can make it your computer background. Another great option if you love having a physical item is to print your design and have it both digitally and in your office or bedroom.

Here is my 2022 digital vision board:

2022 phone vision board
Download the 2022 phone vision board here.

This vision board includes many of the things I want to fill 2022 with: Art, gardening, giving flowers, community (as noted by the ice cream cones), writing on this blog (the typewriter), fun, kindness, nature (the beach and mountains), and as many crystals as my pockets can hold. I just love seeing it every time I look at my phone as a reminder of what I’m calling into my life.

Feel free to use this for your phone vision board if you like it. You can make changes to it by clicking here.

Are you planning to make a vision board this year? I’d love to see yours!

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)?

Introducing Virtual Happsters Hugs

happsters hugs

Hi friends,

I hope you are staying safe and healthy! I wanted to introduce “Virtual Happsters Hugs.” Let’s come together to support those who are in need of a pep talk.

Here’s how it works:

1 // I’ll post requests from people who would like some extra support right now, giving a little background on what they are going through both on my Instagram account and here on the blog.

2 // You have the opportunity to write words of encouragement by clicking the provided link.

3 // I will gather all of the notes up and send them to the recipient to brighten their day.

Easy enough, right?

Nominate yourself or someone else to receive a virtual hug here.

Here’s an example of a virtual Happsters hug request:

“Hi! I’m 30 and I am a lonely person (well.. most of the time). I live alone since my 20 yo because I have lost my close family. I have a chronic disease and fight everyday to live as well as I can. I am fine with myself actually and I try to practice self-love as much as I can. But… a bit of love from others might help to illuminate my day .
And I love to share with people. I’d be happy to help back.”

I posted this on my Instagram and many members of the Happsters community answered with encouraging words. Here are a few responses:

Virtual Happsters Hug Response 1

Happsters Hug Response 2

Happsters Hug Response 3

 

Here’s the next Virtual Happsters Hug request.

“I am going through a break up of a long term relationship. He came back asking for a second chance I was so happy about that. Few weeks later I got ghosted by him. Trying to move on but it‘s hard without getting a proper reason from him…”

Write some words of encouragement to this member of the Happsters community here. I am accepting responses until 4/10/20 and then will forward your kind words to the community member. Just a few sentences can make a huge difference in someone’s day. Thank you for participating!

I will post these requests throughout the next few months, so please check back here or watch my Instagram stories if you’d like to continue to provide Virtual Happsters Hugs.

Sending you all lots of love,

Kelli

 

 

INTRODUCING: Random DM’s of Kindness (#RDOK)

random dms of kindness

Do you want to spread a little bit of holiday cheer this year with a twist? Send out a Random DM of Kindness (#RDOK)!

What is a Random DM of Kindness?

Random DM’s of Kindness are similar to Random Acts of Kindness. Have you ever heard of people randomly buying coffee for the person behind them in line? Random DMs of Kindness are like that, but in the Instagram realm.  These are usually sent near the holidays and are a fun way to spread kindness. Those who send Random DMs of Kindness will choose someone who follows them on Instagram at random and send them a gift card to an online store (my example below is Amazon) OR send a positive customized message/note to them as an epic kind surprise.

Amazon_com__Amazon_eGift_Card_-_Wish_Big__Gift_Cards

Here’s how to send a Random DM of Kindness if you are sending a gift card:

  1. Scroll through your followers and choose one at random (It’s like wheel of fortune!)
  2. Go to amazon.com/giftcard and purchase an e-gift. Here’s the direct link.
  3. Enter an amount (people usually choose between $5-$10) and send the email to yourself.
  4. Once you receive the email from Amazon look at the claim code (found at the bottom of the email).
  5. Send an Instagram DM to the person you chose at random and say the following:

Happy Holidays! I’m sending you a Random DM of Kindness with a $[dollar amount] gift card to Amazon I bought for you. You can redeem it by logging into amazon.com and going to: https://www.amazon.com/gc/redeem. Then put in the claim code: “[claim code number]”. To learn more about Random DMs of Kindness, click the link in the @happsters bio! Hope you enjoy 😃

Untitled design (8)
Random DM of Kindness Example

 

Here’s how to send a Random DM of Kindness if you are sending a customized note:

  1. Scroll through your followers and choose one at random (It’s like wheel of fortune!)
  2. Write a custom message to them that you think will make them smile.
  3. Send an Instagram DM to the person you chose at random and say the following:

Happy Holidays! I just wanted to say hi and let you know how truly amazing I think you are. You are such an inspiring person and beautiful on the inside and out. Thank you for being you! #RandomDMofKindness 😃

That’s it! Once you send your DM of Kindness, do a little dance and congratulate yourself for being the awesome human being that you are. Oh and if you send one, please screenshot it and DM it to @happsters so I can feature you here and on my story!

If you want to post on your Instagram about it, feel free to use this photo below.

IMG_8952

Have YOU received a Random DM of Kindness? Email me with your experience at happsters@gmail.com!