Guest Post: “Golden Gratitude. I’ve got this.” in Monika Strand’s exact words

Fellow blogger Monika Strand practices gratitude. Here she posts about the importance of mindful appreciation…

Photo of woman sitting atop a grassy hill, arms skyward
Photo courtesy of this post’s author, Monika Strand: Soaking in some creativity at Coyote Hills (from “Rock Star” Kelly Blog).

52. The number of weeks in a year. The age I turned in December. The number of people who have touched my life that I intend to write about this year.

Why 52? For me, this writing journey almost began when I turned 50. My intention? To write a book about 50 people that inspired me. It didn’t matter if it was a brief encounter or someone that I’ve known a lifetime. I wanted to dig deep into my memories and be grateful for the people who have given me hope in humanity. Or perhaps they nourished my soul and helped me blossom into the person I’ve become.

50 came and went. I didn’t write a word.

52 is different. It’s a year that my life is taking on new challenges. With everything changing around me, I’m finally writing. I find it hard to stop. I hate interruptions. I can’t wait to see how my stories will unravel.

Who helped create your story? Who made you laugh or cry? What moments in your life need to be shared?

Photo of framed ballerina poster with quote, "Believe in yourself and all things are possible."
Photo via this post’s author, Monika Strand: The plaque my mentor gave me (from Sylvia Nelson Blog)

You may think 52 is a big number to take on this writing challenge. Not really. I started jotting down the people I could possibly write about. Coming up with 52 people/memories was easy. Now I just need to write about them!

Photo provided by this post’s author, Monika Strand: The thank you card from my daughter when I taught her class music. She is 23 now and a music teacher! (from Alyssa’s 4th & 5th Grade Classes Blog)

child's thank you card drawing
Photo provided by this post’s author, Monika Strand: The thank you card from my daughter when I taught her class music. She is 23 now and a music teacher! (from Alyssa’s 4th & 5th Grade Classes Blog)

Take this journey with me. Consider a weekly blog post about your grateful moments inspired by others. I’m into week 6 and it’s been a gratifying experience so far. I’ve laughed and cried out loud as I reflect upon the last 5 decades.

I am 52. I will write all 52 moments to completion. I will have a book when I’m finished, that will offer a glimpse into my life for my kids to treasure. Golden Gratitude. I’ve got this.


Monika Strand is a wife, mother, entrepreneur at heart, and currently a writer. Follow her Golden Gratitude writing adventure as she recollects inspirational moments in her life.

The Power of Stories: a Video

photo of da AL


Here, in another of my Toastmasters speeches, I talk about the importance of fiction. “The Power of Stories” is a subject that’s dear to me, in this time when people only read how-to. Fiction makes us more empathetic, smarter, and creative. It makes us better people …


Albert Einstein was asked how to make children intelligent. He replied, “Read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”


By intelligent, he meant beyond good grades and paychecks. He spoke of our becoming human beings, not merely human doings.

Imagine that in this video, my white sweater hood is red, that covering my head with it transforms me…

That an ordinary plastic bag is a wicker basket filled with fresh baked cinnamon rolls, and that when I hold my fingers to my lips, I’m licking the stickiness of honey. Under my feet, a forest of spicy pine needles and earthy wetness crunches to mingle with the sweet scents.

Imagine that beyond trees ahead, sound the yips of what might be new puppies that she’s adopted. The nearer we get, however, the more our skin tingles with panic.

Okay — a different scenario — when I rip paper into strips and place them before us on a pretend version of an oak table in an imaginary one-room log cabin, the scraps represent three sizes of bowls of porridge. When I toss paperclips about, they double as tufts of greasy brown fluff. The chairs we sit on are three varying sizes of them chairs, one broken to bits.

When we shut our eyes, warm steam rises from the bowls. We inhale the delicious scents of melted butter and hot maple syrup. Cold air rushes about our ears from an open door to the outside. We look around and discover that the prior inhabitants left in a rush.

Okay — now scratch both stories, and we’re back to reality.

Was either tale familiar to you? When you were quite young, did you hear, read, or tell the stories of “Little Red Riding Hood,” and of “The Three Bears”?

Imagining is a muscle — as essential to flex, deepen, and expand as it is to eat well, exercise, and think positively. Fiction helps us become better in every way.

If there exist cultures that don’t value the power of stories, I’m not aware of them. Most people I know barely read, and when they do, its non-fiction — spiritual, how-to, self-help, work facts, or textbooks. They say they don’t have time for novels or shorter stories.

If people understood the value of fiction, they would make time for it. As a former journalist, I know facts are important. As a reader and a novelist, I also know the unparalleled power of fiction. Facts help us become productive. Fiction helps us make sense of life. Fine literary fiction transports us into imaginary shoes, times, and places. We become more human. We take the time to value fun.

The best stories, it has been said, are those that make us cry as well as laugh.

Do you allow yourself time to read fiction?

Guest Blog Post: “Just Move It” in April Carter’s exact words

Want motivation to get up out of that chair? Blogger April Carter writes about how exercise makes her feel great …

Photo of couple walking along beach, titled Just Move ItMy wrist vibrates. I glance down, its reminding me to get up and walk. Little red dots indicate that I met the hourly 250 steps but one gray dot sits there in a line of red. I blankly wonder how I missed an hour since I’ve been conditioned like a lab mouse to get up and move at the insistent vibration. I get up to walk and King Julian’s song runs through my mind:

“I Like to Move It Move It…

…Ya Like To (MOVE IT!)”

Photo with exercise watch: Have You Moved LatelyMy granddaughter would be so proud.

After slapping the Fitbit Blaze on my wrist last month I’ve developed a love/hate relationship with the tracking device. Yes, I know, technically it’s so much more than that but I have an eerie sense that big brother is ALWAYS watching and tracking me and they kind of are. You see, the company I work for encourages fitness and, as part of their wellness program, provides employees a Fitbit of their choice. Just connect it the company’s wellness portal and start stepping towards a million steps to accrue points towards keeping health insurance. Yay for health insurance!

Like any good soldier I follow the device’s prompt and get to stepping all the while having mental conversations with the pushy little thing. I’ll keep that to myself. I don’t want to scare the children.

My EMPLOYER would be so proud.

Sneakers with motivational quote about benefits of walkingBut moving just a little bit every hour seems to be a huge benefit that has even hit the New York Times with an article by Gretchen Reynolds, “Work, Walk 5 Minutes. Work”.  She references a new study, which was published in November in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity. The researchers decided to test several methods of increasing movement among office workers. This study basically found that moving, just a few minutes made the office workers feel better.

Yay for feeling better!

Photo of April Carter and websitePutting all fun aside, adding movement, whether walking, taking the stairs or playing with the kiddos, have proven health benefits.  The Mayo Clinic also cites 7 health benefits to exercise from controlling weight to having more energy to my very favorite bullet, “Exercise can be fun… and social!” Yes! Simply engaging in a walk with friends or by yourself in nature increases the happiness meter.

For me this is what it’s all about – BEING HAPPY.  So, get MOVING!

“I Like to Move It Move IT!

I Like to Move It Move IT!”


Happy 10 Years Cancer-Free to Me! Plus 10 Hints for if a Dear One has Cancer

Photo of a doll
When bald is charming!

Ten years ago, I was diagnosed with cancer. Fortunately, I’m good now. I seriously can’t image how I would have coped without the kindness of family, friends, and big hearted strangers.

Ever wonder what to do when someone you care about encounters the Cancer Monster? Let these ten hints be a start…

  1. Good intentions are e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g.
  2. Be there: visit (call first), write, phone. Don’t take it personally if your dear one can’t find the words to reply quickly.
  3. Listen to them. Soak in what they have to say clear down to your brain cells.
  4. Have fun! Even if they’re stuck in bed, laughter is the best medicine!
  5. Let them vent. Hell, you can vent at the injustice of it all right along with them.
  6. Remind them that they’re resourceful, strong, and courageous. Be that way yourself, at least in front of them.
  7. Do they need help? Ask, ask, ask! Do they need a ride? Do they have plenty of groceries, clean clothes, or is their place tidy? Or do they need you to drop the C-bomb on family and friends for them? How about negotiating doctors and insurance companies? Could they use help creating an easy system for navigating medications and such?
  8. Most people hate being burdens. Be sincere with your dear one as well as yourself. Don’t overextend. You need to be there for the long haul.
  9. Be a source of hope. Save your anxiety and morbid stories about people who died of cancer for others. Scour grim words like ‘remission’ out of your vocabulary. Ditto for any others that hint at waiting for the other shoe to fall.
  10. Let them do what they need to do. Leave judging for their doctors. As a friend, your job is to stick around and add happiness to their life.

Got more tips to share?

Guest Post: “Mirror Image (aka Can You Look Yourself In The Eye?)” in Samantha Spijkers’ exact words

Looking for a dose of good cheer? Samantha Spijkers’ blog, DictionaryDutch, always does the trick for me! Here she explains how she overcame negative thinking…

Mirror image photo of author
How others see you is only 50% of your reflection, the other 50% is up to you.

For years I struggled with a negative self-image: did I have to be so ugly and stupid and worthless? And why were there so many mirrors in my house? Like I needed to see my own face staring back at me after every corner I turned…

But our minds are stupid. That is to say: they’ll believe anything we tell them as long as we repeat and repeat and repeat the message.

So after trying to live a mirror-less life (it had gotten to a point where I’d not switch on the lights so as not to see my reflection in the bathroom mirror and passing every other reflecting object with closed eyes – not my brightest plan), I thought: this must change. And it did. I did.

If you’re battling with a negative self-image, here’s what to do:

  1. Have a staring contest with yourself. Think that’s odd? Think about all the lies you’ve been feeding your brains about how awful you look. My point: there are way stranger things to do than staring at yourself.
  2. Make yourself come up with at least ten things you DO like about yourself. And you have to mean them!
  3. Smile.
  4. Repeat process daily and make sure to come up with new things you like about your body. Even the smallest detail will do.

After a while you’ll stop having staring competitions. It’ll end naturally. But the newfound appreciation for yourself will stay. As will the smiling (I now find myself smiling at myself every time I look into a mirror).

Appreciation is a much better feeling than avoiding mirrors because you’re too afraid to see yourself. Your inner beauty is reflected in your mirror image and your self-appreciation. Now go love yourself! And keep smiling 🙂

Samantha Spijkers is a blogger, sociologist and soon-to-be life coach. After conquering her depression she went looking for ways to turn her negative views on life around and blogs about her (inner) findings.


Guest Blog Post: “What is Happiness?” in Catherine Townsend-Lyon’s exact words

Happiness is different for everyone. Blogger Catherine Townsend-Lyon tells how she defines it…

Author/Columnist Catherine Townsend-Lyon
Author/Columnist Catherine Townsend-Lyon

A simple question?

What is Happiness?

What does it mean to you?

The meaning listed in the dictionary is – hap·pi·ness: noun, “the state of being happy.”  she struggled to find happiness in her life. “synonyms: pleasure,
contentment, satisfaction, cheerfulness, merriment, gaiety, joy, joyfulness, joviality, jollity, glee, delight, good spirits, lightheartedness, well-being, enjoyment  .  .  .

Miss Princess one of my three cat’s.
Miss Princess is one of my three cats.

Everyone’s “Happiness” comes from many places and things. I know my new blog friend Daal receives much happiness from her doggies, just as I get much happiness from my three Cat’s named Simon Peter, Miss Prissy Princess, and Mr. Boots. Having animals love and affection make many people happy. There are many things I do each day in my life that I draw much happiness, as it seems I have become a multi-faceted person. I live life in recovery from gambling and alcohol addictions living with mental health challenges, and I advocate proudly on my Recovery Blog, but that is another post for another day. So, my kitties bring me much joy and purpose taking care of them.

Cover of Catherine Townsend-Lyon's book
Cover of Catherine Townsend-Lyon’s book

Besides being of recovery service to others, I am also a freelance recovery article writer, a columnist at “In Recovery Magazine” and published author. Happiness for me is also reading good books and helping new authors learn how and where to promote their books on my blog called; “Cat Lyon’s Reading Den.”  I have a “pay it forward” blog page where authors can visit and learn what you need to do to effectively promote your books throughout social media and it is FREE.

Helping others is what I enjoy doing and is a passion of mine. I have learned in my recovery journey and life that helping people along the way is not a hard thing to do because I “Walk by FAITH, not by SIGHT.”

And THAT my friends, is what happiness to me!

Author/Columnist, Catherine Townsend-Lyon is the bestselling TKG author of her memoir “Addicted to Dimes, Confessions of a Liar and a Cheat” She is a freelance recovery writer and columnist for “In Recovery Magazine” and writes for several addiction/recovery publications, “Keys to Recovery” and is an expert recovery blogger of gambling addiction recovery for She was a contributor to a major media article published by and magazines titled; “Addiction to Anticipation: what goes wrong in the brain chemistry of a gambling addict,” By Maia Szalavitz, a journalist for

She writes a blog about gambling addiction and recovery called; ” Recovery Starts Here: A Sober and Bet Free Blog” An avid advocate, Catherine lives in Glendale, Arizona via So. Oregon with her husband of 27 years and three cats. She is currently working on her next two books due late 2017.

Dancing Man (2017)

Dancing is the best! This is so fun that I had to reblog it – thanks much, said-simply!

Simple Thoughts About Life & Stuff


A new acrylic on paper.  Because sometimes you just have to dance!

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