Minding Our World

Lying in bed last night, I was stressing about the upcoming weeks and months and how I was ever going to get through them without wanting to pull the blanket over my head and hide until we were well into 2021! November… December… Don’t get me wrong. I love the holidays but they are always, by nature, a bit stressful. And this year, with all that’s going, I’m already maxed out in the stress department.

As I thought about all the normal preparations – shopping, cooking, baking, decorating, gatherings, I imagined how different all these activities would be this year will be from any we have ever known. And I wonder if I can detach myself from the current state of our country, our world, enough to experience a normal (there’s that word again!) holiday season with everyone I love.

My main hesitancy, I think, centers around gift buying.  Watching everyone rip open their packages…the smiles on their faces when they see what’s inside… that’s when my soul is soaring! But this year, I wonder if I’ll feel the same…wonder if it’s the right thing to do. With so many needing healthcare, shelter, food, clothing…does my blessed family really need more stuff? How, I think, can I somehow keep my soul soaring amidst all this hurting?

Lying there in bed in the wee hours of this morning, I think I’ve found a solution.

I got up early this morning, made my coffee and opened my computer. I began my google search for all those retailers who “give back” a portion of their profits. What I found truly amazed me! So many businesses offering all sorts of perfect potential presents – there’s something just right for almost everyone on my gift list. There’re foods, clothing, books, jewelry, stationery, household items, all kinds of accessories and lots of fun things for kids too.

So, this holiday season, I’m changing my gift buying strategy.  Avoiding malls and crowded stores out of necessity, I am already committed to on-line shopping. So, I searched the internet for those retailers with a philanthropic mission – a give back program that supports those in need here at home and worldwide. Judging by my initial research, there are oodles of these! I am confident I can buy that perfect gift from one of these vendors and, at the same time, have my money work for those in need.

So, this year I am promising myself that, wherever possible, my gift buying will somehow, somewhere in this world, make a difference. I’ll likely spend the same amount of money and purchase the same amount of gifts. But by accessing retailers such as those below, not only those on my list will be gifted with something they love, but my spending will also benefit a specific non profit serving the most vulnerable in our world.

Please remember…what I’m offering here is just the tip of the iceberg. The list is literally endless!!! There are so many more retailers donating portions of their profits to meaningful charities.  Just take a look and see what you think.

Here my initial list-  a very few for you to check out.

To start, if you’re going to be using Amazon for any holiday shopping (and who among us will not), go to  smile.amazon.com , sign up your favorite charity and they will automatically receive a portion of everything you spend on Amazon. Easy peasey!

Giving Assistant – lists over 3000 retailers with cashback programs through which you can opt to donate your cash rebate to that retailer’s specified charity.

Greeting For Good – lists over 200 organizations that sell greeting cards, holiday cards, e-cards and tribute cards that help fund their charitable works.

 Some Museum Shops selling beautiful gifts:

Art Institute of Chicago

Getty Museum

Museum of Modern Art

Pennsylvania Academy of the fine Arts

A Few Other Non-Profits:

Sierra Club 

Ten Thousand Villages


World Wildlife Fund

Some of the Clothing Retailers who give back…

Bombas – Socks are the #1 most requested clothing item in homeless shelters. This retailer set out to change that by donating one brand new pair of socks for every pair purchased. The most comfortable socks, etc. for everyone on your gift list.

Toms – gives away $1 for every $3 they take in. Shoes, slippers, boots, booties, bags – all so comfortable and stylish!

Serengetee – Beautifully designed graphic tees and sweatshirts, cabin-cozy loungewear, blankets. masks, jewelry…if you have young adults or teens on your list, take a look. Actually, look anyway – great stuff.

Accessories, maybe?

4 Ocean – helping to end the world’s ocean plastics crisis.  Bracelets, beach gear, single use/reuseable items (storage bags, straws, water bottles, apparel – lots of amazing ideas for sustainable gifts for everyone.

Smiling Rocks Jewelry – sustainable, affordable and conflict-free lab-grown stones crafted into stunning pieces of jewelry. 10% of purchase goes to specific charities supporting medicine, education, environment and wildlife.

State Bags – Something here for everyone. A bit pricey but fun and practical. Their “give” is in support of different charities helping American children and families in need.

The Tote Project –  beautifully and artfully designed tote bags, pouches, etc. Profits go to support survivors of sex-trafficking in the US as they pursue their dreams.

Or Unusual Household Items?

Uncommon Goods – a donation of $1 is given to a participating partner of your choice with every purchase you make.

The Little Market – similar to Ten thousand Villages offering unique fair trade goods.

Health and Beauty, Aways a Winner…

Color the World – Hand Poured Pro-Age Lipsticks & Real Naturals Skincare – Helping good causes around the world. – Vegan, Natural, Cruelty Free, Pro-age.

Hand in Hand Soaps – bar and liquid soaps, hand sanitizers, body lotions, skin essential sets. – Their program is “buy a bar, give a bar” – helping reduce the number of children dying from water related illnesses.

And this one, thanks to my friend Lynn, is just for the fun of it. Take a peek at …who gives a crap . “Forest friendly” toilet paper, paper towels, tissues and wipes – profits from this organization go to building toilets in countries where proper sanitation and personal dignity are still issues. Crazy??? Sure. Critical??? Definitely!

As I said, I could go on and on…the list of amazing, generous companies who are giving back to make our world a better, more safe and peaceful one, goes on forever. There are so many more, waiting for us to find. I’m so happy I found these.

So, I’m making my list, and then before buying anything, I will search for a retailer with a commitment to making our world a better place.  This idea makes me feel a little better about spending during the holiday season.

How about you? Please add to this list if you find other concerned retailers.



October 20th, 2020|Minding Our World|1 Comment

Minding Our Spirits

Digging Deep

If you’ve been following me for any length of time, you already know I am a card-carrying foodie.  I love restaurants, grocery stores (especially gourmet type), kitchenware shops, new gadgets, new recipes, new foods, etc. That said, this morning I was emptying my dishwasher and along with all the other familiar kitchen utensils, there stood the tallest of these, my trusty old soup ladle that had been used to dish up last night’s homemade chicken rice soup. As I reached for it, I felt the need to hold onto it for a minute. (I’m already sensing your judgment!)

And then, clutching it closely, I realized…I love my ladle! I know it’s crazy; but honestly I tell you…I love my ladle. Holding it brings all good feelings to mind. Crazy…absolutely, but bear with me, please.

As I hold this simple tool in my hand, my mind and each one of my senses react – conjuring up all the comfortable, familiar, cozy settings in which this unassuming utensil has been present – not center stage, just present.  All the delicious, homey, warm smells and tastes that have been delivered by this exaggerated version of a serving spoon. I envision that ladle standing tall in pots of simmering soups, aromatic stews and chili, healthy oatmeal, deep rich gravies and sauces, pancake batter, all bubbling, lovingly prepared and soon to be devoured by loved ones. Could anything be more hygge??

So, as I hold on to these images, my mind goes further…

I think of all the ladling being done by generous volunteers in our community kitchens where so many of our homeless, hungry, jobless families are being fed. And how many ladles are serving up meals to our military men and women as they eat their meals far from home while protecting all we hold dear. Big scoops ladled up – filling the emptiness – replacing it with much needed warmth, goodness and huge doses of gratitude.

And deeper..

I consider how that long handle lets us reach deep into the recesses of the simmering pot to get to all the rich sustenance that has fallen to the bottom. Not just skimming from the surface. Going deep. Getting all the way to the bottom.

And deeper still…

As I think about all those mindful times that I force myself to go deep down into my very soul, to find what is real, true and authentic. It’s almost like using a virtual ladle during those times to scoop and bring to the surface that which for me  is always nourishing and life-giving.

Yes, I need both my ladles – the real and the virtual – for my comfort, contentment and well-being… my hygge. And I’m going to be using both a lot more this season!

Your thoughts??

Before closing, I’d like to share some more comfort hygge recipes waiting to be ladled up:

A tummy warming breakfast:


Vegetarian Chili with Grains and Beans:


A deeply rich and comforting beef stew:


And finally, something so deliciously comforting and sweet…


And a final note…take a look at all the books that are in contention for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2020.  I’ve read many, but not all, of them and each was wonderful. This list is also a good resource to check out if you are looking for your next read for these Fall weekends.  

October 16th, 2020|Minding Our Spirits|8 Comments

Minding Our Time

Winter is coming! And this year I’m going to hygge – a lot!!

What, you may ask, is “hygge”?  I’m really excited to share with you all I’ve discovered about it and why I think hygge may be exactly what I need to get me through the next few months. But first, let me tell you what brought me to it.

I’ve “hinted” in previous posts that lately I’ve been feeling unsettled. As summer wanes and autumn’s personality becomes obvious, for some reason, my anxiety grows. This is unusual for me. I typically look forward to seasons changing. And October has always been a favorite month.  But this year, the transition has left me anxious. It feels as if a lot has to happen to bring me back to a place of relative peace and harmony. And I have so little control over making that happen. Even my self-talking isn’t working.

So I decided that maybe some more aggressive self-care was in order. Begin small, I thought, with things close to me, things I can control. I began thinking of what makes me feel good, what typically lifts my spirits – being cozy and comfortable, familiar cooking or garden smells, family, books, a crackling fireplace. And that’s how I found hygge.

A little history: Pronounced “HOO-guh”, hygge stems from the Norwegian term, hugga, meaning “to comfort, console”.  “Cozy” would be a close English translation. It can be a noun, verb, or adjective. The practice has firm roots in Denmark and refers to a lifestyle that embraces relaxation, simple indulgences, and gratitude for simple pleasure. Faced with long, cold dark winters, the Danes sought out ways to control the potential depression the season would inevitably bring. They filled their homes, albeit, their lives, with warmth, coziness, and comfort.

So, with that brief intro, you can see where I’m going???

It appears that the Danes have perfected this concept and it is beginning to catch on here in the US. A search on Amazon turned up books (fiction and non), party and word games, yarns, and on and on. A whole relaxation industry out there waiting to be tapped into!

While I am truly turned off by most self-help trends, I don’t put hygge in that category. Rather than suggesting major lifestyle changes, some requiring on-going time commitments (ugh- more stress!) and substantial financial investment – de-cluttering, dieting, gym memberships, dance classes, etc.,  the hygge regime suggests we focus on what we already have – the familiar, the comfortable, the simple – sinking into them deeply, appreciating all they give us, as they bring comfort and harmony into our lives.

Isn’t this just what I’m looking for? The timing of this discovery is perfect, too. As the cooler weather drives us even further indoors than the pandemic already has, at-home time will become even more plentiful.

So, as I face my personal uneasiness brought on by the pandemic and current political events, I know the latest diet fad isn’t going to relieve the stress. But… a good book, candlelight, the warmth of a fireplace, wooly socks, cider, tea, comfy sweats, a pot of chili simmering on the stove, a good movie, sharing popcorn with loved ones…all these will center me and remind me of what is truly important.  That’s what Hygge is all about.

Being retired, hygge is easy for me. I think it is less accessible to my kids as they hold down jobs, juggle the complicated learning schedules of their families – there’s little “down” time. But I’m hoping that maybe they, too, can find some hygge moments each week. And I’m thinking, these times here in our country, in this beautiful country of ours, are the perfect times for us to look seriously into being more HYGGE.

Here’re some suggestions to get you started on “hygge-ing”:

Hygge-esque Reading:  Curl up under a warm blanket in front of a fire with one of these:

Waiting for the Moon – Kristin Hannah

The Center of the World – Katherine Sheehan

And for a true Autumn tale – The Simplicity of Cider – Amy Reichert

Some favorite easy Fall Recipes:

Apple Cider Glazed Chicken

Roasted Butternut Squash with Cider Vinaigrette 

Cheddar and Apple Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

Ribollita Soup

Pumpkin Risotto

Ginger and Cream Sandwich Cookies

Since Hygge is a Danish phenomenon, here are three suggestions for Netflix bingeing while sitting in front of that fire, all enjoyable Danish productions.

Borgen, Rita, A Fortunate Man

And finally, if you want to hear from actual Danes about how they hygge, click here.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Is your home a hygge home? Are you thinking of trying it? Let’s hear from you.









October 2nd, 2020|Minding Our Time|6 Comments

Minding Our Minds


I write this post to talk with you about how I am trying to deal with our world today. My hope is that, upon reading about my sometimes successful efforts, you will feel free to share with all of us whatever vehicles you are using to do the same. We are all in this together!

Conversations with Self

“When we restore peace within ourselves, we have a chance to restore peace in others”.  Thich Nhat Hanh, beloved Vietnamese Buddhist monk

I’ve been thinking a lot about these words lately. Thich Nhat Hanh has been part of my mindfulness journey for some time but I find myself seeking out his wisdom now more than ever as the confluence of events this year has plunged me deeper into this pursuit. External events – this pandemic, the forced isolation, the fears and sufferings of so many, the insecurities and uncertainties…all make my quest for inner peace so very difficult. But, ironically,

The quote above has been haunting me. How can I be an instrument of peace for others in our world if, deep within myself, there is unrest?  So I breathe, burrow deep, focus, try to let go. I listen to my life.

For now introversion is working in my favor. The limits on social interaction demanded by the pandemic aren’t as difficult for me as they may be for others. Solitude energizes me, as I talk myself into that quiet space, dispelling at least some of the ‘noise’ that wants to dominate my thinking. I remember reading a quote from Jane Austen where she says that the best companions of one of her characters were that person’s own thoughts and reflections!  Is that me? Maybe. Listennig to my own self  pondering really works…sometimes. Sometimes I emerge from the meditative silence with a modicum of peace restored. But sometimes, not so much. Distractions win out and I need something more.

It is then that I find have to give my heady thoughts a “voice” – outside my head. I turn to my journal to “talk” things through – with myself. When I’m worried, hopeful, grateful…I write. Journalling is a powerful mindfulness tool for me. Along with being an introvert, I am a visual learner – I digest information best when it is there in front of me…writing my thoughts brings them to life. Sometimes these penned conversations take the form of a prayer with my God; sometimes I “talk” with my family or with a friend. But mostly it’s me talking with myself. Sometimes the conversations go on forever. No matter the length, the participants or the issue, they are always truly spiritually rewarding and when I am ready to close my journal – every single time –  I am in a calmer and more settled frame of mind.

Yes, these conversations help restore peace within myself.

I can’t end without mentioning all the other, less sane, less mindful instances of me conversing with myself. When I say things like “where did I leave my keys?”, or “why did I open this closet?”, I sometimes wonder if an intervention is in my future.

But, craziness aside, all this talking to myself has become a huge part of my mindfulness journey. Without my realizing it, self-talk is now a very valuable life skill tool for me. It’s healthy and helpful paying close attention to my inner voice.

My hope is that I will eventually get the chance, as Thich Nhat Hanh says, to restore peace to others in my world.

Finally, I know that as I write each post, I am revealing more and more about myself, drawing me way out of my comfort zone.  This reality, in itself, is not as hard as I thought it would be and has become a huge part of my mindfulness journey!  I hope you, too, will feel comfortable sharing yourself with the rest of our community here at Minding Our Lives. Honestly, my friends, it can be liberating!




September 18th, 2020|Minding Our Minds|2 Comments
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