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What Are You Thankful For?

I was thinking recently about gratitude. My friend Laurie, who is also an expat from the states (originally from San Francisco) and lives around the corner from me in Hannover, Germany, gave me the idea for this post so I owe the whole gratitude idea to her. You see recently, she held an event for ladies who  live in Hannover (but are from another country) to get together for dinner and networking – I even met a few decor8 readers which was a lovely surprise! It was such a special evening to be with ladies from all parts of the globe — Brazil, America, Australia, Denmark, the Netherlands… but in addition to having friendly chats and exchanging information about our new culture, language, lifestyle — Laurie gave us each a piece of paper and spoke for a moment about gratitude. What was the paper for? Well I’ll get to that.

Sunday Suppers

Laurie (who is a change management consultant who works for high profile companies) told us that when people normally relocate it is easy for them, especially when grouped together with others who have relocated as well, to start complaining and conversations can quickly become quite negative as a result. This is one reason why I’ve not yet joined a local expat group — I’ve heard that people in these groups can be big whiners and that’s just not my style. I believe that the more you complain, the more negativity you invite into your life and the more your complaints turn into reality. I also believe that complainers receive less help – people usually want to help those whom they like and complainers tend to have fewer friends. What do you think?

Now back to this inspiring dinner party with Laurie…

She tactfully explained to our group that it’s best to concentrate on what we have in our new culture, versus the things we may miss, and then she asked us to write down what we are thankful for… what do we have currently in our life that we love? Specifically, she asked us what we love about living in our new city. My list covered both sides of my index card and I quickly filled it, which told me something instantly — that I found a great spot to live and work!

The other ladies didn’t realize it (I was discreet), but I took notice of who had to really sit there and think about things to list vs. those who quickly listed their favorite things. I wondered if the ones who quickly wrote their list vs. those who had to really think about what they were thankful have a happier expat experience because they are naturally seeing the good things? Or? It also made think that perhaps by making regular mental notes (and from time to time making them on paper, too) that we all should remind ourselves what we are currently thankful for, what we love about our life, our personality, our home, our city, our job, those close to us… I think being thankful makes us less prone to negative thinking and gives life more meaning. We shouldn’t have to suffer an extreme hardship before we start to appreciate what we have, right?

And so, since yesterday was Turkey Day in America and many of you still have bellies full of pumpkin pie, perhaps it is a nice time to reflect on what you have currently that makes you feel grateful. What Are You Thankful For? I’d love to see some of your lists, would you mind sharing with me in the comments section below? I think writing a list publicly reinforces our feelings and also encourages others to look on the bright side and be more thankful too. Care to participate? I will join you with my list in the comments section below… You may also answer this question publicly on your blog and then leave a link to your blog post in the comments below – it’s up to you.

I’m looking forward to reading your thoughts! :)

(image: Sunday Suppers, a supper club I’m dying to attend someday in Brooklyn that also has a new blog!)

Posted in real talk on November 26, 2010

Real Talk: Life Without The Web

Could you live without the web? How long could you totally unplug? Do you want to? Do you long for the days before email and social networking? Recently on Facebook a friend (thanks, Alex!) shared an article that she read over at Slate written by By James Sturm called Life Without The Web. It’s about the resolve of one man to sign off for four months to see how it changes his life — work, family, etc.

Real Talk: Life Without The Web

I think most of us can relate to James when he confessed, “The question I’ve been wrestling with lately is whether it’s all going by so fast because…of the way I’ve been living my life. Specifically, I’ve started to wonder whether that feeling might be connected to all the time I spend online. Too often I sit down to dash off a quick e-mail and before I know it an hour or more has gone by.” I found his perspective interesting, you may too — you can hop over here to read it and then pop back to leave your impressions below because I think as a community we could have a pretty neat discussion about it today if you’d like. I wonder if you can relate to any of his “issues” with being online a lot.

Perhaps you can relate to James on this point, “Over the last several years, the Internet has evolved from being a distraction to something that feels more sinister. Even when I am away from the computer I am aware that I AM AWAY FROM MY COMPUTER and am scheming about how to GET BACK ON THE COMPUTER.”

After reading the article and his resolve to completely sign offline for four months I came to this conclusion: Part of me understands James’ decision to go offline. I totally get it. But another part says it’s like anything else — it’s a self control thing, not an internet thing. If someone has an addiction to the internet they need to figure out why and how to change and then take the necessary steps. I don’t think that cold turkey will help long term because eventually he’ll be back online and then the pattern will most likely emerge all over again. I think it’s more important to learn balance and practice self control in everything we do — even healthy things can be bad for us if we over-indulge. If you remove a vice without first learning self control you will only replace the vice with something else like television and book reading. And what really is the difference – watching television and reading books can be done online so doing them offline doesn’t accomplish much.

So my questions are this: could you totally unplug for four months like James? Would you want to? Do you wish you could unplug completely long-term? Do you think self control plays a part in all of this and that the web can become an addiction turning an otherwise healthy activity into something unhealthy? How do you balance your life online with your life offline — any tips for other readers who may also be a bit frustrated by all of the time they spend plugged in?

(image: holly becker for decor8)

What are your thoughts?

Posted in real talk on April 15, 2010

Real Talk: DIY is not Duplicate It Yourself!

Hello friends! I think that today I’ll go light on the blogging because I’m ready for the weekend and feel more like relaxing vs. writing! But first, I thought I’d kick off my Real Talk column, which also was called Talk It Out, and well regardless of the column name it will be called Real Talk going forward and the column will appear once weekly on any given day — it really depends on the community and what issues you email me that you’d like to talk about here. I have always supported the online community but this afternoon I was shown that support in return in a business matter — and it made me think how it feels to be on the receiving end — when I felt helpless and someone came in to help. It was wonderful and that is one of many reasons why I’ve decided to get the Real Talk column up and running again on a weekly basis.

Heather Vallentyne Photography

The purpose of this column is for all of us to share our personal opinions on the chosen topic to offer advice, ideas, constructive feedback and anything else that we can do collectively to show support and friendship. Truth is, we all need each other — we are part of a circle. So to celebrate this spirit of independence but also interdependence, Real Talk is back!

Today my guest is Erika Firm who is the president and designer of Delphine fine stationery and design. Erika wants to talk about unethical requests that would lead to possible violation of copyright (copying hurts real people out there), requests that many of us experience regularly as small business owners — especially designers. Here is what Erika has to say on the topic, I hope you’ll chime in because together our voices can possibly get others thinking… and the intended goal here is to educate and offer support and even a possible solution or several.

Erika — take it away!

“Lately I’ve noticed more and more clients asking me to copy other people’s work (they see an invitation in a magazine and want me to duplicate it one to one, and I won’t). It’s my policy to refuse, and to explain copyright infringement. Friends and colleagues of mine in the wedding industry (not just other stationers) have also told me that they’re experiencing an increase in these sorts of unethical inquiries. I think part of the reason I’m seeing more of these unethical requests is that my business has grown and the studio gets more inquiries overall than ever before, so the number of “icky” inquiries is also growing. But perhaps it also has to do with the proliferation of DIY (which, don’t get me wrong, I absolutely do love and support), and the proliferation of things like “inspiration boards” on blogs (which I also love, and post myself on my own blog). The DIY movement and things like inspiration boards are meant to foster creativity.”

“Because of my personal experiences (and thanks to many similar stories heard from friends and colleagues) I feel like there exists a disconnect between the artist/blogger/designer’s intent (to inspire) and some people’s inference that this inspirational content is free to simply be copied.”

“Perhaps some people feel like their homemade invitation (or cake or dress or bouquet or centerpiece or curtains or pillow…) that looks exactly like the original couldn’t possibly change anything in the world or hurt someone else. While I think that the vast majority of bloggers understand the difference between inspiration and copying, and act professionally and ethically, I’m not sure that many are doing an excellent job of pointing out the difference—and the real effect that copying has on the people behind the businesses that supply creative content and products—to readers. The simple fact is that when somebody decides to “duplicate it yourself” (instead of getting inspired to “do it yourself”) it hurts a real person.

What do you think we as a creative community can do to address this issue? I feel the frustration rising. I know there are hundreds and hundreds of examples of how copying has affected someone’s business, and there are lots of ways of addressing the issue after it’s already happened. How do we spread the word that there is a huge difference between being inspired by something and copying? Any ideas on how to do this?

- Erika Firm

(Images: Delphine product shot styled by Erica Firm, taken by Heather Vallentyne)

Posted in real talk on March 12, 2010

Talk It Out: Half Empty, Half Full

As I was out shopping for flower bulbs earlier and I started to think about my post yesterday and how so many of you connected with what I said, and how nice it was for me to hear that and to make the connection. And then I thought that perhaps you could use a little free space to just talk to me, one another, to the universe… just to vent I guess — to vent your frustrations and then to end your comment with a note like… I hate how isolated I feel working from home BUT I love that I can wear bunny slippers and have my dog lay on my feet all day.

tea cups

I will call this space the “Half Empty, Half Full” corner today. It’s where you can literally dump what makes your life, or job, or anything “half empty” but make sure that before you end your post you include your “half full” feelings, too.

Okay, so why don’t we get started. Who will go first? I can’t wait to see your half + half comments, this could potentially be a lot of fun!

(image: holly becker for decor8)

Posted in real talk on January 28, 2010

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