Celebrate: Hallmark

This post is a Hallmark sponsored post. I am being paid by Hallmark to write it, but all writing, ideas and opinions are mine. Thankfully, Hallmark and I share the same idea–that little moments are to be celebrated and that good people, good efforts and good intentions deserve a spotlight. See Hallmark Life is a Special Occasion for more details, like them on Facebook, and/or sign up for their e-mail messages HERE.

I am notorious for mixing up music lyrics. To this day, I still mumble through the first line of that “you give love a bad name” Bon Jovi song because I’m not sure if it’s “Shock to the Heart or “Shot through the Heart or something else that starts with Sh- and ends with Heart. I’m not very good with numbers either. I forget birthdays and still use my calculator in the grocery store. So you would think with my history of both botched lyrics and number miscalculations, I’d slaugter the famous Rent song, “Seasons of Love.” But no. I know that there are exactly 525,600 minutes in a year, and I can belt it–on tune–in the shower, in the car, and in the hair color aisle of Target with my friend Andrea when she’s randomly signaled it’s one of those days. You know, grocery-shopping-turned-Broadway-play days (the third Tuesday every month).

It’s an important number to know–even more important than your Social Security number, if you ask me. I might not be a math whiz, but I can certainly tell you that 525,600 minutes translates to: “Time’s Ticking; Enjoy Life.”

Which brings me to the theme of this post: Celebrate.

Ah, my favorite theme. I dig celebration. I yearn for holidays, I lose my breath at the sight of balloons, I hang colored lights on our lanai year round. And while yes, I can’t deny that life calls for serious and mundane and responsibility, shouldn’t that be all the more reason to infuse it with color? I think about this a lot having kids–wondering what their memories will be and how their childhood will be painted years later. They will know love and peace, yes. That’s a given. But amidst all that love, I hope there are interesting stories of celebration. How we lit candles and played music, danced in our pajamas in the moonlight, created handmade cards for birthdays and holidays, used special cups on special days, joined with neighbors for sparklers and bonfires, baked cupcakes with extra sprinkles, and how we recognized that not one of those 525,600 minutes should be wasted.

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And whether it’s a birthday or Father’s Day or maybe something fabulous you created on your own–like Opposite Day or Family Movie Night–there’s a part of us that comes alive when we make efforts to create memorable celebrations amid ordinary routines. Our children paint colorful stories in their books of childhood, but really I think we benefit just as much. Who said our own books of childhood can’t still be scripted? (Read the children’s book Mrs. Muddle’s Holidays–Goodness, I am in love).

Ordinary or Extraordinary, there are little things we can do to make celebrations a little more memorable.

My Five Favorite Tips for Creating Celebrations

1. Light up the Night

Candles. Their flicker spells “this is special.” Turn off the lights at dinner and eat with just a scattering of tea lights, and something triggers within–that memory recorder that preserves all the details. What song was playing, how pretty that table cloth looked, how big your daugther smiled when she realized a simple dinner transformed into a memorable family event.

Candles in cupcakes aren’t just for birthdays either. We’ve been known to light candles on pancakes, cookies, doughnuts–you name it. And, for the record, the five syllables of “Ann-i-ver-sa-ry” can be mumbled quickly in place of “Birthday” for a lovely “Happy Anniversary to You” melody.

And my personal favorite? Put a few jars and tea lights in your beach bag and stay past sunset. Nothing says “Celebrate” like a quilt surrounded by a dreamy glow, nestled in the sand under the moon.

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2. Use the “Good Dishes.”

Reserve special dishes for festive occassions, and make a nice fuss over events when you pull them out. The top shelf in my kitchen cupboard holds our favorites–kid “wine” glasses, the “Queen for a Day” plate, a piece of china my grandma passed down to me, a birthday mug, etc. Lainey knows when we use any of these dishes, it’s a special event. And stem ware? Oh, she thinks she’s so fancy when she gets to use a real wine glass.

Photobucket3. Dress up.

Clothing is such an easy form of expression and consequently, an easy way to “feel” the extra celebratory tone of a special occassion. I can suddenly turn an ordinary spaghetti dinner into a romantic date just by switching from jeans to a little black dress. Likewise, I’ve watched Lainey’s smile turn from “this is fun” to “Ohhh, this is really special” when she realizes she has something festive to wear, even if it’s pulled from her dress-up trunk. A big hat to a tea party, Christmas jammies on Christmas Eve, socks with blue stars at the Fourth of July parade–all little ways to make a celebration more memorable.

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4. “Wow” Factor

So, these aren’t things you do everyday. In fact, I save these for those very special occassions like New Years and family reunions and welcoming babies with friends–ceremonious celebrations. Sky lanterns and sparklers, our weapons of choice. Like candles, but more grand. We’ve made wishes, said thank you’s and shouted Happy Birthdays under the enchanting glow of rising lanterns, and we’ve written our names with a stream of sparks. The underlying message…life is grand.

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5. Finally my favorite celebration tip: Become Acquainted with my friend, Spontaneity.

The best way to celebrate? Spice it up. Do it differently. Get excited about something you haven’t been excited about in a long time. Try breakfast for dinner. Sleeping bags in the living room on a Friday night. Throw a few drops of food color to make green eggs and ham. Drag blankets outside and tell your kids it’s “National Read Outside Day” even though you made that up.

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Stay up a little later, go for a moon walk, buy water balloons, make a scavenger hunt in your back yard. And next time it storms, turn your garage into a storm theater. Eat popcorn. Rate the thunder. Smile.

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There are 525,600 minutes in a year. How will you celebrate?

I know you all have unique ways you celebrate little moments with your families. Summer’s almost here. Do you have any favorite traditions? Any made-up holidays or special things you do to transform ordinary events in your home to memorable occasions? Hallmark and I would love to hear your stories. In your comment, please share the special ways you celebrate to help make your year–all 525,600 minutes of it–a special occasion.

To see other Hallmark posts on this blog, click HERE.

Get Carded: Hallmark Challenge

This post is sponsored by Hallmark and is part of a series of ten posts I will be writing between now and the end of the year. What does that mean? Basically, that Hallmark’s really cool because I still get to write my own opinions and in whatever way I like. No forced links or awkward drops of Hallmark products. (I interrupt this post to say Brett and I only decorate our Christmas trees in Hallmark keepsake ornaments, I love their Woodwick candles and we’ve stocked up on these sympathy cards for all bad things that happen over the next twelve years.) I’m kidding. I made that stuff up.

What’s true is that Hallmark is running an inspiring campaign called “Life is a Special Occasion,” and when they asked if I’d like to join a team of bloggers in spreading their message that little moments are to be celebrated, I was stoked. Really? Get compensated for writing about savoring moments with my kids, sharing a laugh with my friends or slipping out of the house to make a memory with my family? Um, sure.

This is my thing. My mission, my passion, my niche. If we could have a neighborhood parade throwing candy every Tuesday for no better reason than because the third day of the week should be celebrated—well, sign me up. Life is beautiful, Baby.

And while yes, I thrive on holiday adrenaline and birthday party planning sessions, it’s the in-between that is truly worthy of celebration.

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Peanut butter fingerprints on windows.
Late-night stories read under the comfort of cold sheets.
Soap bubble beards in the tub.

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Stick figure masterpieces framed on the refrigerator.
Cold cider on October afternoons, hot chocolate on December nights.
And random I love you’s in between all of it…just because.

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What if we made more efforts to send cards for things like this rather than the obligatory “Happy Birthday” card we frantically rush to the post office just to beat our three day belated record?

I might be the world’s worst card-giver because I forget birthdays, I’m terribly last minute and there is a Mother’s Day card for my mom addressed and sealed, stashed between bills on my counter, and it’s now July. But just like I’m more likely to show up for a spontaneous all call to the beach for sunset rather than an event planned weeks in advance, I’m more likely to rise to the occasion of sending a heartfelt card that celebrates the in-between. Just Because—with no pressure to make it to the post office for a timely arrival. And you know what? I don’t remember birthday cards people have given me, but I certainly remember any time I’ve walked to the mailbox to be pleasantly surprised with an unexpected “I’m thinking about you” card.

So, I grabbed Hallmark’s Get Carded challenge by the horns. The challenge: Write in seven cards, chosen from an assortment provided by Hallmark, and send one every day for one week. Not for birthdays, not for anniversaries…just because Life is a Special Occasion, and saying it in a card is a good reminder to celebrate little moments–not only for the recipient but for the sender. Which brings me back to my repeated ramblings on the double-edged sword of altruism. When we do things for others, it makes us feel good too, and that little twinge–that rush of satisfaction, that feel-good burn–it is fueling and inspiring, and it makes us better people. Pay it forward…inspiration is a two way street.

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My dad always draws on his envelopes. Kill two birds with one stone and make not only the recipient smile…but the postal workers too. Why hello there, hardworking Mailman. Here’s a unicorn for you…have a happy day.

From the wrinkled pages of my tiny white address book, I carefully chose seven cherished friends, and seven envelopes I addressed with my favorite pen. With each name I wrote, I was reminded of the little things I loved about them.

Roberta, my old boss in Michigan, my second mama who always smiles and sends sweet e-mails just when I need them. I told her I loved her…just because.

My Aunt Esther who rocks two braids like no one’s business, inspires me to always keep a bottle of Coty’s Wild Musk on hand, and never fails to send our family an Advent calendar at the beginning of every December. I told her I loved her…just because.

Katie, my kindred spirit whose hands guided the deliveries of both my girls into this world. She loves my Saturday morning waffles, and I love her mood-lifting sarcasm. I told her I loved her…just because.

My friend Andrea who sat next to me in ballet for weeks as we watched our girls point their toes, and finally chased me out to the parking lot one day and introduced herself. She busts out Broadway tunes in the middle of Michael’s craft aisles and knows all the words to the Wicked songs. I told her I loved her…just because.

My friend Rayna who just had her second baby and is redefining her mama roles and sleep patterns as she juggles two boys that love her. I couldn’t find the “you just had another kid, you’re probably losing your mind about now” card so I sent her one that would make her smile. I told her I loved her…just because.

Laura, my “momster” – too young to be my mom, too loving and maternal to be my sister, and yet she fulfills both roles for me. There at any given moment to tell me it’s going to be okay or send me into side-splitting laughter with her text pictures of American Girl Dolls doing grown-up things. I told her I loved her…just because.

And finally, Heidi, my best friend whose length of summer stay in Michigan was not approved by me. I miss her. Terribly. And I realize what she means to me when she’s gone. I told her to come home soon. And that I loved her…just because.

I received several texts within a few days after sending the cards, but I didn’t need to hear back. The act of licking envelopes, adhering stamps, drawing happy faces next to the addresses before I stuffed the cards in the mailbox—it was an inspiring ritual that reminded me to focus on others—to let them know that they were each important and appreciated.

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Nothing says “I love you” like a chiguagua in an embellished sombrero. This dog knows how to celebrate little moments, let me tell you.

Sometimes, it’s awkward to tell someone in person that you really love them. Cards make it easy. I’ve always thought a great card would simply have the words “I Like __________.” And you fill it in. I like your new bangs. Your wit. Your contagious laughter. The way you pay attention to my kids. Your style. When my phone dings with a text from you. The way you celebrate my successes. The way you challenge me when I need to hear it.

When’s the last time you really told someone how you felt? Not in an e-mail. Not in a text. But with a pen. Written from the heart. To be read and reread on a bad day.

You too can join the Get Carded challenge. Like Hallmark on Facebook and enter their contest for a chance to win $5000. Plus, ten comments from this post will be randomly selected to win a card pack from Hallmark (announced in Friday’s post). Tell me, what’s the most memorable just because card you’ve ever received?

Mine? Years ago—many years ago—I found a card a friend had tucked in my bag when I wasn’t looking. I opened it up and, written in pencil in little lower case letters it said, simply…i love you. It made me cry.

Get carded today. Make someone happy. Tell someone you like their new bangs. And don’t forget to check out Hallmark’s Life is a Special Occasion campaign and see how some other bloggers are celebrating the every day moments that make life grand.

What a lot we lost when we stopped writing letters. You can’t reread a phone call. ~Liz Carpenter

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