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Creating a Leap Day Time Capsule

Every four years, the calendar gifts us an extra day, known as Leap Day. This anomaly invites us to pause, reflect, and create memories that transcend time. Let’s celebrate this rare occasion by crafting a Leap Day time capsule—a vessel of memories and treasures to open in 4 more years!

The Spirit of Leap Day

Leap Day holds a special place, offering a glimpse into the interconnectedness of past, present, and future. In various cultures, it’s a day of renewal, rebirth, and possibility—a time to leap into the unknown with courage.

Fun Facts About Leap Day and Leap Years

  • Leap Day syncs the calendar year with the solar year, approximately 365.24 days long.
  • People born on Leap Day, known as “leaplings,” celebrate their birthday once every four years.
  • In some traditions, Leap Day is ideal for marriage proposals, and leap-year babies are said to possess special talents.
  • The chances of being born on Leap Day are approximately 1 in 1,461, making it rare and unique!

Creating Your Leap Day Time Capsule

  1. Selecting a Container: Choose a durable and weather-resistant container for your time capsule, such as a stainless steel or aluminum canister, a sturdy wooden box, or a sealed plastic container.
  2. Choosing Items to Include: Fill your time capsule with a mix of personal mementos, cultural artifacts, and symbolic tokens that capture the spirit of the moment. Here are some ideas:
    • A handwritten letter to your future self or loved ones, expressing your hopes, dreams, and aspirations for the years ahead.
    • Predictions about what your life will be like, how you will have changed, or what you will have accomplished in 4 years.
    • Photographs capturing memorable moments from Leap Day this year, along with snapshots of your daily life, surroundings, and loved ones.
    • A small keepsake or trinket that holds personal significance, such as a lucky charm, a favorite book, or a piece of artwork.
    • A selection of newspaper clippings, magazine articles, or printed screenshots showcasing current events, trends, and headlines from Leap Day.
    • A handwritten list of goals, intentions, or resolutions for the next Leap Year, serving as a roadmap for your journey of growth and self-discovery.
    • A symbolic representation of the passage of time, such as an hourglass, a pocket watch, or a sundial.
  3. Choosing a Location: Find a safe and secure location to store your time capsule, ensuring that it’s protected from the elements and accessible for future retrieval. Consider storing it in a garage or attic, or tucking it away under a bed or in a closet.
  4. Sealing the Capsule: Once you’ve assembled your items, carefully seal the time capsule to protect its contents from moisture, air, and pests. Use waterproof sealant, heavy-duty tape, or airtight screws to ensure a secure seal that will withstand the test of time.

Leap into the Future

As you embark on this journey, remember that you’re creating a bridge between past, present, and future. May your time capsule serve as a testament to the enduring spirit of Leap Day and the boundless possibilities that await with each leap into the unknown!

A Journaling Journey: The Power of Daily Reflection for a Bright New Year

As we step into January, I want to share with you a down-to-earth practice I enjoy that reflects the essence of new beginnings, independence, and self-confidence. Join me in this daily journaling journey — a powerful tool to stay mindful, appreciate life, and embrace the unfolding moments in your story.

Daily Reflection: Capturing Everyday Moments

Years ago, I started a practice of recording the little moments from throughout the day, using categories to help me really take notice of and remember the special parts of each day. This became the central place where I recorded everything from the funny things my son said to new things we tried to who we spent time with. Having specific categories helped me think back through and pinpoint what made that day special and unique.

Over the years, I continued to add or edit categories according to what I wanted to pay more attention to or track. For example, I added “animal sightings” and “synchronicities.” These are specific ways I experience my spiritual connection, so it helped me to have a record that truly showed me how often and in what ways I was receiving signs, symbols, and love from a higher power.

How to Set Up Your Daily Reflection Journal

There are so many possibilities for how to set up your daily reflection journal. You can do it traditional-style if you’d like. I keep mine as a Word document beause it’s so quick and easy, and I can add things into categories without having to worry about space or messiness. 

I create a Word document for each month of the year. January has its own document, February has its own, and so on. I keep them all in a folder on my laptop. I title each document “####-## January Monthly Check-In” where the numbers at the beginning are the year, and after the dash is the month’s number (01 for January). Even though I write “January” in the title, I still have that 01 in there because it sorts the documents in chronological order that way. To clarify, here is what the titles of my documents are:

2024-01 January Monthly Check-In
2024-02 February Monthly Check-In
2024-03 March Monthly Check-In
2024-04 April Monthly Check-In
and so on.

You can title them in whatever way feels right to you!

The Categories I Use for Reflection and Journaling

The categories I use are below. Use whatever categories make sense for you and are what you’d truly like to include!

  • Essence Cards for the Year and Month and How They Played Out
  • Best Day
  • Worst Day
  • Births
  • Deaths
  • Momentous Events and Exciting Things
  • Political / News Events
  • Vacations / Breaks
  • Events / Places Visited
  • People / Friends Spent Time With
  • Got to Know More or Connected With
  • I Inspired
  • Who / What Inspired Me
  • Kind Things I Said
  • Kind Things Said to Me
  • Gifts Received
  • Gifts Given
  • Special Mail Sent
  • Special Mail Received
  • Other Giving Deeds
  • Restaurants
  • Favorite Foods, Drinks, and Meals
  • Books Read (with 1-5 star ratings)
  • Movies (with 1-5 star ratings) Music
  • TV Shows / Series
  • Games Played
  • New Things Tried
  • Creations / Made
  • Favorite Outfit
  • Scary
  • Worries
  • Regrets
  • Annoyances
  • Happiness
  • Gratitude
  • Health and Healthy Choices
  • Great Quotes and Inside Jokes
  • Money Miracles
  • Fun Purchases & Big Ticket Expenses
  • Trainings / Webinars / Classes
  • Home Projects
  • Animal Sightings
  • Synchronicities, Angel Numbers, and the Like
  • Things Learned
  • Other Accomplishments
  • Other Favorite Things
  • Other Thoughts or Note-worthy Things
  • Notes About Child
  • Notes About Partner
  • Notes About Pet 1
  • Notes About Pet 2

Daily Tracker: Building Positive Habits

This year I also decided to add on a daily tracker to the bottom of my document to keep on track with daily goals I wanted to make sure I am meeting. I added a little table with all of the dates of the month, and the things I wanted to track, such as “Water,” “Read,” “No Soda,” etc. When I’ve accomplished that goal for the day, I color the box in the table green. By the end of the month, I’ll have a visual of how many days out of the month I met my goals.

What daily goals do you want to stay on top of? You can add your own table to your journal too!

My tracker looks like this:

Using the Information from Your Journal

One of my favorite traditions at the end of the year is to read back through my journal documents. It’s a fun way to remember all of the little moments and little things that made this year unique and special.

I also use tidbits from throughout the year to include in our family Christmas letter (another of my favorite end-of-year traditions).

Additionally, sometimes I use clues from what I wrote for gift-giving ideas! One year, we created “Our Favorite Things From This Year” gift boxes for our parents. We included things we’d used or tried and loved, such as cherry pitters (fresh cherries were a family favorite that year), little flower pot picks from “Sticks,” a very cute and popular artsy home decor shop here in Des Moines, and BLK & Bold coffee (my husband’s favorite coffee that year, and a local, black-owned business which we are happy to support). I might not have remembered these things without looking back at my journals!

Looking back at what you’ve written throughout the year can inform you about goals you might want to set, projects you want to finish, people you might want to spend more time with, and how you can set yourself up better for fewer regrets and annoyances that come up in your journal next year!

Start Today: Your January Journaling Challenge

This January, dive into the power of daily reflection. Illuminate the path to self-discovery, independence, and the confidence to shape your narrative.

Celebrate the beauty in the ordinary, find joy in the details, and let your journal be a testament to the richness of your existence. May this new beginning be the kickstart for a year filled with self-awareness, growth, and the confidence to shape your story.

Embrace the power of daily reflection and welcome the dawn of a bright new year!

My Family’s Cherished End-of-Year Traditions

The air is filled with holiday joy, and as December unfolds its wintry embrace, my family and I eagerly dive into our beloved end-of-year traditions. These heartwarming moments not only bring us closer together but also infuse our home with the spirit of love, gratitude, and enchantment! Here are our favorite end-of-year traditions:

Deep Cleaning Our Winter Wonderland

As December approaches, our family unites for a collective mission – transforming most of our home into a blank canvas. All of our shared spaces and our guest room get a deep clean, making room for decorations, extra cooking and baking, and cherished company. Everything expired from our refrigerator and cupboard is thrown out, and we take extra non-expired non-perishables to the Food Bank or our library’s community pantry. It’s unanimous – a fresh, clean house feels so comfy, cozy, and relaxing.

Decking the Halls

With the “halls” freshly scrubbed, we begin to adorn our home! The Christmas tree, stockings, rooftop lights, and an array of decorations transform our space into our little holiday haven. Our coat closet door by our front door becomes a gallery of love, featuring the smiling faces and heartfelt messages from the Christmas cards we receive. I love the cards so much that I will often leave them up through spring!

Gingerbread Joy and Mimi's Milk Nog

Building gingerbread kits has become a delightful annual tradition for my son. We have tried so many different kinds of kits throughout the years – a mini village, football stadium, Mario house, traditional house, Oreo cookie house… This year was a Harry Potter Hogwarts cookie kit.

And what’s December without Mimi’s Milk Nog?? We can’t go a holiday season without finishing at least one carton! It takes a lot of willpower to wait until at least Thanksgiving to buy some.

Advent Calendars and Buddy's Mischief

Starting December 1st, our days leading up to Christmas are marked by the excitement of opening Advent calendar windows. My son gets two calendars each year – one has chocolates, one has toys or something fun. We’ve done several Lego Advents, a STEM kit Advent, and a fidget Advent; this year it was a Harry Potter Advent calendar.

And, of course, our mischievous Elf on the Shelf, Buddy, makes his grand entrance on December 1st, too, leaving a trail of silliness and surprises until his departure on the 24th. Buddy has been full of shenanigans over the years. One of our favorites is when he marked his height on the wall where we track our son’s height. It’s still there! In fact, we even painted around it when we repainted the walls.

Cozy Evenings with Records, Movies, and Susan Branch's Books

As the sun sets, our home is bathed in the warm glow of Christmas lights. We cue up our vintage Christmas record on the record player. (Our car radio stays on the station that plays Christmas music, starting on Thanksgiving Day.)

Evenings are often spent in the “snuggler” chair (a reclining chair-and-a-half) with our favorite plush blankets. Our senior cat purrs up a storm laying on the heating pad. I pull out my Susan Branch holiday books and spend days poring over every delightful detail (even though I’ve read them many times). We make time every December to watch our favorite timeless Christmas classics: “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” “Home Alone,” and “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

Treats for Neighbors and 4-H'ers, and Santa's Mystery Deliveries

Every December for the past several years, I find a wrapped present marked “To Amber, From Santa” on our porch. This mysterious tradition makes me feel giddy and cared about! I put the gift under the Christmas tree and wait until Christmas Day to open it. This year Santa gave me some adorable garden-themed felted wool dryer balls. They must know how I love my plants and insects!

The Giving Spirit fills us too! We pick an afternoon or evening to walk around delivering treats and cards to our neighbors, always remembering to include baggies of dog treats for our neighbor pups!

Our 4-H club members always receive a little gift as well. This year we put together bags with “snowglobe slime” (see below!), a hot cocoa packet, and a pouch of marshmallows for them.

Piano Melodies and Maker Beehive Creations

Our home resonates with the cheerful notes of my son practicing Christmas songs on the piano, a melody that becomes the soundtrack of the season. He hasn’t been taking piano lessons for a couple of years, but likes to brush up on the Christmas tunes. There is really nothing like live Christmas piano music – do you know what I mean? It feels like my heart grows 4 sizes when I listen to him play.

I, personally, love to dive into holiday crafts and art, often inspired by the wonderful community of Jennifer Chamberlin’s art membership, The Maker Beehive, of which I’ve been a member for 2 years. This year I created four 5×7″ mixed media projects (one of them is below), 7 Artist Trading Cards, and 4 mini paintings, all winter/holiday-themed, all in December. Last year I painted a cute snow family inside of a snowglobe, scanned it, and had it printed as the Christmas cards we sent out this year. I hope to do the same for next year!

Essence Card Ceremony

As the year draws to a close, I engage in my annual Essence Card Ceremony. I pull oracle and Tarot cards to represent each month of the coming year as well as the coming year as a whole. It’s a sacred moment of connection and trust, a bridge to the future that awaits.

I use the Year card I pull as my theme for the year. This year my card of the year was “Throat Chakra,” and I let the messages of that card guide and enlighten me and the situations I encountered throughout the year. My card for next year is, “The Empress” represented by Archangel Gabriel. The key phrases for this card are abundance, giving birth to dreams, and nurturing yourself and others. I will use this to guide me through the coming year.

Goals and Strategic Planning

My family and I take time to review the goals we’ve achieved, and update or set new ones for the upcoming year. Trello provides a great platform for tracking the goals I’ve set inside of a “board”. My categories are set up as lists, such as “Creative Goals,” “Family and Relationships Goals,” “House Goals,” “Community Goals,” and “Health and Wellness Goals.” When I accomplish one, I move the card over to another list called “Completed Goals,” so I can look back through them at the end of the year and see all that I’ve accomplished!

I engage in strategic planning for my business. Some of what I do in my work is pre-planned, and some is created as I go, but I like to have a framework that serves as a focus for it all, leading back to my business’ purpose, vision, and mission. I also do my End of Year processes as part of the strategic planning so I can transition from this year to the next a little more smoothly. All of that is done on Trello too!

Games, Best Friends, and the Countdown to Midnight

Sometime in the space between Christmas and New Year’s, we gather with my family’s oldest and dearest friends for a game night (or afternoon) filled with laughter and food. This has been a regular tradition, weekly at times, since I was probably my son’s age. We play card games (Hearts, Seven Up, or Oh, Hell are our favorites) and board games (Telestrations, What Do You Meme?, Taboo, and SO MANY others are favorites).

New Year’s Eve is spent with family or friends. (This year will be with my husband’s family having a fondue party!) We stay up until midnight, watching the iconic ball drop in Times Square on TV. The year my husband and I were there on a bucket list trip – NYC on NYE, watching the ball drop on Times Square, is always brought up and recounted.

Photos and Journals

Throughout the year, I keep a journal of sorts (I call it my “daily check-in,” and before the end of the year, we read through each month’s documents, recounting significant events, favorite things, and inside jokes.

We also flip through pictures in the photo box I’ve worked on all year, reliving the memories captured throughout the year. The check-ins and the photos remind us how much we’ve done and shared this year, and how much our son has grown. This year’s photo box holds the loss of our dear friends’ husband/father, end-of-elementary-school activities, the joint birthday tea party for my best friend and me, the mini-reunion with 2 of my best college friends, our trip to visit my husband’s grandma for her 99th birthday, the girls’ weekend with my best friends growing up, and so much more. Our life, in photos.

Close friends and family members receive an envelope with a stack of photos from us – extras that I printed and collected for them throughout the year. These photo packets are a visual journey through the laughter, the tears, and the moments that defined this year. I love handing these out!

The Love Inside Traditions

In our end-of-year traditions, love, connection, and joy are woven into every moment. These rituals not only create lasting memories but also serve as a reminder of the magic that resides in the simplest of traditions. As we bid farewell to one chapter and eagerly turn the page to another, our hearts are filled with gratitude for the cherished moments that define us as a family and illuminate the path to a love-filled future.

May your end-of-year celebrations be filled with love, light, and the magic of traditions that truly matter.

Our Story of The Storyteller

My son told me last week that they were finishing up a project in Art class. He said that his was a monkey with baby monkeys stacked on it, and that the project was based off of the Navajo Storyteller. I think I screamed with excitement!

Twenty years ago when I lived in Arizona, my friends and I took a road trip. During our time in Sedona, I came across a vendor who had a number of Navajo Storyteller dolls. When I read about them, I instantly thought of my Grandma M., and I bought one for her.

While Grandma was in the hospital at the end of her life 3 years later, I wrote a story for her. It was about a woman who married a man and raised a family. She loved her family, loved her community, and became her town’s librarian, where she became a storyteller to all of the children. The story was, of course, about my grandma. My grandma was the librarian in Brooklyn, Iowa. When we were little kids and visited family in Brooklyn (it was long-distance from my hometown, Grinnell), I would call the dial-a-story phone line and listen to the recording of my grandma reading a children’s book. We would also visit her at the library sometimes and she would let us check out books even though we didn’t have a Brooklyn library card! What a cool grandma I had!

I don’t know if my grandma ever got to read the story I wrote her when she was alive, but it was read during her funeral soon thereafter. And I would continue to look at the Storyteller doll I had given her, sitting on the sunroom mantle every time we visited Grandpa M., until he passed a year and a half ago. And then the doll returned to me.

When my son came home to tell me about his artwork, I couldn’t pour the story out fast enough, or retrieve this little gift fast enough to relay to him how special this project was! The other significant part is that when I was pregnant with him, I called him my “tummy monkey,” and his nursery had a monkey theme.

He brought his sweet Storyteller home last week and got to painting it, modeled after the monkey nutcracker I bought the winter I was pregnant with him. (Nutcrackers have their own story of significance here!)

I love this thread of connection – my grandma, my monkey, and me.

Podcast: Sharing About My Family’s Experience with Covid with Lisa Renee of GingerMysteries

This past year has been an experience of trauma upon trauma on our individual and collective levels. I believe that talking about it – sharing our stories, sharing our fears, sharing our experiences will pave the way to our individual and collective healing.
  
Lisa Renee of GingerMysteries invited me on her podcast, Transcending the Ordinary, where she has been chatting with guests about their experiences with the pandemic. I’d love to invite you to listen in as Lisa and I chat about my family’s experience with Covid. I also share about the guilt and shame I’ve felt around not being able to emotionally cope, despite the fact that my family came through the illness well.
  
Wherever you are in this period that we’re going through, support is available and love abounds.
  

Transcending the Ordinary Podcast: My Family's Experience with Covid

by Lisa Renee and Amber Diehm Heuer

What Trying to Get Back on Track Looks Like

I thought I’d share a personal note today. It might be an unpleasant read, but, I remind myself that this is just a middle part. Not the end of the story – just somewhere in the middle.

Have you ever noticed that sometimes you see and hear around you things that mirror what you’re going through?

This week I binge-watched Firefly Lane on Netflix. It’s a 10-episode series about two best friends, and it spans their friendship from high school to their 40s. Yesterday I watched an episode where one of the characters gets real and raw with her talk show audience and tells them, “I’m not okay.” 

Today I watched the recording of this week’s episode of Nancy Drew. One of the characters on that show recently went through a traumatic experience. On this episode her boyfriend invites her to honesty when he asks her, “Are you okay?” She pauses, then responds, “The truth is that no, I’m not okay.” 

The truth is that I haven’t been very okay either. For awhile.

The period of the pandemic has been tough, and that’s when it really started for me. It definitely changed life for us in ways that have been unhealthy and unbalanced, but I’ve found many blessings in this time and have gotten through it pretty well.

Then a month ago, my husband, Brent, got covid. Right away he isolated himself downstairs in the basement, closed off from my son, our pets, and me. During the first few days of his illness, it felt like something literally, physically switched (on? off?) in my body. It felt aggressive and protective. It made me move, move, move. It was a constant drill of cleaning, preparing meals, vitamins and supplements, washing hands, getting him the things he needed to get through the next 10 days alone, updating our family and friends on his and our conditions, writing down symptoms, keeping up with all of the chores, and all of the caretaking. Plus I had a UTI. Hell. I noticed by Day 3 that I had a dull ache in the middle of my chest. I knew it was the emotions, the stress, but I didn’t have room for them then.  

Six days after my husband developed symptoms and quarantined himself, my son, Stone, developed a fever, headache, dizziness. Now the 2 most precious people in the world to me were both sick with a virus that has killed half a million people here in the U.S. Something switched in me again. This time it made me quiet. I softened. I gave in. I sank into acceptance and observation. I was doing all I could, giving every ounce of me, and yet the virus had still moved in. All I could do was keep taking care of all of us and wait it out.

Here’s a not-very-enlightened perspective I have: Waiting sucks. 

Thankfully, Stone bounced right back and was back to normal within a couple of days. And oh, so thankfully, Brent improved as well and was back to work after his 10 days of quarantine.

During that time, however, that ache in my chest stayed and that stress and the emotions quickly inflated. The terror, the racing thoughts, the lack of sleep, all of the unknowns, the constant caretaking and thinking 2 steps ahead in order to keep up, plus my own physical health issues… it all created an inner hurricane and I began having emotional breakdowns. Even though my boys had improved, I felt like I was sinking. Crashing. Down, down.

I spent 20 full days in quarantine. (14 days after Stone developed symptoms, which was 6 days after Brent had developed symptoms.) I never developed the common covid symptoms, but I was still left with a mess inside.

At some point during it all, I made a couple of small decisions. I don’t know when or what order things happened, because it is all just a jumbled blur. 

1. I decided to take myself through my own integrative wellness coaching process that I learned years ago, which simultaneously works on all 4 aspects of self: mental, emotional, physical, spiritual.
2. I decided to start reading The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.

Through filling out the questions on my coaching intake form I uncovered useful nuggets of insights to help me decide where I needed to start in healing and finding a grip on life again.

Through answering questions in The Artist’s Way and dedicating myself to the practice of writing Morning Pages, I uncovered even more insight. I found myself being really honest with myself, “speaking” honestly to myself about myself. I uncovered some parts of me that wanted to stay unseen. 

You know that phrase that says something like, “After the breakdown comes the breakthrough”?

Well, I’m not to the breakthrough yet. I’m still in the break-down part. My stomach has been in pain ever since our covid ordeal – ulcer? Effects of the antibiotics I had been on? Reflux? Lingering fear? I am itching all throughout my body. Literally. All of my body itches. And I am still in an emotional puddle. 

But I’m working at it. Not just saying I’m working at it, but truly working at it.

? I’m writing Morning Pages every day and being honest with myself in the process. (I’m on week 4 of The Artist’s Way!) 
? I’m (almost always) sticking to morning, afternoon, evening, and bedtime routines because they are really helpful and effective for me.
? I’m exercising every other day, at levels and in ways that are right for me, not that I think I should be at.
? I’m eating so many fruits and vegetables and so much less sugar.
? I made a family chore/contribution chart and it’s working!
? I’m getting work done – this week I finished updating everything for “Invite Subscribers to Your Email List by Creating an Opt-In Offer” so it’s available on my website now.
? I’m spending real quality time with Stone. Even though we’re together 24/7, we weren’t really connecting with each other very often. We grew crystals together from a crystal growing kit. We had a great snowball fight. We played the Pokemon card game and both enjoyed it and would like to add more packs to the deck. We played Beatles Rock Band together, just the 2 of us (usually it’s all 3 of us). We also traced his hand for the handprint growth chart we keep on the living room wall. We watched the Mars Rover landing together. And I’m trying to be a better listener when he tells me about his progress on his favorite space shuttle building game or what’s happening now in the book he’s been reading, “Warriors: Into the Wild“.
? I’m praying, Journeying, doing self-Reiki, and channeling. Asking for help and signs and healing. 
? I’m going to bed earlier. (Last night it was 8 pm.)
? I’m employing my health team. Getting an antibody test to see if I have covid antibodies (which will help with some of those unknowns), a check-up with my GP for my stomach and the itches, and mental health counseling session through Covid Recovery Iowa.

I think this is what trying to get back on track looks like. It feels messy, uncomfortable, and hard. It pushes me where I need to be pushed, and gently backs off where I need some slack. I think this is what my road to recovering looks like at this moment. 

It’s funny… as I look through my list of what I’m doing to get back on track, I notice that these are things that mark a normal, healthy, balanced life. One that IS on track. Huh.

Well, looky there!

I feel a little better just having written that. Having seen that. Having shared it with you.

I wish you well.