Posted by: silverliningsblog | December 2, 2017

12 tips to maintain balance over the holidays

Christmas sanityEvery year, I work hard to make the holidays “magical” for my kids. And every year I start off feeling joyful and excited…and end up feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. Then like a scene from Bad Moms’ Christmas, I melt down and become a cranky-pants.

Can you relate?

Even if you don’t have kids, you’ve no doubt experienced the stress that can go along with the holiday season. In our well-intentioned efforts to create a special time for our family and friends, we sometimes go overboard and lose sight of what really matters – enjoying our time with others.

So this holiday season, I’m determined to do Christmas better and not get so stressed out. Here are my top twelve tips for taking the hustle and bustle out of the holidays.

Tip 1: Envision what you want

The key to getting what you want is to know what you want, and then imagine it happening. So start by asking yourself “What’s most important to me this holiday season?” And then envision it.

For me, I’ve come to realize that what I really want is a simple, low-key celebration where we eat good food and I have time to enjoy my kids and go sledding and play board games with them.

Tip 2: Plan

Once you know what your overall vision is, you can make a plan to create it. Make a list of what needs to happen in what order. Highlight anything that must be done. Postpone things that don’t need to happen now. Choose to let go of anything non-essential.

Tip 3: Put your health and wellbeing first

It can be so tempting to put off exercise and sleep and heathy eating when we’re busy and stressed. And yet that’s when our bodies need it most. So schedule your work-outs, meal prep, meditation and down-time first, ahead of everything else. It’s not worth it to end up getting sick during the holidays!

Tip 4: Take inspired action

Before doing anything on your to do list, stop and take a few deep breaths first. Center yourself, and think about your overall vision. Then set an intention for the outcome you want. You’ll be surprised by how much your enjoyment of each task will increase when you center yourself first and align your energy with your highest intentions!

Tip 5: Keep things simple

Here are some ways we can simplify our holiday traditions and maintain our sanity:

  • Buy fewer gifts (e.g. agree with friends/family not to exchange this year, give fewer gifts to your kids who likely have too many toys already anyway).
  • Scale down on decorating. A few pretty decorations can go a long way in making your place look festive (without all the work)!
  • Instead of mailing Christmas cards, consider emailing them.
  • Instead of cooking a full Christmas dinner, consider buying all or part (many places make dinner for you that you can bring home). Or do a pot luck!

Tip 6: Shop strategically

You can save a ton of time shopping with these tips:

  • Make a list of everything you need to get. Group items by store, and go to/order at as few stores as possible.
  • Order online and have gifts shipped directly to you!
  • Shop in stores during non-peak hours (e.g. weekdays, or Monday-Thursday evenings).
  • Shop in stores that offer free wrapping (e.g. MasterMind Toys).
  • Buy gift cards and let the person choose their own gift (kids love this).

Tip 7: Have a cooking baking day

To make Christmas baking easier, decide on a handful of recipes to make, buy all the ingredients in one trip, and do all your baking in one day. You can invite your kids, friends, or family to participate, making it a fun holiday tradition (my kids and I do this every year).

You can make cookie tins to give away as gifts to friends/teachers/service providers. And you can freeze the cookies so that whenever you host or go to a party, you always have something to bring!

Tip 8: Host a wrapping party!

Wrapping can take a lot of time and become a chore when you’re doing it all at once. So I started a tradition with my girlfriends where I invite them over a week before Christmas to wrap gifts while listening to holiday tunes and sipping wine! Makes wrapping much more enjoyable. J

Tip 9: Ask for help!

OK, I admit to having previously suffered from Wonder Woman syndrome, thinking I can do it all myself. So part of what makes the holidays more manageable for me now is asking people to help. My kids love to help with baking, decorating, and sticking stamps on envelopes. My partner enjoys cooking with me, and hanging the lights.

You may even want to consider if there is someone in your life (a retired parent or neighbour perhaps) who would enjoy spending time with you while helping you with what needs to be done!

Tip 10: Pamper yourself

I discovered long ago that a tired mommy is a cranky mommy. So I know the best thing I can do for my kids (and partner) is to make time to unwind before, during, and after the holidays. My favourite ways are to have a candle-lit bubble bath or lie in bed and read. And every year around New Year’s, I go to the spa near my home for some extra TLC!

Tip 11: Allow for imperfection

We tend to want everything to be perfect for the holidays, but perfectionism leads to stress. It’s far better to aim for an overall vision of what you want, and let the rest go. After all, it’s not the presents and decorations people will remember, it’s the feeling they had being with you.

Tip 12: Remember what’s most important

To me, what’s most important is to have fun with my family and friends. So my goal this year is to stop whenever I’m feeling stressed and ask myself if what I’m doing really matters. Because most of the time it doesn’t, and it causes me to lose sight of what does really matter…which is enjoying the time I have with the people around me.

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Posted by: silverliningsblog | November 3, 2017

Being at peace with time

Time - clocksTick, tock, goes the clock…

In our fast-paced modern world, we spend a lot of time trying to beat the clock. Rushing to accomplish tasks, with not enough time to get everything done. Racing to beat yellow lights so we can squeeze in one more task, one more minute.

It’s kind of crazy when you think about it…how in our hurry to get somewhere, we completely miss enjoying the journey.

I have spent a lot of my life rushing to get somewhere. For several years now, I’ve been working hard to build a career that allows me to spend more time with my kids…all the while not enjoying the moments right in front of me because I’m rushing to get somewhere else.

Can you relate? Do you sometimes feel like there just isn’t enough time?

Psychological time

Unease, anxiety, tension, stress, worry – all forms of fear – are caused by too much future, and not enough presence. Guilt, regret, resentment, grievance, sadness, bitterness, and all forms of nonforgiveness are caused by too much past, and not enough presence. —Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now

Time - pressureIn his book The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle talks about a concept he calls “psychological time.” He says that really, the only time we ever experience is in the now: the present moment. What we experienced in the past, we actually (back then) experienced in the now. What we will experience in the future (some day), we will experience in the now.

Feeling anxiety and fear is a sure sign we have left the now, and have in our minds travelled to the future. Feeling sadness and depression are signs we have left the now, and have in our minds travelled back to the past. Either way, our experience of time is in our mind…it is psychological.

Really, the only “time” we ever have is the current moment. And leaving that moment is what causes us stress.

Transforming our relationship with time

Sometimes we forget that saving time and filling it are not the same as using it well.
—Lori Deschene, Tiny Buddha

Time - smelling rosesMany people look for ways to “control” time, to get a jump on things, to creatively fit more in. But really, the way to transform how we experience time is to learn to become present, in everything we do, in every moment we live.

“Time management” then becomes not about squeezing more things into an already over-crowded schedule. It becomes about making choices to do what really matters to you. And then focusing on how you are doing it…what state of being you are in when you are doing it. If you do everything in a state of peace, love, and joy, your experience of time will dramatically shift.

How to be more present

So what does it mean to “be more present”? Here are five steps to help you:

1. Take a breather – Stop whatever you are doing and sit down. Breathe deeply, in through your nose (filling your belly), and out through your mouth. Repeat this at least 5 times. Notice what you are feeling, both emotionally and physically. Ask your body what it needs, in this moment. Putting a mindfulness app on your phone like the Mindfulness Bell can help remind you to do this regularly.

2. Become deeply aware of your surroundings – Now check in with your environment. Notice intently the objects around you – look at them as if it’s the first time you’re seeing them. Appreciate their beauty and uniqueness. Notice the space around them. Now notice the sounds around you. See how many you can identify. Notice the silence underneath them.

3. Accept where you are – Choose to accept the present moment as it is, even if it is not what you would like it to be. Resisting “what is” is futile, and wastes your precious energy. Instead, say “yes” to the present moment, as if you chose it. Notice how your energy shifts and new ideas occur to you as you relax into being where you are.

4. Determine what you want – From a place of accepting “what is,” ask yourself how you would like things to be. Consider your core values and what is most important to you. Decide what your highest intention is for what you want to have happen.

5. Act consciously – Decide on the best course of action, and take one step at a time. With each action you take, focus intensely on what you are doing as you are doing it. If you stay connected to your higher intention/value (identified in step 4), you will be in a state of peace, love and joy when you take the action you need to take.

As I write this article, I am preparing to host a two-day live event. The event is two weeks away, and there is still a LOT to do. Yesterday I was feeling both run down and panicked about “not having enough time.” So I did what seemed counterintuitive – I listened to my body and stopped. I took a breather and took the night off. I meditated and refocused on why I was doing this in the first place.

And when I woke up feeling renewed this morning, I began taking action, one step at a time, reminding myself to enjoy this incredible ride I’m on and enjoy the scenery as I go.

Enjoying the time we have

Becoming present takes practice…it is not what our current culture conditions us to do. But it is key to enjoying our lives fully and not feeling “pressed for time.” When we are fully present in each moment and enjoy each step we are taking, we lose all sense of time and feel much more relaxed.

And then we can finally stop wishing we had more time…and instead make the most of the time we have.

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Karen Strang AllenKaren Strang Allen is an empowerment coach for single women and mother of two. She is the author of Free to be me: Create a life you love from the inside out! and international bestselling co-author of Unwavering Strength Volume 2. Widowed at 22 and separated at 35, Karen’s mission is to help single women feel great about themselves, turn their heartbreak into the best thing that ever happened to them, and create a life they love, so they become a magnet for their dream partner. Learn more about Karen and check out her free empowering resources at www.karenstrangallen.com.

Posted by: silverliningsblog | October 2, 2017

Unwanted changes – How to let go and move forward

bench-560435_640Fall is a good reminder that nothing stays the same. Just as the beautifully coloured leaves fall from the trees, so too do things and people come and go from our lives.

We all go through periods of expansion and contraction, and while we might prefer one over the other, both are critical for our growth and well-being. Spring and summer bring new life, energy and growth. Fall and winter allow for harvest, rest and regeneration.

So if we know that the fundamental nature of life is change, why do we resist it so much? Why does it cause us so much grief?

Why we resist change

We humans are creatures of habit. We like to be “comfortable,” and to know what will happen next. So when change visits our doorstep, and thrusts something upon us that we weren’t expecting (and worse, weren’t wanting), we tend to resist it with all our might. So when a relationship ends, we lose a job, our kids leave home, health problems crop up, or a loved one dies, our typical response is to complain about our fate, and in so doing, make things worse for ourselves.

It’s natural to feel pain and a sense of loss when a major change occurs. But it is not natural (or necessary) to suffer. Suffering happens when we resist change, when we dig our heels in and say “I don’t want this to happen,” living in the past, refusing to deal with current reality, and avoiding our true feelings.

For example, let’s say your relationship ends. It is natural to feel a sense of loss, and to grieve both the relationship and the person who is no longer part of your life. You may feel sad for a period of time, and possibly even angry. But if you process your emotions and get support from family, friends and possibly a therapist or coach, your emotions will eventually pass, you will regain hope in the future, and you will start to feel better.

If, on the other hand, you start pining over how things used to be, wondering what your ex is doing now, and obsessively checking his page on Facebook every day, you are effectively resisting reality and prolonging the pain by keeping yourself energetically tied to your ex. By resisting the feeling of pain (trying in vain to keep the connection alive), we unwittingly cause ourselves greater suffering. Every time we see a photo of our ex looking happy, we wonder, “How can he be so happy when I am so miserable?” Truth? Because he’s moved on and you haven’t.

How to let go

So how can you learn to let go (especially when you don’t want to)?

1. Process your emotions – The first step is to acknowledge how you are truly feeling—not just the surface-level emotions (frustration, resentment, bitterness), but also the deeper feelings (pain of rejection, sadness that your family is not longer together, fear of being alone). For more help with this step, see Dealing with unruly emotions: Tuning in, not checking out.

2. Take good care of yourself – In times of change, it’s critical to put self-care first. So make a list of what makes you feel happy. Then try to do something on that list every day. This will gradually help you shift your mood and energetic state, so that you begin to feel better.

3. Look for the good – Ask yourself, what is good about my life already? We have a tendency to hyperfocus on what has gone wrong (the past), which takes our focus off of what is going right (the present). And yet, gratitude is one of the fastest ways to shift focus and feel better. So grab a journal and a cup of tea, and write down everything you love about your life as it is, right now.

4. Ask better questions – Next, notice what questions you are asking yourself. Most people react to change by asking these “why” questions:

* Why is this happening?
* Why me?
* Why now?

But these are fundamentally disempowering questions that put you in a state of victimhood.

Instead, try asking these “how” and “what” questions, which will help you feel more empowered to look for opportunities and create positive change:

* What are the blessings in this situation? (e.g. I wasn’t happy in this relationship anyway. I feel much freer now to live the life I want.)

* What are the opportunities? (e.g. This will allow me to look for something better.)

* How can this benefit me or others? (e.g. My kids will get more quality time with me. I can spend more fun time with my girlfriends.)

* How can I turn this around? (e.g. I can reinvest in my own life and learn to feel happy again. I can take that course I’ve been wanting to take.)

For more help with this step, see 5 magic questions to improve your life.

5. Shift your focus forward – When we continue to stare at a closed door, we fail to see the new ones that have opened. So take your focus off of “what went wrong,” and instead ask yourself, “What do I want now?” Allow yourself to dream, and imagine the life and partner you really What would that look like, feel like? By envisioning your dream life (future), you will become more clear on what your next step should be to begin creating it.

How “negative” change can become positive

forest-1345747_640When my husband Blair died 20 years ago, I definitely did not think it was a good change. I was devastated to lose my soulmate, and felt like life was against me. I felt powerless to make things better, tried to stuff my feelings down, and then slipped into a two-year depression.

Things finally started to change for me when I allowed myself to grieve with the help of a terrific counsellor, and started to take the steps listed above. Suddenly my perspective shifted, and the world seemed brighter again. I regained hope in my future, and that life could still be good…even without Blair in it.

Because of Blair’s death, my relationship with my mother improved. I gained many new friends who stepped in to help me. I moved to a new city to pursue a journalism degree, which led me to the career, kids and friends I have now. I gained a tremendous amount of compassion for people who are struggling, and became a life coach as a result.

I would never have wished for that particular change to have happened, but I can now see how many blessings it did bring.

Change is not easy, especially unwanted change like losing a loved one. But I find it helps to trust that a higher power is lining things up in a way we can’t see right now, and that there is a purpose to it all.

For example, when my ex-husband and I split up eight years ago, I was afraid of being alone, of being judged, of messing up my children’s lives. Once again, the changes I was going through did not at all feel “positive.”

But now, eight years later, I am grateful for the path that has led me to where I am. Now, I am much happier and fulfilled, and lead a life that is consciously designed by me. I have a great career and relationship with my kids. I thoroughly enjoyed my single years, getting to know and fall in love with myself. And I now have a terrific relationship with an amazing guy who could not have entered my life if I had kept staring at that closed door—the relationship with my ex that was clearly not working.

Change really does bring with it opportunity for growth. It may take time to see the changes you are experiencing in a positive light, but once you do, you will feel so much better.

I send you lots of love and positive energy as you navigate the changes in your life, and hope this article helps.

Share your thoughts!

What changes have knocked on your door? What has helped you feel better? Please share your tips/comments below!

Resources for further learning

If you have a relationship that recently ended and would like help, I invite you to attend my free webinar called Lemons to lemonade: How to turn your heartbreak into a breakthrough.

If you’re in the Ottawa area, you may also be interested in my two-day transformational event Heartbreak to breakthrough: Heal your heart, reclaim your power!

Other articles:

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Karen Strang AllenKaren Strang Allen is an empowerment coach for single women and mother of two. She is the author of Free to be me: Create a life you love from the inside out! and international bestselling co-author of Unwavering Strength Volume 2. Widowed at 22 and separated at 35, Karen’s mission is to help single women feel great about themselves, turn their heartbreak into the best thing that ever happened to them, and create a life they love, so they become a magnet for their dream partner. Learn more about Karen and check out her free empowering resources at www.karenstrangallen.com.

Posted by: silverliningsblog | December 27, 2016

GREAT goals: How to get what you want this year!


“Life is like a camera. Just focus on what’s important, capture the good times, develop from the negatives, and if things don’t turn out – take another shot.”

—Author Unknown

Sun and orb

So you’ve done the New Year’s resolutions thing and set goals for yourself before (at least in your mind 🙂 ). And maybe you’ve even achieved some of them. But for some reason, your biggest dreams just haven’t come true, at least not yet.

What if I told you there is a better feeling way to set goals, pursue your dreams, and ensure this is your best year yet?

Why don’t people get what they want?

In my coaching, training, and 15 years of research, I have discovered three main reasons why people don’t get what they want:

  1. They aren’t clear about what they want.
  2. They don’t believe they can have it/aren’t patient in waiting for it.
  3. They don’t consistently take action to achieve it.

If you could have anything you wanted in your life, what would that look like? What would it feel like? Taste and smell like? If you can answer these questions with clarity, you’re a good chunk of the way towards getting what you want. If can’t, circumstances or other people will decide the course of your life for you.

Meanwhile, do you trust and believe you can have what you want and create the life of your dreams? If you do and you maintain your focus and positivity consistently, what you want will come to you eventually, when it is meant to. If you don’t, then you have some work to do on your belief system.

Lastly, are you taking regular, consistent action to make your dreams come true? Are you acting on what you want, and on the opportunities the Universe is putting before you? If you are, your dreams will manifest in due time. If you aren’t, what’s stopping you?

But I have bad luck…

You may have experienced challenging circumstances. You may even have experienced more challenges than most people. But your circumstances don’t define who you are, what you can have, and what you can do…you do. You are far more powerful than you realize.

When I think of the people I admire most, they have all had very difficult circumstances to overcome. Oprah Winfrey, Tony Robbins, Neale Donald Walsch, Wayne Dyer, Jack Canfield…every one of these now famous and rich people had to overcome the initial “bad luck” they had…everything from a severely abusive childhood to extreme poverty to a broken neck.

And they each now say that those difficult experiences are part of what has made them so successful today.

You can also rise above your circumstances, see the blessings that have come from them, and create the life you really want. A life that gets you excited to get out of bed in the morning!

One thing is for sure: this time next year, you’ll have had 365 days to do something with your life, just like the rest of us. The question is…how well will you use those days?

Getting what you want out of life

012Creating a life you love really starts with a decision – a decision to experience more love, joy, and abundance this year.

Several years ago, I had more than my share of challenges. I had two young children whom I loved, but struggled to enjoy being a stay-at-home mom. I lacked confidence after several years out of the workforce with no income. I was not happy in my marriage. And I had lost touch with who I was and what I enjoyed in life.

Then in October 2009, a friend gave me a birthday card that read, “Make this your best year ever!” I got chills down my arms, and decided in that moment that I would do exactly that. It’s amazing how one simple decision can create so much of an impact!

A year later, I had peacefully ended my marriage, bought a beautiful new home for myself and my kids, and was excelling at my new writing consulting business. I also had a new network of wonderful friends and was having more fun than I’d had in years. All because of one tiny…but momentous…decision.

So how about you…are you ready to make 2017 your most awesome year ever?

Why don’t people stick to their goals?

“Momentum that has resistance in it causes you to try too hard.”
– Abraham Hicks

Deciding to have a great year is a terrific start. But creating goals that feel good and that you’ll actually follow through on is even better. I mean, wouldn’t it be great to actually enjoy taking action on your goals?

Many people create goals but don’t stick to them. Why is that? It’s because they try to force themselves to do something that doesn’t feel good, that feels like work. And if it doesn’t feel good, the motivation to continue just isn’t there.

Why doesn’t it feel good? Because they:

  • do what they think they should do, instead of what they really want to do
  • focus on the “when and how,” instead of the “what and why”
  • have a limiting belief that they can’t have what they really want
  • haven’t lined up their energy with the vibration of what they want
  • aren’t stopping to appreciate how much they have already accomplished
Dream Journal

The journal I use to record my dreams and goals.

G.R.E.A.T. goals

“The world makes way for those who know where they are going.”
—Ralph Waldo Emerson

Setting goals helps you focus your energy and resources on what you want, so that you live your life by choice, not by chance. But a lot of traditional goal setting gets people to focus on the wrong things.

I have been setting goals for myself for many, many years. I think I was born with a pen and notebook in my hand, writing down my aspirations and “to do” lists. (I guess you could say I am a bit of an over-achiever.) And I have had reasonable success setting what you may know as “S.M.A.R.T.” goals (specific, measurable, action-oriented, realistic, and time-bound).

But I found that by being so precise in my goal setting (and arbitrary in my deadlines), I got discouraged whenever I missed meeting a goal in the exact time or way I thought I should, and I discounted any progress I had made. I missed opportunities that weren’t part of my rigid plan, and stressed too much about “how” to make things happen instead of enjoying the process.

In the past few years, I have been using energetic goal setting (or goal setting on steroids, as I like to call it). And my life has been moving forward at a dizzying pace as I attract what I want much, much faster.

I have published a book, launched a coaching and speaking business, hosted a phenomenal women’s retreat, and created an online course. I have attracted many wonderful new friends into my life, and an amazing new partner. I have had tons of fun with my kids, traveled to several gorgeous destinations, and made quality time for myself. I even paid off my car two years early!

The key thing I have learned is that it’s the feeling you have when you create the goal that really counts. So I created a new acronym to represent this new “energetic” method of goal setting (who doesn’t love acronyms?!). I call them “G.R.E.A.T.” goals:

Click on each link to look at each of these steps more closely.

And please join me for my free webinar on January 2, where I will help you create your most awesome year ever!

Wishing you all the best in 2018!!


Karen Strang Allen

 

Karen Strang Allen is an empowerment coach for single women and mother of two. She is also the author of Free to be me: Create a life you love from the inside out! and international bestselling co-author of Unwavering Strength Volume 2. Widowed at 22 and separated at 35, Karen’s mission is to help single women feel great about themselves, turn their heartbreak into the best thing that ever happened to them, and create a life they love, so they become a magnet for their dream partner. Learn more about Karen and check out her free empowering resources at www.karenstrangallen.com.

Posted by: silverliningsblog | December 23, 2016

Staying sane over the holidays

16-12-23-holiday-lanternsNote: This is an updated version of a post originally published in December 2014.

The holiday season can be such a wonderful time…tasting terrific food, giving and receiving gifts, celebrating with people we love.

But it can also be very stressful…last-minute shopping and preparations, family members who push our buttons, unfulfilled expectations.

So what is the best way to stay sane over the holidays, and remain centered no matter what?

Follow these five steps if you’re feeling frazzled and want to re-connect with your higher self. (You know, the self who isn’t freaking out because you burned the cookies, your kids destroyed the house, and your Aunt Mabel had a little too much eggnog and is now doing the Bird Dance.)

Think you don’t have time? That’s exactly when you need to do this the most. Don’t worry…you can re-center yourself in as little as five minutes.

1.    Breathe

“Relax. Nothing is under control.”
— Buddha

When we are stressed, our breathing gets very shallow. Stopping to breathe more deeply can quickly reduce our heart rate and cortisol levels. (It can also keep us from turning blue with frustration.)

Take slow, deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. Fill your belly and chest completely, and pause at the end of each inhale and exhale. Do this for at least 5 breaths.

2.    Ground yourself

When I’m feeling frazzled, it’s almost always because I’m focused on some drama inside my head or trying to control something I can’t control (like Aunt Mabel’s egg nog consumption). I find reconnecting with my body and grounding my energy back to the earth to be very calming.

Try this short grounding exercise:

1. Stand strong. Stand with your feet on the ground, your hands on your heart.

2. Breathe. Close your eyes and breathe deeply.

3. Root to the ground. Imagine roots coming out the bottom of your feet and running into the ground, deep into the center of Mother Earth. Imagine warm, loving, compassionate, nurturing feminine energy flowing up into your body.

4. Connect to the sky. Next, imagine that there is a stream of light coming from the center of your head and connecting you with Father Sun. Imagine receiving strength, purpose, determination, and courage from your masculine energy source.

5. Balance your energies. Now imagine that your feminine and masculine energies merge together in the center of your body at your heart, and that they are completely balanced.

6. Affirm the present. Affirm (ideally out loud): “I am love, I am light. I am safe. Everything is working out for my highest and greatest good. All is well.”

7. Ask the Universe for what you want. Now open your arms to the sky and say (as loudly as you can): “I am open to receiving the love, joy, and abundance of the Universe!”

You may also want to check out this great blog post on Getting Grounded for the Holidays by Charlotte Bradley of Yoga Flavored Life. Charlotte provides a short 5-pose yoga sequence to help you get grounded.

3.    Be present

“Stress is caused by being ‘here’ but wanting to be ‘there.’”
— Eckhart Tolle

The best gift you can offer people doesn’t come in a box…it’s your presence and attention. Look around you. Instead of wishing for what isn’t, enjoy the moment and the people who are in front of you, right now.

4.    Decide what you want

When we experience unpleasant situations, it allows us tune into what we really do want instead. And once you know what you want, you can begin taking steps to create it. Don’t feel like being alone? Call someone up or volunteer at a soup kitchen. Overwhelmed by too many visitors? Sneak off and do the grounding exercise above or take a hot bath and listen to calming music.

5.    Focus on blessings

“When you dance, your purpose is not to get to a certain place on the floor. It’s to enjoy each step along the way.”
― Wayne Dyer

Things may not be perfect, but there is still undoubtedly much good in your life. Using each of your senses, pause and feel gratitude for the good things around you…the smell of roasting turkey, the sound of laughter, the excitement in your child’s eyes. (And just look at Aunt Mabel…it’s hard not to smile when you see her enthusiasm as she dances on the table. Or to admire her moves at 80.)

If you slow down long enough to see the beauty in the imperfection, you’ll start to appreciate what is already going well. And how blessed you truly are.

I hope you thoroughly enjoy this holiday season with your loved ones…even Aunt Mabel.

If you like this post, please comment below, and share with others!

Looking for more ideas? Check out this blog post by my friend Lauren Jawno:
10 Strategies to flow through the holiday season – sanity intact!

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Karen Strang AllenKaren Strang Allen is an empowerment coach for single women and mother of two. She is also the author of Free to be me: Create a life you love from the inside out! and international bestselling co-author of Unwavering Strength Volume 2. Widowed at 22 and separated at 35, Karen’s mission is to help single women feel great about themselves, turn their heartbreak into the best thing that ever happened to them, and create a life they love, so they become a magnet for their dream partner. Learn more about Karen and check out her free empowering resources at www.karenstrangallen.com.

Posted by: silverliningsblog | December 16, 2016

Beating the holiday blues

16-12-16-winter-blues-girlLet’s face it – the holiday season is not all candy canes and multi-coloured lights for everyone.

Many people struggle with feelings of loneliness and even despair. Some have just been through a break-up. Others have lost a loved one. And still others are surrounded by people, but still feel lonely and blue.

Can you relate?

I know I have spent quite a few Christmases as a single mom, feeling sad that I had no one to celebrate with. I did have my kids, and focused my energy as much as possible on them…but my family was thousands of miles away and I really wanted a special someone to spend Christmas with.

Why so blue?

Why does this time of year, in particular, trigger so much angst?

It’s really a combination of factors:

  • Media images and pictures tell us we “should” be having a good time.
  • We have expectations of an idyllic family celebration, but … let’s face it, drunk Uncle Albert and grouchy Aunt Mable may not meet those expectations. 😉 And drinking eggnog by yourself once the kids are in bed may not be what you asked Santa for.
  • We may have memories of happier times, but our current reality just isn’t the same.
  • The holiday season can be exhausting, with so much to do in a short period of time.
  • The days are shorter and there’s less sunlight, triggering Seasonal Affective Disorder in many.
  • It’s the end of the year, and a natural time to reflect on whether our life is the way we want it.

Moving through sadness and loneliness

16-12-16-winter-blues-snowflakesSo what can you do if you’re struggling with feelings of sadness an loneliness?

1. Feel your feelings. Begin by acknowledging how you’re feeling, and not resisting it. Sit with the feeling, and notice where it shows up in your body. Give yourself permission to not feel happy.

2. Ask why. Consider why you feel this why – what previous memories are being triggered, and what is not meeting your expectations.

3. Set an intention. Decide what you would prefer to feel and experience instead.

4. Shift your perspective. Consider how you can look at things differently. A good exercise is to write down everything you feel grateful for in your life. (Even if things aren’t perfect, there are likely many good things going on, and when you start focusing on them, you’ll naturally start to feel better.)

5. Take action. Decide what you want to do now to improve the situation and help yourself feel better.

For more specifics on how to move through your feelings, please see Dealing with unruly emotions.

Feeling peace and joy

16-12-16-winter-blues-xmas-ballsSo what will help you feel better this holiday season?

Often, the reason we feel awful is because we’re focusing on a closed door. We’re noticing that we can’t get what we want from a certain source (e.g. not from the partner who left, the parent who died, the job that is no more, the child who is with our ex).

Instead, we must shift our focus to the doors that are open. There are many ways we can feel what we said we wanted to feel in step 3 above.

For example, a few years back, I got tired of feeling blue at Christmas. I decided to make it as good as I could, by:

  • Creating some new special traditions with my kids (driving around to see the holiday lights, skating on the Rink of Dreams downtown, going sledding and having hot chocolate).
  • Hosting a hilarious “Ugly sweater, terrible gifts, horrible singing party” for my friends.
  • Inviting a few close friends into my home for Christmas dinner (creating the atmosphere of family and laughter I so desired, and acknowledging that others were feeling lonely too).
  • Donating to local and overseas families who have far less than me at Christmas.
  • Taking a day off by myself on New Year’s Day, and going to the Nordic spa near my home to relax in hot tubs and saunas.

Other people have told me they’ve done these things:

  • Traveled to a place they’ve always wanted to go to.
  • Attended holiday MeetUp events.
  • Helped out at a soup kitchen.
  • Done random deeds of kindness for strangers.
  • Phoned friends they had lost touch with.holiday-heartbreak-survival-kit-3

I hope this sparks some ideas for you. You may also want to consider checking out this Holiday Heartbreak Survival Kit that some friends and I put together (coordinated by my awesome friend Jessica Tomlinson), to help you get through those holiday blues.

I hope some of these ideas help you to create a more joyful holiday. Wishing you great love, joy and peace this holiday season.

xo Karen

Resources for further learning

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Karen Strang AllenKaren Strang Allen is an empowerment coach for single women and mother of two. She is also the author of Free to be me: Create a life you love from the inside out! and international bestselling co-author of Unwavering Strength Volume 2. Widowed at 22 and separated at 35, Karen’s mission is to help single women feel great about themselves, turn their heartbreak into the best thing that ever happened to them, and create a life they love, so they become a magnet for their dream partner. Learn more about Karen and check out her free empowering resources at www.karenstrangallen.com.

Posted by: silverliningsblog | October 28, 2016

Do you keep attracting unhealthy relationships?

sad-girl-1555789_1280You’re an amazing person. You’re smart, independent and hard-working. You have a great personality and sense of humor. You give a lot in your relationships. And you really want a great partner who will give a lot back to you.

So why on earth do you keep attracting losers?

Your last partner was narcissistic and selfish. The one before that was abusive. The one before that cheated on you.

You know you’re stuck in a pattern of unhealthy relationships, but you don’t know why. You keep wondering … “Is there something wrong with me?”

I can assure you that—after years of studying unhealthy relationship patterns—there is nothing wrong with you. And you are not alone in your struggle to find a good partner. You are a truly wonderful person, and you deserve to find true love.

You are simply stuck in a pre-conditioned love pattern that was ingrained in your psyche when you were a child, and reinforced by the failed relationships you’ve had since. It’s like an old-fashioned record player whose needle is stuck in the same worn-out track.

The good news is, you can move your love needle. It does not need to remain stuck on repeat, playing the same old dreary love songs.

I remember in my 20s, I used to play sad love songs on the piano: “Alone,” “Waiting for You,” “Bad Timing.” Little did I realize that I was re-enforcing the very thing I didn’t want—an unhappy ending.

And so I had many unhappy endings. My first husband died of liver cancer. Then I dated a serial cheater. Then I married someone who was a really good person, but couldn’t connect emotionally. Then I dated someone who was extremely jealous and controlling. Over and over the record played, ending in me feeling like something must be really, really wrong with me.

But I know now that isn’t true. Many of the very best people remain single the longest and go through a series of unfulfilling relationships before finding true love. It’s not you. It’s a pattern. A pattern you can learn to understand and step out of.

Thankfully, once you become aware of your pattern, you can choose a happier song for your love story’s soundtrack.

uncover-your-hidden-blocksTo help you understand your pattern, I’d like to offer you a free gift called “Uncover your hidden blocks to love.” It can literally help you shave years off of finding your soulmate.

Access your free gift here

I’d also like to invite you to a special free webinar on Thursday, October 26 called “Lemons to lemonade – How to turn your heartbreak into a breakthrough!”

Find out more and register here

I know you deserve a great partner. And I truly believe you can find one. I hope this information helps you find what you’re looking for.

xo Karen

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Karen Strang Allen

Empowerment expert Karen Strang Allen is committed to helping single women end the cycle of dead-end relationships and find true love. Karen has a Master of Journalism and is the author of Free to be me: Create a life you love from the inside out! She is the also international bestselling co-author of Unwavering Strength: Volume 2. She is certified in neuro-linguistic programming (NLP Canada), assertiveness coaching (Doreen Virtue), and success training (Jack Canfield).

Widowed at 22 and separated at 35, Karen knows from experience that heartbreak can be a tremendous catalyst for personal growth. Through one-on-one coaching, workshops and her signature Transform Your Life group program, Karen helps single women feel great about themselves, create a life they love, and attract a partner who will cherish them like the gift that they are!

Posted by: silverliningsblog | September 15, 2016

Conquering fear

fear-womanI stepped onto the stage. All eyes were on me as I prepared to give my 10-minute speech in a French public speaking contest at regional finals. I was 14.

I took a deep breath, opened my mouth to speak and…nothing came out. I broke out into an instant sweat as I tried in vain to recall the words I had so carefully written, memorized and delivered several times already. But the words did not come.

The silence pounded in my ears as I shifted side from side for what seemed like an eternity, with everyone staring uncomfortably at me. I finally left the stage and took my seat, humiliated and choking back tears.

That was almost 30 years ago. And yet I can remember the scene like it was yesterday.

That moment has haunted me for much of my adult life, causing me to shy away from taking the stage again, even though there’s a part of me that has always envisioned myself on stage, speaking to large groups of people, motivating them to create better lives.

It’s funny how one difficult event can cause us to fear being put in the same situation ever again…and to lose out on so many great opportunities as a result.

But our brains are wired to look for patterns and to avoid pain, so we subconsciously avoid anything that reminds us of previous “negative” experiences. (That’s why you may avoid a certain food, even if you only got sick once after eating it. Or why you dislike driving in the city, because you had one accident. Or why you don’t like Aunt Doris, because she once pinched your cheeks too hard.)

Food for thought: What fear is holding you back in your life? Is it a fear of public speaking, dating, meeting new people, being assertive, changing jobs, ending a relationship, being alone?

Moving through fear

Three years ago, I decided to open a business as an author and empowerment coach for women. Ironically, that career forced me to face two of my biggest fears: sales, and speaking on stage.

I have gradually been moving through both of those fears (which are ultimately rooted in a fear of rejection from childhood). I’ve been taking it one step at a time, using the techniques I outline in Taming the tiger within: How to move through fear and anxiety. And gradually the fear has subsided.

But I still tend to overprepare and use notes as a crutch, terrified of yet again not knowing what to say.

20160912-momondays-ottawa-karen-allen-5Earlier this week, I took the stage again to deliver a 10-minute speech. Without notes. This time, 130 pairs of eyes were watching me as I prepared to speak. I had prepared for this moment, so was not too nervous, though I was a bit worried about forgetting my words again.

Funnily enough, I forgot my first line. But I recovered quickly, and went on to give a great speech that got me a standing ovation and many compliments afterwards.

It was a terrific moment. I knew I had finally conquered my fear, and that it would never stop me again from taking the stage.

Learning to trust yourself

“If you knew you could handle anything that came your way, what would you possibly have to fear?” —Susan Jeffers

fearIn her book Feel the Fear…and Do It Anyway, Susan Jeffers says that all fears really boil down to one thing: the fear that we can’t handle something.

She says the key is to move through our fear and take action despite it. Then one of two things will happen:

  1. We’ll succeed, which will give us the confidence to take new risks.
  2. We’ll fail, and we’ll realize that failure is not the end of the world…it’s an invitation to do something a different way (or try something new).

In other words, no matter what, we’ll discover we can handle the outcome.

I have no illusions that my fear of getting on stage is gone or that I’ll never be nervous…I simply know now that I can handle it. And that if I do forget something, it’s not the end of the world. I simply need to remain connected to my audience, give myself a moment or two, and it will either come back to me or I’ll figure out something else to say.

Many of us try to deal with our fear by either avoiding what makes us afraid (limiting our potential), or trying to control everything in our external world (driving other people crazy). But really, the way to feel safe in the world is to trust yourself that you can get through any challenges that come your way …and eventually succeed.

As for me, I have finally learned to trust myself to figure things out no matter what happens, and that is a very good feeling indeed.

Have you conquered any fears? Please share your tips/comments below!

Resources for further learning

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Karen Strang AllenKaren Strang Allen is an empowerment coach for single women and mother of two. She is the author of Free to be me: Create a life you love from the inside out! and international bestselling co-author of Unwavering Strength Volume 2. Widowed at 22 and separated at 35, Karen’s mission is to help single women feel great about themselves, turn their heartbreak into the best thing that ever happened to them, and create a life they love, so they become a magnet for their dream partner. Learn more about Karen and check out her free empowering resources at www.karenstrangallen.com.

Posted by: silverliningsblog | April 27, 2016

The end of criticism

2016-04 Criticism - resultsI am sure there is more than one guy out there who would love to know why women criticize. And what they can do to stop it. Not that only women criticize—men do it too—but women tend to do it more often.

Whether you’re on the receiving end of the berating, or the one dishing it out, it helps to understand what’s really going on if you want to change the pattern.

What is criticism all about?

Criticism, at its core, is a request. It’s one person wanting something from someone else…perhaps a change in behaviour, or simply to be heard and understood.

The problem is that the request has an edge. It is often delivered in a harsh tone, blaming the other person. Even if it’s said nicely, it is delivered from a place of assuming it’s the other person who should change. A place of superiority.

As a result, the person on the receiving end doesn’t feel very good. They feel put down and belittled. They feel their dignity and very person has been assaulted.

Whether criticism is phrased in a gentle way or a cruel way, it comes from the same place of judgment. Unconsciously, the critic believes that their opinion is the “only” correct one. The way he or she looks at the world is the only reasonable way to see it…” —Harville Hendrix

Criticism rarely achieves a positive result. Even if the person does what the criticizer wants, they feel upset or resentful. They do not feel safe. Trust has been broken.

So even if you feel justified and that your criticism is “constructive,” it’s important to understand how damaging criticism is to the other person, and to your relationship.

There is a better way.

What can you do instead of criticize?

2016-04 Criticism - manIf you have a tendency to criticize, it’s important to know you are not a bad person. You are simply using an ineffective communication style, one you probably learned from one or both of your parents. You simply need to learn a healthier way to communicate your needs.

While I hate to admit it out loud, I have been guilty of criticizing others, especially in my romantic relationships. And I realize now why I did it. I was afraid to be vulnerable. I was afraid to ask for what I really wanted. It took a ton of effort for me to even voice my needs. So when I finally did, and the other person didn’t respond or seem to hear me, I felt rejected. Which made me feel hurt and angry. And caused me to lash out.

But I have made a commitment to end this unhealthy habit, and learn to be more assertive and positive in my communications with others. And I hope others will join me.

Since criticism is really a request (wrapped in an ugly, harsh exterior), the key is to learn to ask for what you want in a positive way the other person can hear.

Here are five tips to help you:

1. Be calm. Make sure you are calm and in a positive frame of mind first. Communication doesn’t work well when you’re angry. Go into this with the intention of learning something about the other person, and improving your relationship. Don’t assume you have all the answers.

2. Understand your perspective. Think about what is bothering you, and why it is bothering you. Get to the core of the issue. What memories from your childhood or past relationships does this issue bring up? Is this really that big a deal, or is it possible you are being triggered and over-reacting? Be sure to take ownership for your feelings, for your part of the problem.

3. See the other perspective. Think about how the other person might be feeling. How might their perspective be different? Realize the situation isn’t as black and white as you might at first think. Give the other person the benefit of the doubt: they may not realize what they’re doing is bothering you, and may have reasons for their behaviour.

4. Decide what you want. Think about what it is you really want, and why you want it. Come up with a request that includes why this matters to you.

5. Schedule a conversation. Tell the other person there is something bothering you, and that you’d like to discuss it with them to come up with a solution together. Ask them if now is a good time, and if not, ask them when would be a good time. Then use the feedback sandwich I describe in an earlier post to communicate.

Tips: Be sure to make your request clear, and not expect the other person to read your mind. Also, allow the other person to explain their point of view, and offer different solutions. The goal is mutual understanding, and to find a win-win solution.

How can you avoid being criticized?

2016-04 Criticism - person criticizedIf you’ve been on the receiving end of criticism (I know I have), you know it’s not a lot of fun. It feels demeaning and insulting and hurtful. You do not have to check your pride at the door and let people walk over you.

But you should also avoid slamming the door shut. Tuning someone out hurts them, and damages your relationship as much as criticism does. And it typically causes the other to become more aggressive. You need to understand your role in the unhealthy communication dynamic in order to change it.

“A relationship without dialogue, without one person being able to express a concern, is also an unhealthy place. Suppressed thoughts and feelings lead to passive-aggressive behavior, or to the gradual dissolution of affection for one another.” —Harville Hendrix

Here are some new tools for your communication tool belt:

1. Be assertive. The first step is to be assertive and establish a healthy boundary. Calmly tell the other person that their tone of voice/approach hurts you. Tell them you want to talk, but cannot continue the conversation until the other person is calm and is speaking respectfully to you. (The point here is not to shut the other person out or avoid the conversation. It’s to encourage them to change their communication style and allow you to feel safe.)

2. Ask what is bothering the other person. This next step is key. And it’s probably the one you typically avoid. It’s important to understand that, even if the other person is not communicating well, they are trying to tell you something. So it’s important for you to tell them you care what they are feeling and want to hear them out. If you do this—and set a time to talk so they know you mean it—it can take a lot of the heat out of their words. Because really, what they most want is to be heard and understood by you, and to know that they matter. So once everyone is calm, ask the other person what is bothering them. Yes, actually seek out the answer! This is the key to improving your relationship with anyone…to be concerned with and actively find out what matters to them. Keep asking them questions until they appear to be finished speaking and you feel you’ve understood.

3. Mirror, validate and empathize. Reflect back to them what you’ve heard (repeat back what they said in your words, as objectively as possible). Validate them by saying you understand why they feel the way they do (this does not require you to agree with them…you are simply acknowledging their right to feel the way they do and showing you understand the reasons why). Show empathy by saying you want them to feel better. (Whether you agree with their solution/request or not doesn’t matter…you are showing their feelings matter to you.)

4. Share your feelings. Explain your perspective, if it is different. Be sure to use “I feel” statements and own your feelings instead of blaming the other person. (See 3 steps to express yourself without conflict for tips on this.)

5. Find a win-win solution. Brainstorm together to find a solution you are both happy with.

Making a commitment to communicate better

Criticism really is harmful to others, no matter how it is delivered. It implies one person is superior, and the other inferior. It also implies one person has all the answers, and shuts down dialogue and understanding.

At the same time, avoiding conversations and shutting the other person out is damaging too. It causes them to feel like their feelings and needs are unimportant…like they are unimportant to you.

So if you want to have healthier, more intimate relationships, learn to be vulnerable and positively communicate what you want! And learn to make the other person feel safe and understood by listening to them and validating their feelings.

Can you imagine a world without criticism and avoidance, where we all just openly and caringly share how we feel and look for mutually beneficial solutions? I can. And I am excited to be creating a new kind of world for myself, my children, and others.

If you liked this post, please share with others. And please share your thoughts and ideas below…I love hearing from my readers!

Resources for further learning


Karen Strang Allen
Karen Strang Allen is passionately committed to helping single women take back their power after heartbreak and recognize their true value. She empowers women to rediscover who they are, feel sensational, and become a magnet for their dream partner! She is the author of Free to be me: Create a life you love from the inside out! and international bestselling co-author of Unwavering Strength Volume 2.

Learn more about Karen and check out her free empowering resources at www.karenstrangallen.com. Or contact Karen and ask for a free “Discover my Strengths” strategy session today!

Posted by: silverliningsblog | April 19, 2016

5 magic questions to improve your life

“You can tell whether a man is clever by his answers. You can tell whether a man is wise by his questions.” – Naguib Mahfouz (Nobel Prize Winner)

Questions - abstract-1301909_1280My parents used to call me their “question box.” I would drive them crazy, asking questions about everything. If they said the sky was blue, I’d ask “Why?” If they said Grandpa was sick, I’d ask “How come?” If they said I couldn’t do something, I’d ask, “Why not?”

Children are naturally curious. They don’t take anything for granted. They want to know why things are the way they are, and challenge the adults around them to wonder why, too. And because of their curiosity and critical thinking, they come up with creative ideas most adults wouldn’t even consider.

But somewhere along the way, we are told not to ask so many questions. To “mind our own business,” “not be so nosey” and “accept things the way they are.” And yet, asking questions is one of the best ways to learn about the world and ourselves, and to avoid becoming closed off to new ideas.

So if you’ve been stuck in a rut or are having a challenging time, now is a great time to start asking questions again…new and better questions that challenge your previous assumptions and beliefs, and open doors to new perspectives and possibilities.

What questions are you currently asking?

Questions - thinker-1294493_1280It is important to become aware of the questions you are silently asking yourself. After all, your focus is determined by the questions you ask. Questions like “Why me?” and “Why now?” are disempowering and cast you in the role of victim. They keep you feeling like change is outside of your control, and prevent you from seeing what you can do to improve your situation.

The “magic” in asking empowering questions is that your mind immediately starts looking for solutions, and keeps doing so in the background even when you’re not aware of it. Then suddenly, you get an insight when you’re out jogging. Or you notice a story on Facebook. Or you have a dream that gives you a creative solution.

The five magic questions

Here are five empowering questions to help you change your perspective and take control of your life:

Questions - 5 1328466_12801. What is the gift in this challenge?

Even the most difficult circumstances have a positive side. For example, when my first husband died from liver cancer, I was devastated. But through his passing, I developed some wonderful, deep friendships, and improved my relationship with my mother.

No matter what you’re going through, the first step to feeling better is to see what you can learn, how you can I grow, or what new people/things/benefits have entered your life as a result.

A slightly different version of this question is: “How can I turn this situation into something that benefits me and/or others?”

For example, I decided to use the lessons I learned from my first husband’s passing (and my separation from my second husband) to uplift other single women. How can you turn this situation into a blessing or learning opportunity?

2. What do I want instead?

It is easy to get stuck focusing on what we don’t want. But that just brings more of what we don’t want. So instead, try shifting your perspective to what you want instead. What has this situation taught you about what you really want for yourself? It can help to journal about what you really want, in as much detail as possible.

3. Who can I ask for help?

Now that you’ve identified what you want instead, think about who could possibly help you turn things around. It may be a friend, family member, or paid advisor. It could even be the person with whom you’re having the problem…you may need to talk to them about how you feel, once you are calm. (See 3 steps to express yourself without conflict for tips on this.)

4. What action can I take today to make things better?

Next, ask yourself what you can do, right now, to help yourself feel better. No matter what is happening and who is involved, your feelings belong to you. You alone control your actions/reactions. And you are in the best position to know what will make you feel better. Be assertive and do something for yourself…either an act of self-nurturing, or a step towards the goal you identified in question #2.

5. What is great about my life already?

This is a very powerful question, because it stops you from catastrophizing and gets you to focus on what is already working well in your life. And since like attracts like, the more you focus on what’s working, the better things will go for you. Plus feeling gratitude is a powerful antidote to feeling upset!

Waiting for solutions to appear

Questions - hands-460865_1280After asking one or more of these magic questions, it’s important to relax and trust solutions will appear. The more you chase after an answer, the more it will elude you. Instead, let the question go, ask the Universe to help you, and trust that it will.

In the coming days and weeks, keep a spirit of open awareness. Make space in your life to be quiet/still, meditate, or go for a walk in nature. Notice your recurring thoughts and dreams. Pay attention to what seem like repeat “messages” related to your question. Notice when you get an idea that makes you smile or feel more peaceful. Then take action as soon as you feel inspired.

I believe the quality of our life truly is determined by the quality of our questions, and what we focus on as a result. So if you want to improve your life dramatically, change the questions you ask…and let the magic begin!

If you liked this post, please share with others. And share your thoughts and ideas below…I love hearing from my readers!

Resources for further learning

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Karen Strang AllenKaren Strang Allen is passionately committed to helping single women take back their power after heartbreak and recognize their true value. She empowers women to rediscover who they are, feel sensational, and become a magnet for the man of their dreams! She is the author of Free to be me: Create a life you love from the inside out! and international bestselling co-author of Unwavering Strength Volume 2. Learn more about Karen and check out her free empowering resources at www.karenstrangallen.com.

Contact Karen and ask for a free “Starting Over” strategy session today!

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