One of my favorite authors is Shauna Niequist, a writer who shares insight regarding relationships, community, and engaging with one another while gathered around the table, surrounded by food and drink and friendship. Niequist is a compelling storyteller who uses her own life as a platform for connecting with her readers in a genuine, intimate way.

One of her primary topics of focus is cultivating meaningful relationships and diving honestly and openly into a supportive community. She writes about this in her book Bittersweet when she expounds upon the topic of the home team:

Clearly, we’re wine fans around these parts. There’s just something about a time-honored tradition, being reliant on the rain, the sun and the earth, and condensing years of hard work into one simple glass — all to better eat with, no less — that we can seriously respect.

What else do we respect?  When there’s a woman behind it all.

In our day and age of cell phones, email, and social media, it’s easy to overlook the art of writing handwritten notes to communicate with the people we love. We’ve expounded upon the value of continuing to put pen to paper as we send correspondence to family and friends several times, so instead of harping on the topic once again, we thought we’d share some specific instances in which it is easier to send a handwritten note than you think.

Check out our ideas below and let us know if you have any tips to share!

I knew right away she wouldn’t like me. She embodied authenticity with her tattoos and loop nose ring. I, however, was a walking stereotype with my highlighted hair strategically pinned to appear messy, feeling edgy in my Keds. One of us seemed to belong, and the other one of us was me. It was my first day at the cafe and she, of course, was the barista who would train me.

This girl, I came to find, knew no strangers. She seemed to have a sort of magnetic force that drew all types of people to her. It was not her appearance or her talents, though she was both attractive and talented. She seemed to have an uncanny ability to see the best in everyone — strangers and friends alike.

I think it started around 1995, when the Oasis album (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?  was released, and I became obsessed with everything England. Something about the culture, the creativity and the history spoke to me. I knew that I wanted to spend time there, and I also knew that a vacation wasn’t going to do it. I wanted to live there.

Over the years my desire to live in England waxed and waned as I went to university, got married and started my career – but it never left me. I remember bringing up the idea to my husband and his less than enthusiastic response. He initially didn’t share my desire to live abroad, but over the years he warmed up to the idea and eventually became the driving force, applying for a work transfer that allowed us to make the move.

The promises of wedding vows made with the best of intentions get tested when life — past and present — shows up. We are dynamic individuals growing and changing as we navigate life. Sometimes, a relationship cannot sustain under the pressures of change, struggle, illness, betrayal, and differing desires to make a marriage work.

Much is invested in preparation for the wedding while the statistics of divorce are a stark contrast to wedding day bliss. Many marriages do not survive today. Some statistics have that number between 40-50% for first marriages and the odds of divorce increase for second and third marriages.

When a marriage is in crisis, love is stretched. Faith is tested. Dreams feel like they become more distant.

Have you often been told you’re ‘too sensitive’? Are you easily affected by the moods of others? Do you seem to notice subtleties in your environment that other people don’t? Can you ‘mind-read’ the emotions of others without them telling you how they’re feeling? Do big crowds make you uncomfortable? Are you averse to watching violence on TV? 

Do you cry easily? Would you do far worse on a task if someone was watching you perform it than you would if you were able to do it without supervision? Do you feel the need to retreat and recharge often, almost as if you had an internal battery that easily runs out of steam?

If you answered yes to many of the above questions (you can take a full quiz here), chances are you may be what is referred to as a Highly Sensitive Person, or HSP. Though you may feel like you don’t fit in, or that there’s something ‘wrong’ with you as a result of these characteristics, the truth is that this collection of attributes is found in 15-20% of the population.

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Valentine’s Day can be tough — some people love it and others love to loathe it. While we can surely understand that, we also  think that any day centered on being intentional with those around you is fine in our book. It just may take some reimagining (and a bit of creativity) to see new ways of making someone smile.

That’s why we’ve teamed up with Shutterfly to bring you some foolproof advice for making anyone’s day — Valentine’s or otherwise. Below we’re sharing four key things to keep in mind to ensure authenticity is always at the heart of any gift.