Monday, June 27, 2016

The Beauty in Friendship

What is a world without friendship? It's a world of sadness, disbelief, and loneliness. As social beings we clamor for friends. Not the type of friends who bring us down or create drama, but the friends we can laugh with (laugh so hard we are crying), the friends who can enjoy sitting together in silence, and the friends who will never divulge our deepest secrets. As a teenager, I was quite naive. Friends were everywhere. High school and college was one big party. Those were the good old days when life was much simpler and the responsibilities of adulthood were unknown. Now my definition of friendship has changed quite drastically. 

Many of us reach a point in our lives when we really truly deeply need a close friend. The type of friend that can be trusted with our secrets, but who also won't judge us for those failings. If only it was easy to find that person. A good everlasting friendship will bring out the very best in ourselves.

This friendship can be found in a close friend, a sibling, a parent, a spouse, a neighbor, but whoever it is, everlasting friendship will never be fake, exhausting, or one-sided. True friendship involves a give and take from both people. This is the beauty of friendship - it is a perfect scenario for peace and personal growth. You may have many friends or only a few close friends, but when the times get tough your real friends will surface. During those moments of self-destruction or daily tribulations, only the people who truly desire you the best will remain. 

We live in a world full of selfishness, materialism, with a lack of generosity and charity. A good friend will never be found among those vices. If we want to find that beautiful friend, we must work to become beautiful people first. I'm not saying we have to become Mr. Wonderful in a week, but our goal should always be towards self-improvement. 

Adulthood brings unexpected paths, winding roads that don't make any sense and cause us to question the reasoning. Knowing that there is a reason for everything in life and having a best friend to hold your hand during it all is one of the most comforting things in this world of uncertainty.

It is almost impossible to find a good friend, but I have been blessed with one who has my best interests at heart and I want nothing short of the best for her. It doesn't matter what or who may separate us, because no matter where life takes us, we will always have this everlasting bond.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Where Do You Find Happiness?

Written By: Danielle Silva Heckenkamp
Now that it’s almost summer it’s time for a vacation! My best friend, Kate, and I took a much needed break. In the spirit of being overly ambitious, we drove down to Dallas/Fort Worth from Wisconsin in a fifteen passenger van with all the kids (Kate's three, and my four). Yes, as I said, overly ambitious. We were prepared for the worst, after all having seven kids under the age of nine…something has to go wrong, right? In the end, it was one of the most relaxing vacations!

While enjoying the time away from the daily demands of life, I learned some amazing things. I might just be late to the party, but I came to few eye-opening realizations. Life is tough, but I think we forget to remember that it is difficult for everyone, not just a few of us. We all have different demands or expectations, and yet, we each handle these situations differently. No one's life is perfect, and I can't tell you how tired I am of reading about this subject. Yes, we know your life isn't perfect, but why is it necessary to describe all those flaws to the world? Let’s be happy and support each other. Dwelling on the hard times won’t make them any easier.

Without the daily demands at home (laundry, dusting, cleaning, organizing, etc.) I was able to focus more on the children, and it was so refreshing! Instead of pulling myself away to finish a load of laundry, I was able to sit on a swing with them and watch the sunset, or even just watchthem play in the fields. It built my spirit to “just be”. I was able to “be myself” and enjoy the beauties of life without distractions. It forced my choleric temperament to enjoy those small moments, because I typically have a never ending "to-do" list. The simple happiness of the children, brought me joy as I had the opportunity to watch them loving life.

If you have ever been to Texas, especially coming from Wisconsin, you will be amazed at the generosity, kindness, and overall joy found in these warm weather friends. I wasn't sure if it was the warm weather that brought out their constant happiness (as we Wisconsinites are a bit grumpy during the six months of winter) or maybe this is in their nature. Whatever the case, it was so wonderful to be around happy people, it made us happier! It made me begin to think that as a society we rely too much on finding inner happiness, instead of offering happiness to others which then comes back to us full circle. We hear the phrase "do something for yourself", whether it's a spa day, girls weekend, working out, shopping, coffee, but after getting the opportunity, did it make us truly any happier? It might have relaxed us for a brief moment, but when we return to our daily jobs, has it truly impacted us in the way we thought? Or has it just impacted our wallets?

One of the best memories from the trip was during our visit to The Silos in Waco, Texas. If you haven't watched Fixer Upper, I highly recommend it! But the most amazing part of The Silos, was the "green area". An area of grass was put right in the middle of the buildings for the children and families to play. It was amazing to watch the children twistwith the hula hoops and pick up a friendly game of soccerwhile making new friends. The families, especially the children, were the center of it all. The store, the offices, and the future bakery were all perfectly situated on the edge of the “green”, but the children were in the middle. It was beautiful to see what matters most! This, of course,made me want to support them even more. I purchased a few too many items. Shh, don’t tell my husband.

It's time to ask ourselves, where do we find true happiness? We are all different, and we will all find our happiness in different ways, but after this amazing vacation I have learned that instead of focusing on findingonly inner happiness, we need to create an outerhappiness, with our families, friends, children, and even the strangers on the street. Ultimately, it doesn't matter how we feel inside if we are not happy on the outside and vice versa. It makes sense that these two are linked eternally together! 

Thursday, June 23, 2016

A New Start

Hi Fabulous Readers,

Thank you for your many years of support on Provocative Manners. Katrina and I have updated our blog and re-branded our image. Please visit us at Kate and Danielle Blog!


Danielle Marie and Katrina

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Contentment is Not a Bad Word

Take a deep breath, close your eyes, and exhale. What are you missing in your life? I'm not asking what specific items you are missing, because we all have those moments of losing the keys, misplacing the cell phone, or forgetting to put socks on the two year old. No, I'm asking what you are missing from deep within the marrow of your being. Those deep caves that rarely see the light, because it's too hard to share those blemishes, those self-loathings, and those eternal moments of regret. It doesn't matter what specific circumstances created your interior struggles, it matters how you are going to get out of them. Some will always linger, and some are victory battle scars that we save to share with the world, but others need to be given up. Those internal struggles that eat at us day in and day out only to cut deeper into our self-esteem. It feels like there is no way out. But what if there was a way out? What if there is an underlying theme among many of us as we daily struggle through the complexities of life? An unspoken struggle of CONTENTMENT!

The word, contentment, has become a "bad word". It forces us to second-guess ourselves, our ambitions, and our achievements. In a face-paced world, where technology goes out of use before it was even introduced to the masses. Our lives are consumed with having the next best thing. What we have is never good enough. It's sad to acknowledge this is true. We have become a superficial society.

Contentment does not mean we are satisfied with having nothing. It does not mean that we don't have any dreams or long-term goals. Contentment gives us the ability to embrace our current phase in life. It won't be the same forever, but we need to joyfully accept the present. There was a time in history when both men and women happily accepted their lives, no matter their social class, the amount of labor, the hours of child-rearing, or their material achievements. There was a time when my widowed great-grandmother accepted her fate and worked tirelessly to support eight children as a seamstress. The loss of her husband's share of the family hardware store was heart-breaking and the family's lack of support for her working outside the home was discouraging. This woman didn't go beyond her scope in life, she didn't search to find a wealthy man and she didn't take easy street and move in with relatives. This strong, independent woman strove to create a better life and support her children, but she lovingly found contentment in it. She was happy and always believed she was blessed, because her life was beautiful in every respect. Life was not easy without a husband, especially in the early 20th century, but that didn't matter, because life was meant to be loved and lived. She found contentment in her family.

We must all search for our own contentment in life. It won't find us unless we choose to accept it. If we can find contentment, our lives will be much simpler, and yet much happier. That amazing great-grandmother of mine was right, life is meant to be loved and lived. We are social beings who desire to give and receive love. It's time that each of us takes this moment to examine our lives. Are we truly happy and if not, what would make us truly happy? If your answer revolves around material items that will only devalue with age, then it's time to do major sole have not found contentment yet. It won't be an easy task to suddenly appreciate every frustration and struggle in the name of contentment, but if you are seeking this beautiful state of life, you will find it. Contentment will never just appear. You will have to make many small steps, fill several large holes, but eventually with dedication, it can be found. The best time to start is now, so close your eyes, take that deep breathe and exhale.  Contentment is not a bad word, it's a beautiful and peaceful state of life.

Written By: Danielle Silva Heckenkamp

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Give A Little Love

Author: Danielle Silva Heckenkamp

Take a moment to smile and change the world - any small act of love. Last week I took all four children to the grocery store (I know that's pretty crazy, right?) and typically my older two like to color pictures and give them as "gifts" to the unsuspecting check-out person. Well, at first I was irritated with myself because I chose the aisle with the crabby lady who wouldn't crack a smile. My first thought: oh great, she's going to ignore the pictures and the children will be upset. Note to self - address the situation later in the car. Luckily, my children didn't notice her mood right away and enthusiastically handed her the colored pictures. The woman apprehensively grabbed the folded papers and assumed they were garbage. She was about to throw them away, but I explained the children made presents for her...and then I waited for her will never believe it, but her entire mood changed. The lady loved the pictures and was extremely chatty and kind to the children after receiving the gifts. These little ones who were so excited to color a picture for the check-out person (even though they didn't know her) completely turned this lady's day around. I’m sure every nearby shopper heard my huge sigh of relief.

This experience reaffirmed my belief that adults are jaded (yes, none of us are exempt). We rely too much on our emotions and creating lasting impressions. Adults are self-centered. We truly need to become more like little children and give ourselves completely to the happiness of others. I have heard many people question the deterioration of their own sanity by giving all of themselves to others. Let's be honest, society constantly asks the same selfish questions day in and day out. "What have you done for yourself today?" "How will you reward yourself?" It starts again with the uncontrollable reward system. Let's look at this from a different point of view. It's about time that we love for the sake of loving and helping for the sake of offering unconditional love. Working together, we can create a unified community. The more love and attention I give to my children and husband, the less I focus on myself and interestingly enough, I am transported into a sublime state of happiness. My love has grown leaps and bounds for my family over the years. The more children we have, and the more I dedicate my entire being to the welfare of my family, the more I love them all. There’s an amazing never-ending supply of love. Don't reserve that love for only close family and friends (even though they greatly deserve it), but spread it to all.

We will never regret loving another person, even if they aren't receptive, but there will definitely be regrets if we never try. So, instead of "paying it forward" only around Christmas time or a few moments a year when social media reminds us; it's time to give ourselves (all of ourselves) everyday. Every person deserves to be loved – family, friends, and strangers. We are social beings who desire love, so let's unconditionally give that love, while also raising our children to do the same, because ultimately, what is life without love?

Bucket List of Unconditional Love
ü  Invite a friend/family member over for dinner who is lonely.
ü  Bake your favorite cookies and drop them off at a neighbor’s house.
ü  Pick a handful of flowers and visit an elderly relative.
ü  Smile at a stranger everyday (you will never be happy in your own little bubble)/
ü  Enjoy every  moment with your family and friends. You will never get a repeat. Those closest to us are sometimes the most difficult to love, but all the more reason to show them respect.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Living in the Moment - Not in the Future

I'm here to let you know, that I'm all in. All in for what, you may ask? I'm all in for life, for my life! I'm very much a goal orientated person, and I thrive on a challenge and achieving the end result, but I also have a choleric temperament, so I get impatient fairly quickly. Unfortunately, this forces me to have several goals at one time, maybe too many. I'm one of those people who read 10 books at once, because they are all too enticing to not be opened immediately. Isn't the best part of reading a book the beginning and the end? I know, I'm weird, I don't prefer the climax... Well, I have learned that this impatient approach to the challenges of my life isn't doing me any good and is actually inhibits me from focusing.

It was after the birth of my fourth child that I realized I could not keep running through life in circles. I needed to stop chasing "challenges" outside my everyday existence, because believe me, baby #4 was a challenge, a huge challenge! Let's just say he loved to cry...all day long...and still does off and on. But this forced me to rethink my daily goals and to start focusing on what was in front of me. It also forced me to truly discover what I love to do in my free time, which of course there isn't a lot of free time, so I needed to choose wisely. Not what I would love to do if I lived 30 different lives, but what could I do right now in this life. What fit best with our growing family of little ones running around. I needed to step away from my entrepreneurial goals (just for now) and relieve the unneeded stress. I needed to find moments I could enjoy with the children without worrying the laundry or dishes were not finished, yes, that's my A-Type personality and it sure is difficult to overcome those tendencies. And after many months of turmoil, I realized, no matter how tough it was being with my overachieving 7 year old (I have no idea where she gets it...) or my preschooler and toddler who fight, or the crying baby all day long, it was the only place I wanted to be. I didn't want anything else. It was extremely difficult for me to come to this conclusion, yet when the realization came to me, it was the easiest to accept.

For some reason, I had spent the last several years, believing I wasn't doing enough. I wasn't the best wife or mother or friend or member of society. I felt that I had been given so much, so I needed to accomplish more each day, but that is so far from the truth. I can't believe that was my thought process. I'm so happy and blessed to be a mom, and right now, at this phase is my life, that is exactly what I want to do (besides finishing my novel and a few freelance writing jobs on the side! Hey, I can't give up all my goals - writing is where I relieve stress). Even though I may have found a balance with my family, (yes, I know, everyone is trying to find a balance, especially moms), the desire to always have a goal will never go away. So now I use my children more as my goals, then my businesses. Aren't we all trying to raise good and efficient members of society? They are our future after all, and if we don't invest in them, the outcome might not be so pretty.

Motherhood has allowed me to take my choleric temperament and to find my many flaws. It's o.k. to focus solely on my children as a stay-at-home mom. This isn't for everyone, but this is for me. I have discovered that my stress level is less, my family is happier, and I have learned to love every aspect of my life, even the crazy parts, like when someone builds a castle with all my couch cushions or the boys wrestling and break a decorative plate, but I have found that balance. It isn't a balance where I can juggle everything, that's a misconception. It's a balance where I can focus on the things that are necessary at this specific phase in my life. The things that mean the most, the things that I love. Maybe it will change in the future, actually, I know it will change in the future. But I'm not looking at the future, I'm actually exhausted looking towards the future. There's definitely a truth to only "living in the moment". Don't get me wrong, my husband and I still have to plan for the future, but I have a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. Now I can focus on the here and now. I have finally found my balance and I'm all in!

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Grateful Beyond Belief

Written By: Danielle Silva Heckenkamp

Thank you! Thank you to everyone who has touched my life, even in a small way. Too often we go through life wishing for the next best thing. That's a tendency of human nature; the grass is always greener. It's unfortunate, because we forget to examine our current situations and the amazing gifts we have been given. With the start of summer vacation and three months of wonderful one-on-one time with the kiddos, I thought it was perfect timing to contemplate my life and those who have made an impact on me.

This morning I was in an area of the city that isn't the best, but I saw the most beautiful thing that almost made me cry. A father was holding his child (about 4-5 months old) and wrapped in a blanket with only his face showing, because it was chilly and rainy, while the dad was carrying a large bag, it might have contained the only items they owned. I didn't know where he was going, but he looked like he was on a mission. The father was very lovingly watching the child to make sure he was o.k., while also trying to not step in puddles and slip. This might not sound like much, but it was such a beautiful sign of love between a parent and child. A love that is missing in this world or hidden. We are so used to a love that only shows itself when it is self-serving. It didn't matter the economic or social conditions of this child and father, because they showed enough love and trust between the two of them.

Credit: Mother Letters

It made me think on the drive home, through the dreary weather, that the old cliche saying is true. "All you need is love". I know, I know, me of all people who doesn't care for the corny quotes. But I think we all have those moments in life when everything is going wrong, we aren't able to control or solve the problems, and have to wait for slow fixes. Then suddenly, something happens to show how each of our lives are intertwined with one another. We don't understand it all now and won't probably until after we die. It leaves us in a state of pure confusion, but also relief, knowing that everything has a reason and purpose. It truly does, because if it didn't, there would be no point to any of this.

Little does this father know that by walking down the street at that exact moment would create such a profound affect on another person. With that thought in mind, our every action is an example of good or hurt. How do we want to be perceived in the world?

After these deep reflections, in a quiet car before picking up the kids from school and the start of spring break... I knew that it was time to think more of others, and less of myself, which of course is hard with our natural self tendencies. To do more for others in small ways, ways that we won't see the effects, or be able to promote on social media, but ways that will create a better world for all. Then maybe someday, those actions will be shown to us like a puzzle, many little jumbled pieces put together to create a wonderful masterpiece.

I am grateful for a lot of things in life, but I am most grateful for my life and those near to me. The life that has been given to me with all the happiness, sorrows, thrills, adventures, friendships, family, and unsolvable problems. Because without each and everyone of these bits and pieces, it would not be my life. It might not make sense when I am going through the heartache or the celebrations, but no matter the event, each and every one of them have a sincere and utterly beautiful effect on my life and I am grateful that they have helped me develop a love and trust for myself, friends, family, and my children. Because what else matters in life than love?

Sunday, June 5, 2016

When Times Get Tough, It's Time For Summer!

Written By: Danielle Silva Heckenkamp

It’s time for summer love, summer vacation, and summer adventures - to let loose without looking back. Who doesn’t want to have fun in the sun? We long for those brief summer months here in Wisconsin, no matter how brief they may last. As cold weather Midwesterners, we crave the sun and heat after several long months of winter, and of course, we are ridiculously jealous of our Southern friends. But for some reason, we keep coming back for more - how have we not learned yet? It’s about time to move to a warmer climate, right? Take me to Charleston! Maybe Midwesterners prefer this self-inflicted torture. 

After months of intense dreariness, dark clouds, and dry winter temperatures dipping below zero, the thought of warm sun, beach sand, and not having to bundle up lifts our moodiness and brings a smile. Those foreboding winter months force many Wisconsinites to retreat into a warm house, sip hot chocolate, and read the latest issue of Vogue sitting before a roaring fire. This may sound enticing, but after several months, the monotony begins. Yes, those Instagram pictures are a bit overrated. Honestly, how much hot chocolate can one person drink?

Sometimes it’s difficult to believe we have four seasons in Wisconsin. Spring is only a slightly warmer version of winter. So we anxiously await those days of sun, when it doesn’t take an additional twenty minutes to leave the house because a mitten is lost, again. Those warm carefree days when we can spend any extra moment with friends, family, and working on our slightly embarrassing Northern tan. Yes, we aren’t as austere as some may claim, we can laugh at ourselves. It’s that one time of year, no matter where we live in this beautiful country of ours, that we can have fun and enjoy life. Summer gives us an excuse for a vacation, for making family memories, a time when we no longer focus solely on working, but on enjoying the simple pleasures of life.

Summer is that amazing time when the beach welcomes us no matter how cool the water may feel, a blended strawberry daiquiri tastes much better while lounging next to a pool, and a pair of sandals become a wardrobe staple. It’s the heat, the sweat, and the sunshine that somehow have us wanting more, the months are just too short. Maybe it’s because living in Wisconsin brings too many months of winter and not enough months of summer love. Everyone loves the freshness of spring and the anticipation of warm weather to come, but summer brings something extra special. Summer brings a place for new beginnings, a time for creating lasting memories, unlike any we have previously experienced. The summer months have provided some amazing, out of this world exploits. The type of memories that mold us into the people we are or who are about to become - similar to a true friend. Summer is a good lasting friendship. It forces us to take a step out of the norm, and enjoy this unknown world.

Friendship and summer have much more in common than anyone could imagine. The type of friendship we search for our entire lives, but oftentimes never find. We may have plenty of acquaintances, and even a few people we feel confident enough to share some of our deepest secrets. But finding that true everlasting friend, is like finding a needle in the haystack. Summer is full of confidence, unforgettable moments, adventures, and with an intense desire to indulge. It doesn’t matter how long one is parted from a true friend, the strong bond will return. Summer gives us promises of acceptance and forgiveness - those overwhelming hot days are cooled off by an intense evening thunderstorm.

There have been many great summers in my life, ones that involved goofy high school friends, others that included many late night college parties, but one of the best was shared with a good friend, actually a “best friend”. I have always felt a bit silly saying “best friend” since the term was used so freely in grade school, but maybe it’s also a bit odd because once we reach adulthood, a “best friend” is almost impossible to find. Luckily, I have been blessed with such a gift!

This “best friend” knows when to give a hug, when to make me laugh so hard I’m crying, and even though she may know my flaws, for some reason, she still chooses to overlook them. But friendship isn’t a one-way street. It involves a commitment, a lack of self-interest, with the desire to be a part of this person’s life through thick and thin. Just like the season of summer. After months of struggling through the doldrums of winter, the summer sun shines through those gloomy clouds, and all is well.  But if we don’t take a moment to enjoy the sun and venture outside, it is only another day. Everyone needs a best friend, especially women. We go through life judging ourselves, looking at every minute detail in the hopes of reaching ridiculous expectations. We are often the hardest on ourselves and this is where a best friend steps in, she knows when it is just too much and calms the storm. 

The season of summer may bring the expectations of swimsuit weather and all that comes with it, but it also gives us a reprieve from the storm - the winter storm. Somehow, just when we think it’s too much to live through another cloudy day, the summer sun finds its way through the clouds to lift our spirits. As my “best friend” often says, “When tough times come, you will find your true friends.”