Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Treasure The Memories

Lately I've been or know people who have been to a lot of funerals; for family members, fellow church members, and friends. Funerals can be tough. While for some we can see them as someone finally being at peace and no longer physically suffering, they can also catch us by surprise and leave us wondering why someone had to be taken from us so young and with so much life left to live.

We attend funerals and want to be there emotionally for our family and friends, but don't always know what to say. To a grieving person, they may not want to hear, 'They're in a better place now', because truth be told they would rather that their loved one was still here with them. I was at a funeral not too long ago when the wife of the deceased said, 'He looks good. It's the best he's looked in weeks.' I think it gave her a small sense of comfort to have her husband looking peaceful. It gave her a positive image and a good memory to hold on to. It truly doesn't matter what you say, it's just important that you are there for those who need it.

Bad memories can be haunting for some people and difficult to let go of. The weight they carry with them can be overwhelming, even many years later. Good memories though should be treasured. Sometimes amidst the sad and bitter memories, a positive nugget can be found. When you are able to find that one, you should hold tight to it and carry it with you.

When I was younger (around 11 or 12), my parents were fighting and going through an ugly divorce. In the midst of that I had a best friend named Julia. I would spend as much time as I could with her and her family. To me, her family was like something out of a story book. Her mother was a school teacher and her father was a school principal. What I remember most was them having fun as a family; laughing, having dinner together, and making time in the summer to go to their cottage on a lake. The summer they invited me to go with them for a week was like a little slice of heaven to me; like going to summer camp. I laughed at the breakfast table with them, went on daily hikes and scavenger hunts along the railroad tracks with my best friend, and learned how to water ski on the lake. It was the longest and shortest week of my life; it was like I had traveled to another place (a happy place) and didn't want it to end.

Funny that today as I am preparing for another funeral at my church next week, I thought about Julia and her family. I was reminded about the good times and memories we created. Julia and I lost touch when I moved and went to a new school, but I never forgot about her friendship or the amazing gift I felt her family gave me that week. When you are child caught up in the stress and complexities of a family divorce situation, a peaceful week away with a friend and their family can give you hope. Hope for a brighter tomorrow, hope for a different scenario for your own future. Funny thing is, I don't know that Julia or her parents ever really knew what an impact that one week had on my life.

Hold on to those special memories; especially when they resurface and remind you of the goodness that people can share. Those memories are such a gift. We never know when we are impacting someone else's life in a positive way. Anything and everything we do can affect someone else; if not today then maybe years from now. Open your heart and share the goodness. You are more of a blessing to those around you than you may ever realize.

What's a special memory that you hold close to your heart?


Tuesday, May 28, 2019

When We Ignore The Signs

Some things in life are predictable; that most times we will buy a losing lottery ticket, at some point our fast food drive thru order will be incorrect, you'll undoubtedly get stuck some time in traffic behind a school bus or a cement truck, and yes ... you'll forget that the sun shines just as brightly on a 60 degree day as it does on an 85 degree day.

That last part about the strength of the sun would be for me. I spent my long Memorial Day holiday doing yard work; planting flowers, planting shrubs, getting our yard ready for summer. By the time Memorial Day came around I was exhausted. I woke up Monday morning determined to NOT do anything that involved physical labor. I opted to treat myself to sitting out on my patio listening to my wind chimes, watching the birds frolic in the birdbath, reading a new book, and just sitting there feeling the warmth of the sun on my face. The last month has had a lot of rain and grey skies; it's been gloomy to say the least. I think I truly forgot what an afternoon in the sunshine felt like. The temperature was only in the mid 60s, but the sun felt warm and the clear sky looked like hope ... hope that the gloomy rain might be behind us and hope that there was a promise of an approaching summer.

So how was my afternoon? It was grand. It was relaxing. It was quiet. I finished my book (something I don't often have the opportunity to do). It was everything I hoped it would be and more. Sadly, a few hours later I realized I had totally ignored the signs; the ones that should have been obvious to me. I'm still Irish and fair skinned, with more than my share of freckles. The sun on a clear 65 degree day was going to be just as powerful as a full out summer sun. Today my arms and legs are as red as a lobster. It will fade, but will I have learned my lesson? Gosh, I hope so.

Things happen when we ignore the signs. When a speed limit sign says 55 mph, it's more than a suggestion. When we go 70 mph in a 55 mph zone, we are asking for trouble. When we eat a food that we know will bother our stomach or we are allergic to, we are ignoring the signs and asking for something to go wrong. And yes, when the sky is clear and the sun is bright, we are asking for discomfort if we don't properly prepare ourselves. Obviously I needed to apply more sun screen than I did. Obviously I needed to pace myself more than I did. I really needed to pay attention to the signs. My only excuse was that 'the book was REALLY good', lol.

I will be uncomfortable for a few more days, but hopefully I will pay better attention the next time.

When is the last time you ignored a sign? 
What was it? 
Did you learn from your mistake?

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

You're Worth 39 Cents

Do you ever feel guilty for spending money on yourself? Do you ever contemplate whether or not a purchase is necessary or even too extravagant? Or do you never think about it and just say to yourself, 'I'm worth it!' Everyone is undoubtedly different in this respect.

As a general rule I never buy anything for myself that isn't at least on sale. Maybe I held on to the habit from when I was a mother of young children. I would always save what I didn't spend on myself so I could spend it on them. There was always the hockey equipment that needed to be replaced, or the new dance shoes and costumes ... which later became braces ... which later became musical instruments ... which later became college tuition. Don't get me wrong, I always wanted to put my family first; that's what I chose when I decided to become a parent.

Even after these expenses were no longer on the table, good or bad - the habits remain ingrained in my brain. Occasionally I will splurge on a manicure, but most often I paint my nails myself. I pay to get my hair cut professionally (because I stink at it lol), but I choose to do the color myself (at least for as long as I am able to, plus I like the color). I can afford these things, but some habits die hard I suppose.

Last week I went for a massage. I do this once a month, but at first I had a really hard time convincing myself to do it. At least until my husband reminded me that I needed to look at it a different way. As a 13 year breast cancer survivor I still deal with some long term effects of lymphedema in my right arm. It will never get any better, but it can be maintained to some degree by keeping the lymph fluid flowing (that's where the massage comes in). The physical therapy office where I go for it runs a special 4x a year; buy one massage and get the second one at 40% off. The receptionist asked me how many specials I wanted, to which I replied, 'Just one'. I know I will use them and I could afford to buy more, but I can't bring myself to justify purchasing more at one time for them to sit idly in the drawer waiting to be used. Silly, I know, especially since I WILL use them. The funny part was that when I told this to the receptionist she laughed and said, 'I know exactly what you mean. I went to a KFC once for the $5.00 box special because I wanted a pot pie with a drink and a cookie. I asked to get a lemonade. The cashier said it would be a 39 cent upgrade.' I said, 'Did you get it?' She replied, 'Yes, but sadly I contemplated for at least 10 seconds whether I should, but then decided I WAS WORTH IT.'

The moral of this little story? You ARE worth it! You are worth the 39 cents and a whole lot more

I am still a work in progress and probably always will be, but I'm beginning to learn that it's okay to splurge on me once in a while. 

What is something you choose to go without?
What is something you allow yourself to splurge on?
What helps you make the choice?

Monday, April 22, 2019

You Can't Force Creativity

Lately LIFE has kept me busy, but then I always seem to be busy. I try to blog at least every other week, but sometimes even that is a stretch. Don't get me wrong, the ideas and thoughts are there (I have the scribbled notes on restaurant napkins and post it notes to prove it) ... it's the lack of time that can get in the way. For those that don't know, my full time job is an Administrative Associate at a church. Those in the church environment know that Advent and Lent are our two busiest times of the year; extra services and events, lots of extra prep work and logistics, calendar monitoring, setting up and rearranging rooms, extra PowerPoint presentations for the services, flower deliveries, etc. In the Lutheran church, Easter Monday is the day after Easter. For the staff that relates to a well-deserved day off. 

When I take a personal day I usually spend it running to doctor or dentist appointments, grocery shopping, visiting my mom at the nursing home, etc. Vacation days are sometimes blessed with a day away somewhere doing something fun, but this month it will be to have new windows installed at our home (which will be a really good thing). So when Easter Monday rolls around I usually try to take the day for myself; I try to make sure I have no place to be at a certain time, no one to meet up with, and no major TO DO list. Although this morning I did get all of my MUST DO items done in an hour before I left the house. I am feeling quite accomplished about that. What does the rest of my day look like? I'm not totally sure yet, I'm attempting to go with the flow (which honestly is pretty tough for me).

I packed up my bag this morning with a book that I'm hoping to finish up for a six-week book study I am starting tomorrow, along with my laptop. I have my scraps of paper with me with thoughts and titles and half thought-out blog ideas. I have the time set aside today so naturally I feel the need to commit words to my blog. But guess what? You can't force creativity. Just because I have the time available doesn't mean the best blog posts will take shape, so instead I will write about where I am at ... right here, right now. And that is okay too. Because what I am writing is real and exactly where I am at this moment. The great ideas? They'll come when they're ready and when they're supposed to; usually at 3 a.m. But I'm usually not sleeping then anyway, so that's okay.

Today I am going to start taking a crack at something I've had on the back burner for literally years. Something personal and meaningful for me. What is it? Sorry, I can't say yet. If I tell you I'll have too much pressure to rush it and finish it. No, for now this project will be for me and it will be therapeutic and it will be good. At some point I may share it; we'll have to wait and see. The important thing is that I am actually going to spend some time today celebrating me.

I hope you are able to carve out the time you need for YOU, doing whatever YOU need to do. The To Do lists and everyone else's needs will still be there when you're done taking care of you. That I can promise. So today, just let go and celebrate YOU.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Are you ready for the next step?

Life is full of changes and challenges; for sure it never feels like you are gliding smoothly down a lazy river. But that's okay; challenges build character, right? Although, some days I wish I had a little less character, lol.

Most of us always have things on our 'list'; whether that be dreams and goals or things on our bucket list we always wanted to do ... at least once. To stay stagnant in the exact same place can get boring, if not predictable. Maybe you're thinking of committing to a relationship, moving into your own place, starting a career, or even beginning a new creative hobby. If you give it a try, will you fail? Maybe. But then you won't know unless you try. You know the saying, 'Nothing ventured, nothing gained'?

There will always be the fear of what will happen next, but we can't let that stop us from trying. We'll continue to wonder if we will be able to accomplish what we want. We'll still ask ourselves, 'Will anyone like what I've created?' 'Will anyone hire me and give me a chance?' 'Will I be good enough?' 'Will anyone appreciate or even understand my art?' 'Will they love me back?' 'Will anyone ever read what I've written?'

Oh how I wish my crystal ball wasn't covered in dust. I wish at times that I had a guarantee that things would work out as I planned if I put in the effort. But life doesn't come with guarantees; never has, never will. Still I keep making my lists. I continue to fine tune my dreams and aspirations. I continue to keep trying. Challenges and setbacks may slow me down and get me rethinking and recalculating, but they don't deter me. If I let that happen, I'd be giving in and ultimately giving up. I'd be losing my voice in my own future; something I am not willing to do.

Are you ready for the next step? 

Are you willing to give it everything you have to make your dreams and goals take hold? 

Are you willing to make the necessary sacrifices and not allow challenges or people to tell you your dreams are too big for you?

Are you ready for your voice to be heard?

Personally, I think you have it in you to keep trying. I think you can make it happen. Now ... you just need to believe it.

What's been on your back burner that you still want to make happen?

Friday, March 22, 2019

86,400 Seconds

Time is a funny thing; it can speed by at times, while other times it seems to drag by. Often we look at a hectic week and wonder where we will find enough time to get everything done. Other times we are waiting in anticipation for a vacation or a special event and it seems like the day will never come.

If you break it down and do the math you'll find that there are exactly 86,400 seconds in a single day. That sounds like a HUGE number, certainly more than enough time to do something positive and productive; certainly enough time to make a concentrated effort and make a difference.

Take an honest moment and reflect back on what you've done in the last 86,400 seconds. Or better yet, what didn't you do that you would have liked to have done?

Like many other people, my last two weeks have been a whirlwind. I've been to two funerals, I've worked a full time job, I've cooked (at least once or twice, lol), I've grocery shopped, I've cleaned, I've run errands, I've been a wife and a mother, and I've found myself being a lot of things for a lot of other people. Today I finally made some time for me (well, after I went to the bank and the Secretary of State office). I ran some 'me' errands then invited my sweet husband to play hookie with me for a few hours. We went to Little Caesars for a dine-in $5.00 pizza, talked about serious and non-serious stuff, watched a musical YouTube video on my phone, and just sat at the corner table for over an hour. Then we perused the garden patio pot display at a local store, made a trip through Best Buy for a phone charger, and ended up scouring through the CD bin (talked about a nostalgic walk down memory lane ... we finally settled on seven CDs). We wrapped up our afternoon splurge with a quick run into Sam's Club where he bought me flowers. The nicest part of the my afternoon? The company, of course ... but we never looked at our watches, we just enjoyed the time we spent together.

While I may not recall everything I accomplished in my last 86,400 seconds, I know what I did for the last 10,800 seconds. I made each and every one of them count. I made an effort to notice them.

We all have days and weeks where we have a hard time keeping up with the demands, let alone finding time for any quality sleep. When you can, be sure to make time to take care of yourself. I'm the first to admit that I have a difficult time practicing what I write about sometimes, but I am a work in progress. I plan to keep practicing until I get it right.

So what have you done with your last 86,400 seconds? 

What will do with the next 86,400?

Friday, March 8, 2019

Spring Forward?

Spring Forward! I've been reminded all week that tomorrow night we need to adjust our clocks for Daylight Savings Time. I don't know about you, but I am wishing I would have had an extra hour of sleep rather than losing another one. Sadly, sleep hasn't been in my repertoire lately. Having a lot to do and a busy schedule is pretty much the norm in my life, but lately it's been something else.

I've been trying to focus more on my personal life goals, my family, my job, my writing, and of course trying to carve out a few minutes here and there just for me (like my Tuesday night Zumba class). I've discovered that a person's soul can get pretty drained when it's being ignored and not properly nurtured. Stress and responsibilities have a way of becoming all too consuming.

I've also discovered that for me, at least, life's obstacles are what actually get in the way of me living my life the way that I want. It's those responsibilities that seem to double and triple some weeks. It's the snowy and icy weather, it's the working late some days, it's the heavy traffic that makes your commute longer; it's a lot of little things. We've all learned by now that some things are completely out of our control and not taken on by choice; providing elder care, getting sick, worrying about the welfare and health of friends and family, blowing a tire on an infamous Michigan roadway, or having someone deliver the wrong mattress when you're in desperate need of sleep (that could be a whole other blog post).

These obstacles are nothing more than distractions though. They come and they'll go. Unfortunately, while they're in your presence they can lead to unhealthy nervous snacking, any attempt you have for a peaceful night of sleep, your attitude changes, and definitely your motivation (or lack of it).

So how do we get back on track when we feel like we're slipping into a slump? Slumps can be tricky; they can affect us physically, as well as mentally. How do we try to reclaim what is ours? Our time ... our happiness ... our ability to be productive and creative? I wish I had the exact formula, trust me. But sadly, you and I aren't any different. We all get thrown the occasional curve ball. We all have to tackle unwanted situations. We all have days when we feel like to need to play referee. We all have to deal with unwanted illnesses and sometimes sudden loss.

I think the biggest thing we can do is allow ourselves to be humble. Life isn't meant to be handled alone. Whether you have your faith, a supportive family, or friends who you know you can count on ... you have what you need to tackle the tough patches. It's much easier to work through and over an obstacle when you have someone to talk to. Bounce ideas off of them and be open to a fresh perspective. Maybe they can help us see what we can't. Maybe they can help motivate us. Maybe they can remind us that we are not alone, exactly when we need to hear it most.

The next time you find life's obstacles getting in the way of you actually living the life you want, take a step back. Take a fresh look at the big picture. Ask yourself what's stopping you from getting to where you want to be. Know in your heart that this current obstacle shall pass and be nothing more than a distant memory and a reminder of just how strong and resilient you really are.

What's been stopping you lately from living your life?