Saturday, December 28, 2019

Are You Ready For 2020?

First, let me re-introduce myself. My name is Jennifer and I haven't written a blog post in more than a month. Why? Because LIFE took over. There was a fractured bone in my right arm at my wrist joint which resulted in 6 weeks in a brace (and yes I am right handed). There's been 5 weeks of PT twice a week. There was 4 weeks of Advent preparation at the church where I work (my full time day job). There was a lot of prepping for Christmas (writing out cards, shopping, wrapping, cleaning my house, and prepping for a Christmas holiday hosting my kids and three granddaughters). Needless to say, it didn't leave much time left over for me or my blogging.

Today is a new day. Christmas Day has come and gone. Presents were unwrapped. Meals were prepped and eaten. Conversations and laughter abounded. Memories were made. Now it is December 28th. I am sitting on my cozy couch with my laptop and watching the Survivor Finale on TV that I missed prior to Christmas. I think my husband and I were hosting our small group dinner at our house the night the finale was on. Better late than never - although I did sneak a peek on social media a week ago and already know who won (oops). But that's okay - sometimes it's not so much about the end result, but more about the experience and what took you to the end.

2019 had a lot of ups and downs for a lot of people that I know. There have been health concerns for many, relationship issues, job insecurities, and enough layers of stress to fill an offsite storage container to the brim (isn't that where many people stash either their unwanted stuff or the stuff they can't find time to deal with?). There have been positives as well though; a beautiful third granddaughter in my family, answers to questions and doubts that have been haunting friends for months, and for some a certain degree of growing clarity that should help propel them into a positive 2020.

New Year's Day is only a few days away; a time when many people will start throwing out resolutions and goals for the upcoming new year. But first, it's a time for reflection. What did your 2019 look like? Was it everything you thought it would be? Did you accomplish everything you pushed for? Did you set yourself up to continue your efforts in 2020 and finish what you may have started?

If you had to sum up your dreams, your hopes, and your aspirations for the new year in just one word, what would that one word be? What word will keep you focused and driven for the next twelve months? My word is going to be BALANCE; something I tend to lack from time to time (and not just when I am in my Zumba class and stumble and fall on my wrist, leaving myself with a directive to slow down). I am truly seeking that sense of balance in my own life; a balance where I can separate my work, my hobbies, my friends, and my home life. There will always be times when all the elements of our lives intertwine. But if you find yourself staying awake most nights dwelling and overthinking different aspects of your life, you will come to the realization that you are off balance in some way. Trust me, I don't need to fall again (physically or metaphorically), so for me 2020 is about finding the BALANCE that works best for me. It will be about re-determining what my priorities are and what parts of my life have been on hold on the shelf for way too long and need some attention.

I'd love to know where you are at. 
What is your ONE WORD for 2020?

Friday, November 22, 2019

Random Acts of Kindness

The other day I watched a new Christmas movie on one of my cable channels. I look forward to these holiday movies because they are warm and fuzzy, kind-hearted, have no bad language or suggestive topics, usually have a moral, and almost always have a happy ending. Of course you can't get to the predictable happy ending without a few communication miscues about half way through that the main characters need to overcome, a little fake snow on the sidewalks, everyone almost always leaving their house with their indoor Christmas tree lights still on, and a roaring fire in the fireplace. My family and I usually make a light-hearted game of finding the things that we think are a little off; like when we see the main house decorated for Christmas and can name the other Christmas movie that used the same set a few years ago, or when someone pretends they're watering the gorgeous red and pink poinsettias only when the camera hits them just right you know that they are 'fake' plants. Don't get me wrong, I'm not criticizing these movies ... the fact is that my husband and I LOVE them and start watching them in October just as soon as they hit our screen. They're the perfect answer to a long stressful day.

I love that each season the different stations share their holiday line up early on of this season's new movies. There's always the reruns of our favorites, but there's also the new ones. Last week I watched one of this year's new movies (please don't ask me which station it was on, I've been flipping a lot between Hallmark and Lifetime). This particular movie focused on a rich gentleman who was trying to change the way people were thinking during the busy holiday season; he was trying to remind them to slow down and enjoy the moment. He left calling cards that said 'Secret Santa' at the pop up food distribution center, the make-shift toboggan hill at the family center, and with the little boxes of candy that descended from the starry sky with attached iridescent parachutes. All just subtle reminders that someone could provide a nice gesture to a stranger.

The movie got me thinking though (which is probably what the director was hoping for) that not everyone has a spare bank account to fund these big gestures on such a grand scale. But that doesn't mean that we can't spread the same heartfelt holiday cheer on a smaller one-on-one scale. The smaller stuff can often feel more heartfelt and personal. Thanksgiving is coming up this next week and we all have so much to be grateful for; don't think so ... look around you ... things can always be worse. Maybe you're upset that your roof has a small leak; but think about the homeless person that is living in their car. You feel achy from the physical therapy you're going to, be grateful that you still have a hand that is giving you a problem (that would be me ... after a recent arm fracture and 6 weeks in a brace I've started my PT this week ... having the therapist start the process of forcing my wrist to bend once again hurt as bad as the day I fell on my arm, but in the end I am super grateful I did not need surgery).

Start now. Allow yourself to start feeling the holiday spirit; not the stress of going into debt for expensive presents people don't really need. It's okay to smile when you hear a Christmas song playing. Here in my town in Michigan, we got 9.5" of snow in one day in the middle of November (a freak occurrence for sure). The day after I read memes on social media blaming the sudden snowfall on the people that were listening to the Christmas music that was now playing on a few of the radio stations. Really? Can you say Grinch? If you don't want to listen to it, then don't. But don't begrudge the happiness it brings to those that do.

Well guess what? Not only were my husband and I thrilled the day they started playing the festive music, but we've been watching the holiday movies right along. Don't hate me, but we also put up and decorated our Christmas tree last weekend. I like to pace myself (especially since I'm still kind of working with one good hand). We still need to prep our winter village scene and get the outside lights up this weekend, but we'll get there. In the meantime though I don't anticipate our cheeriness causing anyone else any undue harm, lol.

So what can you do as a random act of kindness? Share your happiness with others by smiling and making conversation when you're standing in line at the department or grocery store. Buying yourself a fancy coffee? Extend your good wishes and pay for the person's order behind you. Hold the door open for the elderly gentleman using the walker or the young mother that is having difficulty maneuvering her massive stroller through the front doors of the mall. Move the abandoned shopping cart away from someone's car so they can easily back out (or pull in). Entertain the tired toddler in the shopping cart in front of you while the mother tries to unload her cart and pay for her order. Do whatever you need to do, but follow it up by wishing them a 'Merry Christmas' or 'Happy Holidays' or just wish them a 'good day'.

Small heartfelt gestures can have just as much impact as a box of free candy falling from the sky.

What have you done lately to make someone's day? 

Or better yet, what has a stranger done for you?

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Re-envisioning Your Goals

We all have hopes and dreams; things we've thought about maybe since we were little kids ... getting married, becoming a doctor or an astronaut or an artist or a musician. But how many of us have seen those goals become realities? Some accomplishments are easier to achieve; others require a lengthy journey. When the process takes longer we sometimes need to remind ourselves over and over exactly what we are working towards. Our reasons for wanting to accomplish a certain goal will probably evolve over time and that's okay. The want or need may still be in our heart, but the desire and importance will change as we grow and reset our priorities. When we finally achieve our goal it will be all the sweeter.

Are you still working toward winning the marathon or having your photos displayed in a gallery? Are you still dreaming of finding the 'one' that makes you feel whole? Are you painstakingly working toward getting your own place or establishing your business? Do you continue to strive to raise a family? Do you still desire to write or paint or sing, reaching total strangers with your talents?

Don't give up. Goals don't have deadlines or expiration dates (unless we put them there). If you hope to lose weight before you turn a certain age, that's a good start ... but don't give up if you are 3# short. Re-envision your goal, celebrate what you have accomplished so far and set a new goal. Keep pushing forward. Keep being creative; finding new ways to get there. Hold on to the hopes and dreams you have on your heart. They belong to you and no one can take them away from you.

Life will surely throw us curve balls and try to steer us off course, but it's up to us alone to get back on the horse or the bicycle or the track (whatever works for you). So what if our goals get temporarily postponed? The important thing is to NOT give up on them. Sure, we can make excuses and convince ourselves 'it's just not the right time' or 'some day I will make it happen'. But we can also tell ourselves 'maybe today is the day I take the big step' 'maybe today is the day I have faith in myself and make it happen'.

What is the goal you won't let go of?

What is holding you back from completing it?

Friday, October 11, 2019

When You Take Things For Granted

The world is a busy place. Just look at the traffic, the long lines at the gas station and grocery store, or my daily To Do list. Often we find ourselves tackling our lives and our schedules as if we were on autopilot. Sometimes we don't even think about what we are doing or how we are doing it ... we just do what needs to be done. It's very easy to take things for granted; a computer or car that works when we turn them on, the lights turning on when we flip the switch, or the fridge having food in it when we go to make our lunch.

This week I have been sorely reminded of something I clearly took for granted; having two hands that work. My life is usually pretty busy - sometimes too busy. I've trained my body to get by on little sleep. Sometimes (actually more often than we'd like to admit) we find ourselves not having as much control as we would prefer. 

For about a year I have been attending a weekly Zumba class at my local parks and recreation facility. At first I was leery about joining. I am in my middle 50s and am pretty mobile and active (if working and running errands count). I like to garden, take walks, and do sidewalk chalk drawings with my granddaughters when I can. But would I be up for the challenge of a weekly fitness class? Would I be able to keep up and learn the routines? Not to pat myself on the back, but I think I've done pretty well and been able to hold my own. I look forward to the weekly class, not just for the exercise, but also because it allows me to take one whole hour a week for myself. I actually turn my cell phone off and leave it in my locker.

This week at class, I had a less than graceful moment. My foot stayed in one spot and chose not to follow when the rest of my body went forward with a step in the routine. In a matter of seconds I found myself going down ... HARD ... and landed with an awkward thud on the floor on my arm. But being the trooper that I am, I got up and tried to shake it off (I'll admit I was partially motivated by embarrassment). I managed another 10 minutes and only gave in to the idea of an ice pack at the 'unofficial' water break.

Fast forward to a quick trip to urgent care and a temporary soft cast for an acute intra-articular fracture of the distal radius. Of course as Murphy's Law would have it, it's my right arm and I am right-handed. Next week I will get a new hard cast and I'm not sure yet for how many weeks. Since it's my first cast in 56 years I am hoping I at least get to pick a pretty color.

I can openly say that I never knew how much I needed two hands until I temporarily lost the use of one. Performing my full time job will be slow and frustrating since I work on a computer most of the day. Going grocery shopping and cooking one-handed will be a challenge. Blow drying and styling my hair ... can you say hat? Today I am giving myself permission to wallow in my self-proclaimed pity party. I will get over it. I tackled and beat cancer, so I know that I can conquer this too. I do have perspective - I know there are people dealing with far worse things than my 4-6 week inconvenience. I understand that. Sometimes we need to take the time to show ourselves a little grace.

Was this life's way of giving me a reality check?
Is this God's way of telling me to slow down?

Friday, September 27, 2019

When A Little White Lie Is Not So Little

How many times as a kid did you tell a 'little white lie'? Maybe it was about something as trivial as whether or not you had hopped the fence to get the ball out of your neighbor's back yard or whether or not you had spent as much time on your homework as you claimed you did. You may have thought the topics weren't all that important and you weren't hurting anyone, so why did it matter?

But little white lies aren't always so little. They matter more than you may think. Whether you are a child or a teenager or a young adult or a supervisor at work ... guess what? Lies are still lies. And the more you tell them without thinking about them, the easier it becomes for you to do. 

To me when you tell a little white lie it says you're being lazy and taking the easy way out. Maybe you don't have the answer and don't want to admit it, so you lie about it and convince yourself it's okay. Maybe you don't want to put in the needed time or discipline for something so you lie about it because you don't want to be judged (like if you cheated on your diet). Maybe you come up with excuses for why you don't get some things done. When a professional misses a deadline and makes excuses for why they weren't prepared for the meeting, they're telling a lie. Big or small, they create inconveniences for the other people who were counting on them. They make other people wait needlessly and put them in a position to have to pick up the slack to cover for them. Not very professional, for sure.

I think what some people tend to forget is that little white lies are as transparent as saran wrap. People can usually see right through them. You are basically being rude to the other person and not fooling anyone, except maybe yourself. Never a good thing. Not only are you being rude, but you're being disrespectful which only makes you look bad. Reputations can be tarnished quickly and your integrity will be questioned.

I'm not trying to be the judgmental one here and say who's right and who's wrong or when it's okay to tell a lie and when it's not. I suppose if you have to choose, think about whether your lie will hurt someone's feelings needlessly or whether your little white lie will come at a cost to someone else (especially business related). If someone asks you, 'What do you think of my new haircut?' Think about it; if you don't find it super flattering, don't be blunt and hurtful, maybe soften the blow with a more generic answer of 'Wow, what a change!'. You aren't telling a lie, you're just being considerate.

The next time you find yourself about to tell a needless fib (and we ALL do occasionally), stop and ask yourself 'Why?' Why do you need to? Do you really think you're fooling anyone? Will it be worth it?

Just remember, one small change can move mountains. If you change how you think about yourself and show yourself the respect you deserve, others will surely follow suit.

When was the last time you felt hurt or disappointed because someone lied to you and you knew it as soon as the words left their lips? 

Monday, September 9, 2019

Words Have Power

Words are crucial. I've always said that words, no matter how big or how small, how simple or how extravagant have an enormous amount of power. Words can build a person up just as easily as they can tear someone down. Words can be encouraging and yet words can be destructive. It's great when people take the time to actually think about what they're going to say before they open their mouth.

You've heard the old saying, 'Think twice, speak once'? How true is that? Many times people tend to speak out of reflex; kind of a spur of the moment thing. That's not always good. You could blurt out, 'I love you!' and that would probably be a good thing. But when you speak out of hurt emotions; hatred, grief, or especially jealousy ... well, that's when things can be said that you look back later and maybe wish you hadn't of said them. Words though are like that tube of toothpaste in your bathroom. Once it's out of the tube, you can't shove it back in. Once you choose to say something, good or bad, it's out and you can't get it back. 

You might inadvertently say something mean to someone without intending to. Maybe you're just getting the emotions out. Maybe you think it'll somehow make you feel better. Maybe you're actually trying to have the other person hurt like you're hurting. Sadly, none of these scenarios are beneficial. You won't feel better and being nasty to someone else for no reason won't improve a thing.

The world has been a stressful place lately; people are sick, people are having marital problems, people are experiencing financial burdens, people are looking for jobs, etc. It's normal to look for a reprieve from all the sadness and stress, but not at the expense of other people. It's kind of like the behavior of a bully; you tear someone else down a little in hopes of building yourself up. In the end the bullies only expose themselves for who they really are.

In the midst of all the sadness around us, try to use your words carefully. Take the time to notice people and tell them something nice. Tell them you like their smile. Say 'thank you'. Tell them, 'blue is really your color'. Tell them something positive, something uplifting, or something hopeful. Trust me, we all hear our share of the negative words every day (on the news, on the radio, or in conversation with people). Hearing something positive and just knowing that someone noticed us in a positive way can be really uplifting.

When's the last time you said something nice to a stranger?

When's the last time you said something nice to someone you know?

When's the last time someone said something either 'nice' or 'not so nice' to you? 
How did it make you feel?

Friday, August 23, 2019

Do you spread yourself too thin?

We all have things that we wish we could improve upon; the way we eat, the way we exercise, the way we handle stresses, maybe the way we react in relationships, or the way we do our jobs. At the same time, we all have some things that we do really well. Maybe you're great with your hands; saving you money on household or auto repairs (that's a HUGE thing, I know because my husband is great at making repairs around our house). Perhaps you are great with little kids. I know people who have a green thumb and have glorious gardens that show off their dedication. I know people who are musical, artistic, make others laugh, or are great listeners.

Sometimes being good at something can cause you to spread yourself too thin. Maybe people know how great you are with little kids so they're always asking (or expecting) you to babysit theirs. Maybe you have a hard time saying no, so you always say yes to help them out, but find that you don't have a lot of time left over for the things you want or need to do. 

My son used to have a pick up truck, which often led to people wanting him to tow things, move things, etc. for them. It became more of an expectation, rather than a friend helping out another friend. He had a big heart and always wanted to help everyone else so he would say yes, but when he needed something suddenly they were too busy to reciprocate. 

Sometimes people are great at their jobs; some people even make things look easy. How often does someone at your job ask you to cover for them and do a project because they know you'll get it done faster? Have you ever had someone in your department out sick or on vacation and suddenly others think they'll just drop all of that person's work load on to your desk to do besides your own? That can be really frustrating and overwhelming at the same time. It's great that think you're more than capable, but would also be helpful if everyone worked as a team and divided up the tasks more evenly so that no one person felt that way.

There are a couple of basic questions to ask yourself ...

1) Are you good at something and want to share it with others? There's certainly nothing wrong with that. It's good to find joy in giving our time and talents to others.

2) Do you have a hard time saying no to people? Is it because we want people to like us or appreciate us? Do we sometimes feel that if we say no, maybe they won't?

3) Do you set boundaries for yourself? Do you make sure you leave enough time for yourself?

It's great to have a talent. It's good to want to share that talent to help other people. It's wonderful to have a giving heart and think of the needs of others. But you don't want to spread yourself too thin. If you don't carve out some time for yourself at the same time then you can't give your best to anyone. The biggest thing to remember is to create a healthy balance. If you do that then there will be enough of you to take proper care of yourself and still have enough left over to see to the needs of others.

Where do you find in your life that you spread yourself too thin?

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Finding Just The Right Words

Lately I know a lot of people who are going through 'STUFF'; that's right ... I used capital letters, the stuff is that big and daunting. When you see people (family, friends, co-workers) dealing with the big stuff: divorces, health issues, finances, career choices, responsibilities of all kinds ... it gets overwhelming. Our shoulders were never meant to carry the weight of the world on them (just ask my massage therapist); I know that sounds dramatic, but some days it can feel that way.

When we see people we care about distressed from worry, lack of sleep, and lack of appetite, we in turn worry and empathize with them. We want to fix it or at least make them feel a little better and a little less alone. Sometimes we're too close to people or a situation and we don't know the right words to give them the comfort they need. Or maybe we've said the words before and feel somewhat redundant in saying them again. We don't want what we say to become cliche' or no longer genuine.

Perhaps at times it can be easier to share hope or strength with a stranger. You don't know them but can see and sense that they are overwhelmed or sad. When you don't know them or their situation there are no expectations, no judgment from you or from them. Sometimes a kind gesture or word from a stranger can give you hope and encouragement, because you receive it as just that ... a no strings attached, non-judgmental act of kindness. You feel noticed and not invisible.

We're not always able to fix things the way we'd like for other people. We can't always erase their pain. But there are still things we can do. We can put our phones down when taking a walk. We can take the time to start a conversation with the person we're standing next to in line. We can compliment someone for the color of their blouse or the pattern of their Vera Bradley purse, lol. Just something to remind the other person that you noticed them. Sometimes the casual conversation with the hairdresser or cashier or waiter can feel liberating because it is natural. For that moment we are living 100% in the present. We aren't thinking about the To Do list, the bills that need to get paid, the laundry that is piling up, or whether or not we'll hear back from the job recruiter. Often that spontaneous interaction with a stranger gives us permission for that moment to be present and hit the 'off' switch temporarily for everything else.

Next time you don't think you can find the right words to share with someone, just be in the moment. Look around you; take notice of the weather or the dog that just walked by or the music that was playing in the fast car that drove by with the windows down. Start a conversation based on what is around you and find a way to include the other person; 'What kind of dog is that?' 'Man I wished just once I could drive a car like that ...' 

You being present for someone else (a stranger or someone you know) can give them the reprieve they may need. Think about it and see what difference you can make for someone else. You might be surprised to see that you get something positive out of the moment too.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

What Do You Daydream About?

There is a journal type of book called, "300 More Writing Prompts". My son and daughter-in-law gave me a copy of one larger book, then my daughter gave me this second one. The books are full of ideas, questions, and prompts to get a writer's mind going. A question will be presented followed by plenty of room to journal and jot down creative thoughts and answers (or at least that is the goal, lol). It's a nice tool to get my thoughts brewing.

I recently started scanning through the pages and came across this little nugget to ponder over ... 

'When you close your eyes, 
what do you daydream about?' 

I had to stop and think about this one for a while because, truth be told, my mind is usually on overload. I always have enough going on in my brain; responsibilities, calendars, schedules, stresses, and worries. Sadly, I don't often give myself permission to daydream. But this time I did. What did my daydream look like? Well, I felt an amazing sense of peace. I could hear the soft rumble of the waves on a shore or my wind chimes were gently singing in my backyard. A window was open and a gentle clean breeze was coming into the room. I think I was barefoot, lol. My shoulders felt light, my neck wasn't stiff, my head didn't hurt, and things felt slow ... just sort of relaxed. My mind was clear; I wasn't thinking about anything in particular or planning anything. Hmmm, either that was one heck of a daydream or I had died and gone to heaven. The only thing missing was a puppy or a horse. 

Life can be busy enough all by itself; agendas being dished out to us, deadlines getting moved up, adding a page 2 to our To Do lists, bills coming in the mail that need to be paid, people that need our care, lawns that need to be cut ... you name it. We can easily get so busy or even overwhelmed that we feel we don't have any time leftover to actually go places or do things, but we shouldn't be too busy to at least daydream. Going to that fun, quiet, or energetic place in our mind that makes us smile on the inside costs nothing and doesn't even need to be added to the schedule. Daydreams are free, flexible, and can be just the invigoration we need to get ourselves over the next hurdle or around the next bend in the road.

I'm still feeling the relaxing effects my wind chimes and bare feet had on me when I thought about them.

When you close your eyes, what do you daydream about?

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

It's Easy To Get Paranoid

There are those days when we can only manage to keep up with what is going on in our own lives. Sometimes there just isn't room for anything else. On days like that, please don't ask me to 'remind' you to do something the following week. I'll be doing good to get to bed that night. Lol, there was a night just last week when my day had been long and my mind was already on overload, that when I got up in the morning I realized I had never managed to put my pajamas on. Lucky for me the shorts and t-shirt I was wearing were apparently REALLY comfortable.

Yes, sometimes there is only enough room in our heads (and our hearts) to focus on what we are presently going through. Our brains can't process much else. On days like these it can be easy to get a little paranoid, probably because we are too tired and too overwhelmed to see past our own two feet. We aren't always able to look at the entire scene around us or even fully hear (or comprehend) the words that are being spoken to us. 

Someone may ask you something and you find yourself thinking, 'Why are they asking me that? It's none of their business.' Other times you may have so much on your mind that you think it's about to overflow. Someone you know walks by and doesn't say anything to you and you think to yourself, 'Why aren't they asking me how I am doing? Don't they care? Or do I really give off the image that I have it all together?' 

The truth of the matter is that we are all human. It's easy and natural for us to be consumed with what WE are going through. But guess what? Other people are going through things too. They, too, are consumed with their own lives. I don't think it's that we don't care enough about each other or what we are going through, but rather we are all just as busy as the next person. We can't let ourselves feel alone or disregarded. We can't expect people to know when we want to talk and when we want to be left alone. We can't expect people to read our minds. We need to be our own advocate. If we need some space then it's okay to ask someone, 'I'm sorry I'm exhausted and am really not up to conversation right now, can we try again another time?' If we can't hold our thoughts in any more and really need to talk to someone, then we need to initiate the conversation. It's okay to call, text, or email a friend and say, 'Do you have some time that we could talk? I'd really love the opportunity to get some things off my chest and maybe bounce some ideas around with you.'

None of us should be expected to handle everything on our own. The burdens can become way to heavy if we insist on shouldering them alone. Don't allow yourself to become paranoid or agitated or feeling lonely. Remember that the world does not revolve solely around us, there are other people out there too. When you need someone reach out or reach up. You never have to be alone.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Choose To Be Positive

This morning I listened to a podcast that talked about when we feel that life is unfair. For some people that could be just about any day of the week. Others seem to have the golden life without ever experiencing complications or little bumps in the road ... or at least that's how we choose to perceive them to be. The thing is; you never REALLY know what is going on in someone else's life until you walk in their shoes for a day. They may have us all fooled into thinking they have no stresses and everything is going their way, when in reality they may be having to make some really serious decisions and life isn't quite as cozy and perfect as they would have us all think.

You see, everyone gets dealt an unfair hand once in a while. No one's life is perfect. No one gets a pass. The difference is in how we handle what we are dealt. Do we wallow in it and let the situation or circumstance dictate to us how we will let it affect us? Or do we choose to overcome it? Don't get me wrong, some of life's curve balls can't be taken back and we don't always have the power to change them. Someone will get a cancer diagnosis that is not treatable. Someone will be stuck in an abusive relationship where someone takes charge and leaves the other person feeling vulnerable and helpless. Someone will lose their job leaving them wondering how they will keep a roof over their head or food on their table. Some situations will require us to be humble and ask for help. Some situations will require us to do some heavy soul-searching and digging deep for inner strength.

Sometimes we have things happen that we feel are unfair, but all we can do is accept them and try our best to deal with them. We get to choose whether our proverbial glass is half empty or half full. Our attitude is sometimes the only thing we will have control over. When someone wants to remind you of the possible half empty version, tell them 'No thanks!'.

Whatever you are dealing with right now, know that there WILL be people in your corner ready to support you and lend you a hand or a shoulder to cry on when you need a release. There will also be people who you thought were there for you, but really aren't. And that's okay. It's sad and unfortunate, but ultimately it's okay. We can't tell other people what to feel and we can't always expect them to know what we need if we don't tell them. There may be times when we point blank tell them and they still won't understand; that we cannot change.

I hope that today and every day when you are facing an unfortunate circumstance or a question that needs answered, I hope that you can dig deep and choose to face it with a positiveness that comes from having faith. The faith of knowing that you don't have to go through anything alone. The faith of knowing that there are people who care about you, and the faith that in the end everything will be okay.

When you are faced with a sinking feeling and a weighed down heart, choose to be positive. It won't fix everything, but it will remind you that you are stronger and more resilient than you think. And that is no small thing ... it is pretty darn MIGHTY.

What are you currently go through and what can we do to lighten your load a bit?

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?

Sunday, February 10, 2019

What Is Your Mountain Made Of?

Sometimes I see pictures of people attempting to climb rock walls. I hear about people who scale various mountain ranges to get to the top. Part of me admires their sense of adventure and their agility skills; the other part of me thinks, 'Why in the world would they take such risks?' Is it an adrenaline rush? Is it them trying to conquer their fears? Do they even have any fears? Human nature can be a really interesting thing to try to understand; TRY being the key word. I don't think I will ever fully understand why people do some of the things that they do.

What things are there in your life right now that feel like the mountain you are trying to conquer?

  • a struggling relationship; whether yours or someone close to you (sometimes watching someone you love struggle can be pretty hard on you)
  • an unexpected illness that you're being forced to deal with 
  • a transition of some sort; financial perhaps or a career choice
  • dealing with elder care
What has rocked your boat or turned your world (as you know it) upside down?

What effects is it having on you? Does it have you feeling overwhelmed? Have you lost your appetite or have you snacking a little too much because you're nervous? Are you laying awake at night worrying about all the what ifs and playing out all the possible scenarios in your mind? Are you worrying about things that you know you have very little control over? Do you find yourself wishing that if you only polished your crystal ball just a bit more, that maybe you'd find some of the answers you're so desperately looking for?

In a perfect world we could just Google our answers, but that's not reality. We can't just type our situation into our phone or ask Alexa to fix things. We need to deal with whatever life throws at us head on, with every ounce of inner strength and courage we can muster up. Sure, there are going to be days (lots of them) when we feel like we are being non-productive; taking one step forward and two steps back. But if we can find a way to turn our weaknesses (our fears, our doubts, and our unanswered questions) and turn them in to our strengths ... we may just get where we need to be.

We need to ask ourselves what it is that we really want and what exactly is holding us back. Do we have any control left in the situation? Do we have options? If we do, we need to go for it. Even if we think our chances are slim, I think it's always better to fight for ourselves than to give in and sit by waiting for someone or something else to dictate our future to us.

What's the worst that can happen? We try, but we fail? That's okay. It means we learn from our mistakes and our misfortunes and get back up and try again tomorrow. We talk to whoever will listen, we listen for ideas and suggestions, and we keep trying. We don't give up.

Decide what your mountain is made of and then decide if you can go through, over it, or around it. The important thing to remember is that rock wall climbers and those that tackle the mountain tops are generally never alone. Someone usually has their back. And someone has yours; your family, your friends, and our God.

Go for it ... you've got this! Let us know what we can do to help.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Don't Judge

How often do you feel invisible, manipulated, or without a voice? There are so many times I witness people being bullied or told what to do; whether it's when watching the TV news, reading an online article, or standing in line at the grocery store. Some people like to feel superior, but to do so they need to make someone else feel inferior first. They feel they need to shout and talk loudly at people in order to be heard, even when they are standing right next to them. They're trying to manipulate the situation. When climbing up on to their pedestal to be seen, they need to push others out of the way or down in order to get where they feel they should be.

For all of the cruelty I see in the world; the hatred, the jealousies, and the ignorance ... I also see hope. I see people holding doors open for strangers, I see people giving hugs to show their support, and I see people stopping to listen and pay attention to people. I prefer to hang on to the hope. It helps me to maintain my faith in a world that is currently full of power trips and insecurities.

Let's take a minute and focus on the ignorance. Being ignorant doesn't necessarily make a person dumb, but it does mean they are uninformed. They don't have all the answers; they haven't stopped to look at the whole picture, yet they've managed to find a way to unfairly place blame or judgment on someone or a situation. 

How many times have you been criticized for something you weren't even part of? How many times have you worked hard at something only for someone to generalize what you do as if even a monkey to do it. They make unfair assumptions without ever knowing you or even what you do. We need to remember to NOT judge what's on the surface, especially when we don't have a clue what's beneath it or behind it. Knowledge is a great thing. It enables us to be more understanding, more empathetic, and more aware. Sure, it may take us a little bit more time to become informed, but I'd consider that time well spent if it helped me to not be ignorant or make false judgments.

As usual, it's just my two cents worth of wisdom, but wisdom comes from experience and learning life lessons the hard way.


Saturday, January 12, 2019

Protecting Your Spirit

We are now twelve days into a the new year. Many have successfully set goals for themselves. Many have already broken their resolutions. Where do you stand? Are you starting out the year knowing what you want and where you want to be?

Each year I begin by hoping for clarity; trying to decide exactly where I see myself and most importantly, what will it take for me to get there. What kind of effort and commitment will I need to garner up? Do I see myself ten pounds lighter? Do I see deeper and growing relationships with my friends? Do I see new projects on my horizon?

Lately, what I've been striving for is reclaiming my strength. I see myself stronger; in body, mind, and spirit. That's no easy task, for sure. It's a very complicated process. I need to take better care of my body. I need to succeed more at reducing stress. And most importantly, for me, is learning to nurture my spirit. My spirit is what drives me more than anything else. It's that voice inside of me that pushes me to try harder, to walk further, to be more creative, and to learn to trust my instincts more. There are always going to be more voices telling us why we can't or shouldn't do something, that we aren't good enough, and that we don't have anything valuable to offer. We need to learn to drown those voices out more with the voice of strength that lies inside each one of us. Some days the voice of my spirit is nothing more than a whisper, but some days it wants to shout loud enough to shake the walls. Those are the days when I have to stop and pay attention.

It's okay to try to achieve things that other people think are silly or impossible. It's okay to go after what makes you happy and whole. I'm learning that sometimes it's even okay to put yourself first.

Putting yourself first ... that's the trickiest of them all, especially if you have relationships with other people. Being a wife - I try to be supportive to my husband. Being a mom (and it doesn't matter how old your kids are) - we worry about them. Being part of a care giving team - there are always lots of unexpected stresses. Being an employee - you try to always put your best effort forward. There are always the same number of hours in a day, but sometimes the demands we're dealt exceed the amount of time we have, leaving nothing left over for us. Our spirit needs to be supported as well; I'm discovering that the weaker my spirit is, the less I have to give to everyone else.

So ... my goal for this year? To improve my body, challenge my mind, and protect my spirit.

How are your goals going so far? 
Anything I can do to be supportive?