celebration · daily life · gratitude · love

Capture Your Life: Get In The Picture

with my dad, circa 1974

I am a mom. And as the mom, I do many things others might forget. One such thing? Taking pictures. I am the official family photographer.

My husband and son often complain when I whip out the camera and proceed to snap shot after shot after shot after shot (I take a lot). But what they do not realize is this: they will thank me someday. Some day when one of us is gone, we will be grateful for the moments captured.

Today is my father’s birthday. And on his birthday, I look at photos of him. I go back in search of what I cannot remember. It is a difficult couple of days – August 17th his birthday and August 20th the day he died. It is a strange stretch of time where I celebrate and mourn.

There are many regrets that follow a loss so big and wide. I was only eighteen when he died. Still technically a kid – so full of my own worries and focused on my own dreams to realize and understand how fleeting and precious every moment was with him. But one obvious regret? I wish I had more pictures to help me remember him.

The year of his death – 1988 – was in the pre-technology, electronic boom. Yes, we had Walkmans, boomboxes, and Polaroid and disposable cameras. But access to photography was still a haphazard and annoying process. You had to have the camera. You had to remember to bring the camera. You had to take the actual picture. You had to bring it somewhere to have it developed. And finally, you had to go back and pick up the photos.

I feel very fortunate to even have the photos I do. His childhood was on a small-town farm and the few pictures taken during that time are monochromatic, rare, and only covering a couple of years. Later, there are snapshots of his life as a husband and father and farmer but again, there are not many.

When he died, I believed he would always be here – in person – so I could physically hug him, love him, and see him up close. I think about him every day and often wonder what he would look like as a thriving 76-year-old man rather than a timeless 47-year-old. He was still in his prime, and I instinctively imagine him much the same – strong, active, and ever-handsome, with those sparkling, mischievous eyes.

I am left to create my own image of him and carry it as a memory.

This. This is why I take so many photos and selfies.

I want my son to look back and say “I remember this day.” But more importantly, I want him to remember me. And his father. And the rest of his family. And his friends. I want him to see how we were then and every time after. I do not want him to have the fear of forgetting the people he loves.

So to all you out there – the ones who stand behind the camera rather than in front of it – get in the picture. I guarantee even the most horrible selfie will one day be cherished because you were there. Stop worrying about taking the perfect photo. Stop imagining how many likes and comments you will get on social media. Focus on making an image perfect for your memory. No one else needs to see them. In truth, that is how much of life should be. Live the moments for you rather than an online audience.

Capture the people you love, your moments, your life. Say cheese!


END NOTE: In a digital age, it is easy to store photos on a cloud, computer, or phone. I suggest you get those photos into print form. And once you do, put those actual pictures into an honest-to-goodness photo album. (I use THIS ALBUM – it looks like book spines on my shelf!) I also recommend writing dates, names, and places on the back of each picture before filing. I promise you will be happy you did. One of my favorite things to do is look through these physical albums with my son. He loves seeing pictures of milestones and vacations and everyday life. And the moment is made more special snuggling on a couch and touching fingertips to real images rather than swiping left on a screen.


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~Inspired ME, Joyful BE

acceptance · letting go · relationships · self

Learning To Accept Rather Than Expect

I hate when someone hurts my feelings, but I hate it even more when I let them.

Usually, I have a positive attitude toward people. I look for the good. I believe they mean well. I embrace differences and imperfections. And above all, I try not to judge.

But sometimes, I admit that I am overly sensitive.

Recently someone invited a group of friends to a gathering, and I was not included. No big deal, right? Probably a simple oversight. But in my heart, I knew I was intentionally excluded. For reasons I will not go into here, it was obvious this person chose everyone else but me.

At first I thought I was reading into things too much. I tried to ignore it, forget it. But then, I became upset and angry. And the more upset and angry I became, the more frustrated I became that I even cared.

You see, I make an effort to not allow others to influence my emotions and thoughts about myself. Yet, I am human. My interactions with people lead to the creation of deeper connections and bonds. And with those connections and bonds, I form attachments and feelings toward them. I want to like others and be liked in return.

In reality, I was not upset or angry or frustrated … I was hurt. Hurt that someone did not include me. Hurt that I tried to befriend them, and they did not want me in their circle. Hurt that I was not cool enough to be considered friend material.

So why do I even care about this? Because when someone rejects who I am, I begin to believe there is something wrong with me. I wonder why I am not good enough. I question my worth.

The exclusion itself does not bother me … allowing someone else to control my perception of myself does.

And so, I allowed the hurt to happen and then I allowed it to leave.

Others do not validate who I am as a person. Only I can do that. I do not need people in my life who do not value what I have to offer. There are plenty of family and cherished friends who appreciate me. I refuse to surround myself with someone who (intentionally or not) makes me feel like I am less than. I am more than enough.

Everyone does not have to like me. In truth, I do not like everyone I meet. That is why some people are drawn to each other and some are not. I will, however, continue to be kind and friendly toward this person because that is my nature. I will smile and chat and enjoy our time together because I do like them.

But in those moments I will remember: liking myself more is what matters. And I will not surrender that power to anyone.

The takeaway? Too often we expect people to treat us as we would treat them. Expectations in relationships are not necessarily a bad thing. It is good to establish boundaries and set standards. The trouble comes when we invest in a desired result. If an interaction does not meet our idea of what should happen, it is easy to become disillusioned. We turn the failure of a preferred outcome back onto ourselves, as if we are somehow the problem or to blame.

We have no control. There is no surefire way to know how anyone will behave or what will happen. So the best solution may be this: stop trying.

Stop trying to predict what others will say or do.
Stop trying to guess what someone else is thinking.
Stop trying to examine every word spoken or move made.
Stop trying to micro-manage relationships.
Stop trying to do the impossible.

WHEN WE LEARN TO ACCEPT RATHER THAN EXPECT,
WE WILL HAVE FEWER DISAPPOINTMENTS.
~ unknown


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~Inspired ME, Joyful BE

acceptance · daily life · gratitude

Stop Wishing Your Life Away

I am still on summer hours but the countdown to school has begun. My little family has two weeks left before our strict schedule officially kicks in. That means there are only fourteen more days to ignore bedtime, sleep in late, linger over meals, and enjoy whatever life brings.

My husband is already setting up weeks upon weeks of work travel for this fall, and my son is back to evening baseball practices. We have finalized appointments, shopped for locker supplies, and entirely revamped a middle school wardrobe. And amidst all of the preparation, I feel sad.

The end of summer always saddens me.

In my mind, it signals a loss of freedom. Our family will again be held hostage by to-do lists, alarm clocks, homework, and busy nights. Rather than spend carefree days together, the three of us will become proverbial ships passing in the night as we hurry through meals and rush out the door for games, practices, and other obligations.

Summer is what dreams are made of, a season where everything seems possible and the fun never ends.

It is easy to become caught in this trap: the one where we wish for a special phase in life to last. Often it seems the good times – the really marvelous moments where our hearts are simultaneously filled with joy and peace – are too fleeting.

Much like a summertime memory, we want to catch the best days, collect them as if they were fireflies to be bottled in a jar. We hope to hold them close so we might experience the magic again and again. We want more – to not only capture the moments but relive them. We wish the happiness could last forever.

But we all know nothing is forever.

Just imagine if those happy moments were never-ending. Would we look forward to them? Would we appreciate them? Would we even notice them? Probably not.

The occasions, vacations, milestones, and other unique times in life give us something to work toward. We eagerly anticipate their arrival. When they do occur, we value them. We celebrate their existence. They provide an escape from the reality of daily demands, an opportunity to recharge, a reminder of why the hard days are worth it.

Maybe the answer is simple: we should stop waiting for something special. Every day – no matter how ordinary – is reason enough to celebrate.

Rather than complain or fuss over our hectic schedules this school year, I intend to embrace the crazy. Yes, it will be more stressful. Relaxing and uneventful? Forget about those. There will be fewer quiet moments and more responsibilities. But they are mine. All mine. The reality is that I have an active son who thrives on competition. I have a hardworking and amazing husband. I love them. I love what I do. I love it all.

I will stop wishing my life away. Because in all honesty, my dreams have already come true.


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~Inspired ME, Joyful BE

daily life · letting go · simplicity

What We Really Need

I am smack dab in the middle of a family vacation and while I enjoy the quiet moments and downtime with my family, there is a voice in the back of my head screaming I NEED TO 

… set up two orthodontic appointments, make a list for back to school shopping, clean out my inbox, have the oil changed and car washed, write 3 blog posts, finalize a book outline, get back on a full-time writing schedule, arrange a doctor visit, organize my work files, I NEED TO … I NEED TO … I NEED TO!

sigh

Family. Friends. Work. School. Home. Health. Hobbies. These days our plates are so full – overflowing with tasks and responsibilities – it is easy to become overwhelmed, frustrated, and even distracted.

Personally, I do not mind having things to do and a sense of purpose. But when they infringe on my family time, my fun time, my chance-to-relax time, my VACATION where I am supposed to get-away-from-it-all time … I become seriously annoyed.

These days with my husband, son, and extended family are fleeting. They are irreplaceable moments which might become memories. I refuse to allow everyday demands to taint them. I NEED TO …

… focus on my son’s smile when he tells a silly joke, squeeze my husband’s hand a little tighter when we walk side by side, cheer louder as we watch our favorite major league baseball team, linger longer over a delicious dinner and relaxing glass of wine, savor the memory of our recent family reunions.

WE ALL NEED TO …

seek to experience and explore new things
break away from daily demands whenever possible
put down our phones and other technology
give the people we love our full attention
make time to treat ourselves – often

Life NEEDS to be lived on our terms rather than directed by duty. Believe me, the to-dos will still be there – if and whenever we get back to them. The moments, however, will not.


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~Inspired ME, Joyful BE

celebration · gratitude · second chances

What Would You Do With 5 Extra …

What would you do with five extra … seconds, minutes, hours, days, years of life?

Today is important. Yes, every day is special, but July 25th carries an extra layer of special.

Five years ago I was wheeled out of surgery after undergoing a double mastectomy and axillary lymph node dissection to remove 21 nodes from my right arm. It was not the end of my battle against breast cancer but in my mind, that day resonated a sense of finality.

My oncologist suggested an alternative treatment where I underwent four months of chemotherapy followed by preventative surgery. So resting in my hospital room meant I had overcome the last big hurdle. There would still be weeks of recovery and more than six months of additional injections, shots, appointments, and scans. But to me, the moment my surgeon came into my room to say he was pleased with the result, I felt the beam of his smile akin to a light at the end of the proverbial tunnel.

And when he called days later to personally tell me the pathology looked clear, clean, and free of cancer, all I heard was free.

I was free. For the first time that year, cancer did not hold me as its prisoner.

In the aftermath of recovery, I felt re-born. Everything – people, places, experiences – seemed new. My body was forever changed and in the process of rebuilding itself. Energy was limited and fatigue would forever remain a problem. And there were a multitude of other side effects I had to manage and again, many linger. But none of that mattered, especially in the beginning.

I was alive. I was here.

For those who do not know: the five-year mark for any cancer survivor is a really big deal – as in milestone, celebration kind of deal. It is a term doctors and researchers use to compare cases and treatments and ultimately provide statistical prognoses to patients. It holds no guarantee other than to serve as a benchmark – a number to shoot for as a survivor and practitioner – nor does it promise complete remission or mean the cancer will not return.

But reaching five years of survival is this: a gift.

I realize I am fortunate to have time that others who fought just as hard or even harder do not. In many ways, I am living these moments for them as much as for myself.

So, what about the years in between? What came after? Five years of gratitude.

I cannot say that I changed the world in those years, but I definitely changed my world.

FIVE YEARS AGO, I VOWED TO …
love more than hate
laugh more than cry
accept more than judge

SINCE THEN, I HAVE …
told myself yes more than no
said no to certain things so I might say yes to something better
held onto what matters and released what does not
surrounded myself with situations and people who bring out the best in me
found peace in being alone and sought solitude whenever possible
refused to engage in drama or hold grudges
spent my energy on positive, uplifting relationships
realized there is far more out of my control than in
embraced realities and challenges rather than deny them
accepted and celebrated imperfections in myself and others
focused on what I can actually influence or change
counted blessings more than problems
discovered even the gray days were beautiful
snuggled my son every chance I got
spent more time with my husband
traveled and explored extensively with my little family
published (5) additional books and created this blog project
learned to let go of people, things, negativity, the ridiculousness
worked every day to create and maintain the life I envisioned
became spell-bound and amazed at the crazy beauty of it all

In honesty, I have not made the most of every moment – it is impossible to do so. But I have approached my moments differently. I am more aware, attuned to the fact any one might become a memory for my husband, my son, or myself. And I readily admit I am not always a perfect person to those around me. I am human. I face disappointment, discontent, frustration, anger, and every other emotion. But when I do, I not only allow them, I encourage them.

I do not seek perfection. I simply seek peace, knowledge that I have not wasted these days. Because in truth, I do not know if I will get another five – of anything. Sometimes life gives us a second chance but more often it does not.

Make the most of your one chance. Live your moments. Love everything.


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~Inspired ME, Joyful BE

acceptance · renewal · self · simplicity

When You Hit A Wall, Lean Against It

This summer has been a lot tougher than I care to admit. For although we are officially on summer break, much of it hasn’t really felt like summer or a break.

My son loves sports – as in he could practice, play, watch, analyze, and research all day. And because he loves sports, he loves participating in a variety of camps. I register him for some because they are worth the time and cost. They also provide an opportunity to hang with friends, be coached at a different level than during the school year, and simply have fun.

And so it is that my son and I have very different views of summer. He prefers warp speed. I prefer slow and steady. He wants to compete. I want to relax. He likes places to go. I like no schedule. He seeks to be challenged. I seek serenity.

Of course I believe immense value comes from activities and experiences. But I also believe occasional boredom, having absolutely nothing planned, and stepping away from the crazy can be equally rewarding.

Any moment – grand or not – can become a cherished memory.

My struggle? Surviving cancer often makes me believe I should hold onto everything with a grateful heart while at the same time I should let go of whatever is a waste of time and energy and just … live.

I want every moment to matter – both for him and for me – which is why I often do things I do not necessarily want to do. As a parent, my son’s happiness automatically becomes my happiness. In a strange way I have to do things I do not want to do in order to get what I ultimately want … joy in the everyday.

The problem? For the first five weeks of summer we were on a tight schedule. And while I loved seeing my son do the things he enjoys, I tried to do too much. Even worse, when I reached my limit, I (stubbornly) kept going.

I HIT A WALL.

The solution? Pause. Reflect. Remember the magic summer can bring. I will make the most of the next five weeks. Our little family has already enjoyed one vacation – glorious days exploring, relaxing, and simply being together. Up next is another trip filled with family and fun. And in between we will do a little of something and a whole lot of nothing.

I AM LEANING AGAINST THE WALL.

Sometimes we must give in to the demands, feel overwhelmed, and push ourselves to get through busy or difficult days. And other times, we might have to say yes when we really want to say no, especially if it comes to pleasing the people we love. The key is realizing when we have reached maximum capacity. Yes, it takes strength to keep up with it all, but it takes even greater strength to release the guilt, take care of ourselves, and break away.

If you have hit a wall, lean against it.


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~Inspired ME, Joyful BE

bookshelf

Read FREE: Love Everything

If you are a follower of Inspired ME, Joyful BE, I thank you! My hope is you found some inspiration and joy and that you will continue to share in my journey.

This project is still in its infancy (according to website standards) and I will say, it is one of the most difficult and rewarding things I have undertaken as a writer. It has cemented old relationships, created new ones, and revealed sides of myself I never knew existed. In short, it has proven what I have always known and appreciated: we are always learning, ever-changing, and quite amazing.

To celebrate the half-year mark, I organized to-date posts into an eBook. And for TODAY ONLY, it is FREE to download at Amazon!

LOVE EVERYTHING is a compilation of blog posts from the Inspired ME, Joyful BE website. PART ONE involves self-reflection, looking within, and digging deep. By learning about ourselves and ultimately accepting the reality of what we find, we cannot help but become inspired. PART TWO encourages a positive outlook, living in the moment, and being perfectly imperfect. Immense joy can come from letting go of the negative and embracing the trials along with the blessings.

Start at the beginning and read through the entire book or search the contents for a topic or post title that appeals to you. Discover what inspires and brings joy. Then do more of it. Love everything.

DOWNLOAD FREE COPY

No Kindle? No problem. Read any title via the FREE Kindle Reading App at Amazon!

Offer expires end of day 7.12.17.

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~Inspired ME, Joyful BE