acceptance · celebration · family · home · letting go

A Perfectly Imperfect Holiday

It is far too easy to fall into the trap. You know the one. Cozy and festive ideas taunt us from magazine articles, advertisements, television shows, store displays, social media, lifestyle blogs, movies, and more. And we believe we must do them – all of them – if we are to experience the perfect holiday.

I have been there. I tried to design the artsiest card, give the coolest present, bake the yummiest cookie, decorate the prettiest tree, serve the tastiest meal, create the warmest memories. Sometimes I succeeded. But many times I failed – not in celebrating the season, but in reaching my unattainable goal of perfection.

My pursuit of the perfect holiday did not leave me euphoric or in a perpetual state of joy. It left me feeling inadequate (I could never reach the ridiculous standards I set), frustrated (my constant efforts to keep up made me anxious and ever-reaching), exhausted (I never stopped moving and neglected to care for myself), and disconnected (my quest clouded my ability to be in the moment).

And when I reflect on those years where I tried so hard, I realize how much I missed. In my hurried and determined haze, I lost precious time with people and the chance to create cherished memories. There was so much more I could have done. More fun. More laughter. More hugs. More love. More conversations. More connection. More time. More everything.

I stopped the frantic search for what could never be found.

I let go of unrealistic expectations so I might hold onto what mattered.

I chose to celebrate perfect holidays in the most imperfect way. Here’s how:

1. STOP COMPARING, START ENJOYING: We are meant to be different and stand out so why do we try so hard to mimic what other people are doing? Why do we believe their ideas are better than our own? This is your holiday to enjoy, not someone else’s. There is no right or wrong way to celebrate – find what works for your family, schedule, finances, and beliefs. Appreciate the world you create rather than one manufactured by another.

2. LOSE GUILT, FIND MEMORIES: Some people like to go all out for the holiday while others prefer something more low-key and simple. You should not be ashamed or embarrassed if you do not celebrate to the extent of another person. Discover what makes your family appreciate the season whether that be filling every second with activities or spending quiet moments at home. The holidays will be more memorable if you do them your way.

3. RELEASE FANTASY, EMBRACE REALITY: Often the greatest moments and memories are created when we do not organize or plan them. There will be crooked ribbons and wrinkled gift wrap on packages, awkward family conversations over dinner, houses that never seem clean enough, and burnt out lights on the tree. Messes are inevitable. Expect them. Welcome them. Making room for the chaos will ease the stress when troubles arise.

We all know perfection is a myth and yet we still try to achieve it. Why? Because we want the magic.

What we fail to realize is the magic is already there. It does not come from having the finest of anything or being the greatest at everything. The magic comes from within – our homes, our hearts, ourselves.

The best we can do is often what others want and all we need.

This season, find your joy. Make memories. Make moments. Make merry.


Photo by freestocks.org on Unsplash

celebration · daily life · gratitude

Giving Thanks

Now is a perfect time to pause, reflect, and celebrate.

PAUSE to enjoy the season.
REFLECT on the blessings given.
CELEBRATE those who matter most.

Gratitude is not a one-time event nor should it be reserved for only one day. Find the goodness. Big or small, it is there – in the everyday.

Be awake. Be alive. Give thanks with a grateful heart.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!


HOLIDAY HOURS:  I am slowing down for the rest of the year so I can be present with my two favorite blessings – my husband and son. I will post and respond to correspondence, but please be patient with any delays. #beinthemoment #makememories  ~JL

letting go · renewal · self · simplicity

The Bright Side Of Going Dark

These past months have been difficult. Not in the crisis-horrible-things-happened kind of difficult. But more in the way of stressful.

Fall is always a busy time for us. My husband resumes heavy work travel, I resume full-time writing, and my son resumes a hectic school and sports schedule. I know I am not special. Everyone, especially parents, struggles with the daily demands of basic living. But the thing I know is this: I can manage extreme multitasking and chaotic days for a while (and thrive!), but there always comes a breaking point. One where I must say no more.

This is when I go dark.

When many people think of the dark, they become anxious and scared of the unknown, fearing what might lurk in the shadows. Others may see it as a depressing state or one where negativity lingers. It is different for everyone but for me, it means stepping back.

I view it as a way to reset.

1. DISCONNECT SO WE CAN RECONNECT
Texts, phone calls, emails, messaging, news feeds, social media, surfing online, television, movies, gaming. We become so caught up in the “keeping up” it can overwhelm and consume precious time that could be better spent elsewhere.

GO DARK: When staying current on news, in touch with family and friends, and up-to-date on my author and writer tasks takes a toll, I step out of the virtual world and into the real one. I go dark online by reducing social media logins, unsubscribing to unnecessary blogs and news feeds, and powering down devices. Decreasing an online presence and replacing it with in person interactions or conversations not only improves relationships, it nourishes the soul. It also allows for activities we love or time to care for ourselves. A few extra unplugged minutes every day can change everything.

2. SAY NO NOW SO WE CAN SAY YES LATER
We all feel guilt for not doing enough – for our family, friends, home, job, church, school, community, ourselves. And thanks to external pressures by society, we begin to believe something is wrong with us, that we are somehow failing when we aren’t doing all the “things.”

GO DARK: I try to weigh the value of each new task or activity and seek to prioritize. But when I become caught up in the doing, I pause and ask what really matters. I go dark socially by putting family needs first, being realistic about my ability as an introvert, and ignoring the fear of missing out. Simplifying schedules by keeping the important things leaves more room for real appreciation and a sense of peace. Being in the moment might seem like a luxury but it is definitely within reach. We can do it all – just not all at once. And if we cannot do it all, let something go so we might fully embrace something else.

3. LET GO SO WE CAN HOLD ON
Too often we place importance on external things – big and small – regardless of their true worth in our lives. It is easy to fall into the trap of making lists and intricate plans or acquiring items in an effort to reach some unrealistic fantasy of how things should be.

GO DARK: I cannot do everything well and when I try, something inevitably suffers. With the holidays and sports ramping up, I know I must release the image of perfection. I go dark personally by freeing myself from unattainable goals, eliminating unnecessary tasks and clutter, and focusing on what brings true joy. By ridding ourselves of the excess we create space for meaningful relationships, cherished memories, and peaceful moments. Strive for imperfection. Decide what goes and what stays. Realize letting go does not mean doing without. Yes, some things might be gone forever but what matters will remain.

It is important to know when to retreat into the dark. And when you do, go willingly and with purpose. Reclaim your time, rediscover who you are and what you want life to be. Do not be afraid to turn out the lights because when you turn them back on, life will shine brighter than ever before.


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~Inspired ME, Joyful BE


Photo by John Silliman on Unsplash

acceptance · letting go · obstacles · relationships · self

Expect Less, Live More

SOMETIMES WE EXPECT TOO MUCH

from OTHERS – because we want people to treat us as we would treat them or believe they should think and behave a certain way.

from OURSELVES – because we think we are overly capable or are unable to recognize our limits and become self-critical when we falter.

If the realities of life do not match the expectations in our mind, it is natural to feel:

ANGER (as if we have somehow been disrespected by another or believe we have completely failed ourselves)
RESENTMENT (because others are not giving us what we need or we are unable to fill a void)
FRUSTRATION (when people are not doing what we want or we are not reaching our own objectives)
HURT (if someone does not seem to care about us or we do not care about ourselves)
REJECTION (the belief we are not good enough for others or doubt our personal worth)
FEAR (because we planned for one outcome and now have no idea how to cope with another)
HOPELESS (if nothing goes our way, our efforts begin to appear useless)
DEPRESSED (when everything seems to come easier to others, we believe we are inferior or at fault)

Setting goals and following dreams is vital to creating a purposeful life. And quite often, holding onto hope is the only thing to keep us moving forward in the most difficult of times. But there are enough challenges along the way – imagining or manufacturing problems that do not exist makes everything harder than it needs to be.

Life is never predictable – not for anyone. And we cannot control anything – or anyone.

We must allow others to be unique, true to who they are, and living a life independent of external wants or desires. We also need to give ourselves the same courtesy.

The next time you find yourself upset because things did not go as planned…

PAUSE – BREATHE – REFLECT – SEEK TO UNDERSTAND

If someone has disappointed you, remind yourself it is not intentional or a personal affront. We are human. We make mistakes. We are individuals free to live as we choose.

If you have disappointed yourself, remember it is not the end of all things. In fact, it could signal a new beginning. Be patient. Be compassionate. Be willing to let go or start again.

Bad experiences can carry a hidden good. An opportunity to become more aware – of others or yourself. A much-needed break or relief from unnecessary worry or stress. Or perhaps a second chance to right whatever is wrong. A failed expectation may be nothing more than the universe sending a sign: This is Life, happening as it should.


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~Inspired ME, Joyful BE


Photo by Dawid Zawiła on Unsplash

daily life · family · home · letting go · simplicity

10 Rules For A Simplified Space

My earliest memory of when I got it was when we needed to move out-of-state – fast. This was not our first move nor would it be our last, but it was the one that taught me to let go.

My husband and I were leaving behind our first “grown up” home, a newly built sprawling two-story. We tended, loved, and spoiled it. We bought items to decorate and entertain, things we thought would be great just in caseif we ever, or when we might. And in those weeks leading to the actual move, I realized we had too much. I began a major purge, moving methodically and ruthlessly from room to room until I had bags and piles of items to sell or donate.

And once we moved into our new home with the things we actually used and settled in with little stress, I noticed the satisfaction (and peace) that comes with letting go of excess.

That was almost fifteen years ago, but it took awhile to realize I had become a minimalist {by definition, a person who favors a moderate approach to the achievement of a set of goals}. I follow a strategic, yet flexible plan to managing my surroundings. I am not obsessive nor unrealistic, and I am far from perfect.

I have simply learned to be aware.

My closets and drawers are not overflowing. My cupboards and pantry are not disorganized. I do not have to search for an item. In fact, I know everything that is in my house at this exact moment. I knew I had mastered my version of minimalism when a friend visited our home, looked around the garage, and asked, “Where is all of your stuff?”

I simply try to minimize clutter while maximizing the bulk of my time. And while there are countless guides out there (from which I gleaned my favorite tips), these are the steadfast habits that work for me.

MY HOUSE RULES
1. ONE IN, ONE OUT: Whenever something comes into the home via shopping, gifts, or random acquisition, I ask A) do I want to keep it? B) if I keep it, what can go? If option B, I seek an even trade (i.e. a shirt for a shirt) but any item will do. THE GOAL: Create a balanced living space and prevent things from piling up.

2. MEMORY LANE: Family members often request I take or store something of sentimental value. If I do not have use or room for it, I am unafraid to say no. However, I will take things I can display every day as a reminder of a loved one or put to good use. THE GOAL: Do not confuse the memory of an item with its value.

3. PLACE FOR ALL, ALL IN ITS PLACE: When I bring items (groceries, purchases, etc.) into the home, I put them away as soon as possible. As for paperwork, mail, or receipts, I either throw, file, or note to follow-up before the clutter overwhelms. THE GOAL: Put items in their rightful place. If there isn’t a place, create one.

4. LIKE THINGS TOGETHER: I group similar items in the same area (all sport items in the garage, all jackets in one closet). This system develops a sense of what I have and what I use. It also avoids duplication and simplifies tasks like shopping and cleaning. THE GOAL: Ease the task of managing your space.

5. OUT OF SIGHT, OUT OF MIND: I have a perpetual donate/sell pile in my basement where unwanted items go. If I am unsure about something, I put it in the pile. Often I forget I have it and willfully let go. I donate/sell twice a year and when I sort the pile, I rarely reclaim an item. THE GOAL: Give yourself time to let things go.

6. ONE AT A TIME: If you are hesitant to get rid of things or unsure where to begin, go slow. Look for one item to trash, donate, or sell each day. Or try One Room A Month or One Area Per Week. Work at your own pace but keep it measurable. THE GOAL: Break the process into pieces to make it less daunting.

7. 80/20 CLOTHES: The idea? We wear 20% of our wardrobe 80% of the time. Lose the items that do not fit, need repair, are impractical, do not match your current lifestyle, or still have tags. Simplify your mornings, re-sell designer brands, and regain your confidence. THE GOAL: Wear what makes you feel good.

8. FAMILY AFFAIR: My husband has learned to appreciate the fact that we do not have a lot of clutter. But, I have also learned to allow him to let go at his own pace. Forcing someone to minimize their surroundings never works. It only makes them resentful. THE GOAL: Share strategies, be patient, and appreciate any cooperation.

9. CHILD’S PLAY: Dealing with children is a delicate balancing act. Kids tend to keep and hoard it all. They become possessive and believe everything is valuable. I have worked around this by focusing on and teaching my son the first rule of One In, One Out because even trades are the easiest to explain and maintain. Other things like his bobble-head collection and baseball cards are not subject to the rules, however. I never pressure him to get rid of something he treasures. Young kids may not grasp the concept so ease into it. Older kids should be able to understand the meaning of letting go vs. holding onto things they love. Guide their decisions but give them final say. Do not openly question their choices and be sure not to press them to give up too much. In our family, we go through certain items like clothing at set times (seasonally) so he knows what to expect. Toys and games are done over holiday break when he can take time to organize his space the way he likes. THE GOAL: Encourage lifelong habits while giving them the freedom to choose.

10. COLLECT EXPERIENCES, NOT THINGS: Allowing material items to consume valuable time, attention, and energy leaves little room for the activities and people we love. If you find yourself overwhelmed by the task, seek the help of a therapist, professional organizer, or friend. THE GOAL: Have stories to tell, not stuff to show.

It is never too late to start (or start over), and establishing steady habits now will make it easier in the long run. Even the smallest change can reap huge rewards. Try mastering one rule, then another, and another. Seek to replace the things with people and activities that bring you joy. Realize how living with less can lead to so much more.


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~Inspired ME, Joyful BE


Photo by Soroush Karimi on Unsplash

acceptance · confidence · daily life · letting go · simplicity

The Power Of NO

This week I said NO to 5 things that were not already on my schedule. Why?

1) I had too many other non-negotiable, everyday activities (i.e. have-to-dos, need-to-dos, family, home, work, appointments, errands, etc.).

2) I knew that doing the everyday things + these 5 extra things + whatever unexpectedly popped up would have required me to give more than I had to give.

I realize I cannot do it all. More importantly, I no longer try.

Saying NO is not easy for many people. I have little problem doing it. In fact, my first instinct when I am asked something is to politely turn it down. Perhaps this is a major quirk of being an Introvert and a Minimalist all rolled into one. I am severely protective of my time, particularly the rare, free time.

My knee-jerk reaction might be NO, but sometimes I honestly and truly have to say NO so I can:

1) maintain my sanity
2) focus on what matters

Release the guilt of putting your family, your needs, and yourself first.

When we say yes to everything, we never really give our full attention to anything which can = lost memories and disconnect.

When we say yes though our heart screams no, we give away pieces of ourselves which can = anxiety and frustration.

When we say yes to things we do not want to do, we give away irreplaceable pockets of time which can = anger and regret.

When we say yes because of pressure, we give away our control which can = resentment and powerlessness.

Sometimes we must say YES because it is simply the right thing to do. We have compassion for others. We make promises to keep. We have commitments to those we love. We make goals and carry dreams.

But, the next time your instinct questions whether to do something, stop and ask: Why are you thinking of doing it? What are you sacrificing to do it? What are the ramifications if you say no? What are the benefits if you say no?

Saying NO may seem like you are letting someone down or missing out, but it can also bring opportunity.

A chance to:
-enjoy the things you do rather than rush through them
-complete the things you have to do with purpose, detail, and pride
-free up time to take care of yourself
-have cherished, ‘do nothing,’ memory-making moments with the people who matter

The benefit of letting go of the non-essentials is that we make room. Room to pause, reflect, plan, think, rest, relax, appreciate, love. Rather than chasing whatever might be coming next, recognize what is right in front of you.

These are your moments, live them on your terms. Consider saying NO so you can say YES to something better.


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~Inspired ME, Joyful BE


Photo by Gemma Evans on Unsplash

change · discovery · learning · obstacles · self

Clear The Roadblocks To Learning About Yourself

I read – a lot. Sometimes too much.

I realize I do not know everything. Most days, I feel like I know nothing. This is why I read. It is also the reason I write.

In fact, the original pull toward becoming a writer was to figure things out. Writing not only keeps me sane in an increasingly crazy world, it helps me navigate the everyday. My NOVELS highlight contemporary women facing the complexities of self, family, love, and daily life. And the basis of this blog is to promote the positive, inspiring moments that can come from personal exploration.

I am not an expert – on anything – which is why I will not proclaim to know everything about any one particular topic.

I am simply a seeker, a searcher, a firm believer in the possibility of all things.

I desire a fuller understanding. I want to know why I am who I am, why others are who they are. I do not expect a final answer or conclusion, however, because I know this is not possible. In truth, part of the fun of the journey is the not knowing. I enjoy the finding of little clues along the way.

Life truly is a puzzle. One where we get only a few pieces to fit at any given time, revealing just part of the actual picture.

Some of my book and blog topics carry hidden lessons I have learned while others are me working to solve this beautiful mystery. I will continue to try one thing, then another, hoping to glimpse the whole picture, even if only for a brief moment.

I am proud to say I have been loved and rejected, succeeded and failed. I have wandered around lost too many times to count and at times, believed I had been found. And when I come upon something that has helped me, I want to share it, possibly ease the struggle for someone else.

But while I might hope to serve as a guide and offer support, I cannot fix what is broken for others. Sometimes I cannot even fix what is broken within myself.

There is no shame in learning about the self. But each of us must learn on our own, in whatever way we can, no matter how long it may take. Yet problems can arise when we …

ARE IMPATIENT WITH OTHERS: sometimes people refuse to change, do not realize they need to change, or are caught in the process of change.
ARE IMPATIENT WITH OURSELVES: we are continuous works-in-progress and any type of improvement or self-realization takes time.

RESENT OTHERS FOR MAKING A CHANGE: if you become jealous when someone else makes a go at a better life, look to understand why.
RESENT OUR NEED FOR CHANGE: change becomes easier when we accept and embrace the idea rather than fight it.

JUDGE OTHERS: hating on someone who has raised themselves up is often due to envy or failure to understand their true situation.
FEEL WE ARE JUDGED: the path to well-being is a very personal thing. Seek people who share your enthusiasm and lift you up rather than tear you down.

MAKE FUN: someone choosing to better understand themselves and improve their outlook is not to be ridiculed or minimized.
NO LONGER HAVE FUN: fixing whatever is broken can be a serious undertaking, but it should not be pursued at the expense of loving life.

SABOTAGE OTHERS: intentionally making an effort to undo the results for another person for your own benefit is never okay.
SABOTAGE OURSELVES: stop and assess whether it is your excuses or the process keeping you from making it to the next step.

FAIL TO ACKNOWLEDGE REALITY: nothing can ever change if we fail to look within and accept we are not always right, not perfect, and not in control.
SUCCEED AT THE EXPENSE OF OTHERS: improving your situation should never be accomplished by exploiting or hurting another.

PUSH OTHERS AWAY: we should never become so caught up in bettering ourselves that we forget to love and appreciate those who matter.
PUSH OURSELVES: everyone has limits. Recognize them, seek to compromise, and find a healthy balance.

Open minds can lead to open hearts – within us and toward others. And when we use what we learn to not only better our lives but the lives of people around us, we begin to change the world. Because in the end, we are all in this together, navigating the bumps and bruises as we go.

Seek to learn. Seek to change. Seek to help. Continue to seek even if you never find what you are looking for …


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~Inspired ME, Joyful BE


Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash