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

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

celebration · happiness

Pursue Your Happiness

For many, today is a time for cookouts and fireworks, a day of family and summer fun. And to be honest, the 4th of July should be filled with celebration. As Americans, we are fortunate to live in a country where we can express our beliefs, follow our dreams, and be our perfectly imperfect selves.

Declare your independence. Break free from whatever brings you down or holds you back. Pursue your happiness.

Happy 4th of July!


SUMMER HOURS: I am officially on break to spend time with my two favorite people – my husband and son. I will still post and answer emails or messages, but please be patient with any delays. #happysummer #grabeverymoment ~JL

celebration · daily life · discovery

3 Ways To Love The Way You Live Life

When we graduate, move away from home, earn a college degree, find a better job, fall in love, get married, buy a bigger house, have children, lose weight, make more money, have more freedom, retire…

The list of “whens” – those major life changes, milestones, and times when we believe everything will fall neatly into place – is endless. The hard truth is this: there will be times when all seems right with the world and it will feel glorious, but those times will be few. More often than not, the days will pass by with overwhelming speed as we attempt to keep up with the demands of school, work, family, relationships, and basic daily needs.

Stop wishing your life away…

1. BE PERFECTLY IMPERFECT – – Everyone wants to be better at something. Striving to improve an aspect of who we are is not only important but strongly encouraged. Whether it be relationships, career, education, health, parenting, sports, home, a hobby or more, self-improvement can be a rewarding source of pride and a path toward happiness.

The problem arises when we begin to obsess over the process, base our worth upon its success, or expect the result to fill some other void. If you want to change something about yourself, do it. Just be sure to love who and where you are now – because you are already pretty amazing.

2. LIVE IN THE MOMENT – – With all of life’s demands pulling us in different directions, this can be difficult to manage. It is not impossible, however. One thing that has helped me is meditation. I am a chronic over-thinker and mind-wanderer but after some persistent attempts, I have finally managed to find a method that works.

Meditation is just one way to learn focus. Anything that encourages quiet or pushes away the outside noise can be beneficial. The key is to find a reliable method to draw upon so the little things – those seemingly insignificant things – can be appreciated for the magical moments they are.

3. CELEBRATE THE EVERYDAY – – Don’t like your picture taken? Take one anyway and share it with the people who love you. Have dishes stashed away in the cupboard for formal occasions? Use them tonight even if you are only serving takeout. Never-worn, pretty outfit hanging in the back of your closet? Wear it!

There are so many reasons to celebrate today. Some may seem obvious, some not so much. The best part is that it does not need to be a grand event, even the simplest, most ridiculous thing can be appreciated. Look for yours. It’s there, just waiting to help make the everyday special.

Quit thinking things will be better “if only.” Open your eyes. Take a good look. Do you see what I see? It is the best part of living, happening right here and right now. Whether you like the reality of your present situation or not, this moment is irreplaceable.

Love. Life. Live.


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celebration · home · renewal

Breaking Away

Spring has arrived! The season of rain showers, baseball, egg hunts, birdsong, flowers, and promise. And yet despite it all, I am ready for a break. Spring break, that is.

Our little part of the world takes a late school break so when it finally arrives, my family is in desperate need of rest and relaxation. Sometimes we coordinate a big trip and venture across country but the past few years, we have retreated to our happy place – a city where we lived for a couple of years, one nestled among soothing mountains and fresh air.

When my husband and I moved there, it was opposite from what we knew with a differing landscape and culture. But we fell in love with the area, so much that even after we moved away, we began to call it home. Perhaps one reason? Our son was born there and though he has been raised elsewhere for much of his young life, he has come to appreciate his birthplace as much as we do.

And so we are breaking away from it all and escaping to our home away from home. It is familiar enough that we can forego strict itineraries and explore on a whim. Hikes, tours, restaurants, scenic drives, attractions. We have been there and done most but enjoy it so much we do not mind doing it again. The area is constantly growing and changing, and there is always something new to see and do. It never disappoints.

My family will revisit and renew and recharge. And when we return to the daily grind, hopefully we will look back and remember … it is possible to break away from it all.


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celebration · daily life · discovery · gratitude · simplicity

The Magic Of Every Day

I was scheduled to write another topic today, but then something happened and I changed my mind. It’s all good, though, because this is the very reason I created the website: to be inspired. More importantly, however, is to recognize the inspiration. Look for it. Appreciate it. And share it.

Before my husband left for another business trip this morning, he pulled me over to our large front windows so we could watch the sunrise. It was glorious – a mixture of molten gold, purple, and hazy magenta burned into the gray clouds above the neighborhood.

This in itself was a lovely gesture by my typically practical and extremely busy husband, but then he did something even better.

Minutes into his drive, he called. Now, the phone ringing at 7:40AM is never a good thing. My thoughts raced – my son just arrived at school and was perhaps sick or hurt, my husband just left and was possibly in an accident, a friend or family member was in urgent need. Seeing the caller id, I knew it was my husband and answered, half-expecting him to say he forgot to pack something. Instead, he instructed me to look out the window again.

I did and noticed a view more magnificent than the one that came before. The blue-gray clouds promised rain and as such battled with the fiery hues of the still-emerging sunrise. But this wasn’t the cool thing. Blurred within was a rainbow. A rare sunrise rainbow.

I wanted to be sure you saw it, my husband said. With a smile, I told him I did. And then we watched it – together but apart – for a few minutes before bidding another farewell.

What is amazing is not so much the sunrise but the shared experience with my husband. I am still thinking about it hours later and know it will be re-visited throughout the day. And when I am missing him tonight, I will snuggle with my son and think of it again.

I have writing to do, laundry waiting, groceries to get, errands to run, a son to parent, and more on my plate today, but there is alwaysalwaystime to discover the magic of every day. Look for it. Appreciate it. Share in it. And if you do it right, it might just make a gray day brighter.


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celebration · gratitude · happiness · love · relationships

Sometimes We Forget To Love

love-the-world-you-made

Sometimes we forget to love. Not in the sense that we don’t have the emotional feeling, but rather we forget to tell someone why we love them.

Whether it be a spouse, partner, relative, friend, or child, the very act of loving someone can become stale.

We might say I Love You a thousand times a day and of course we express our love in a myriad of non-verbal ways: caring for home and health and school and work needs, volunteering, attending an activity, cheering an event, listening to troubles, showering hugs and kisses. These are all important and vital expressions of love.

But do we ever stop to remember WHY we love someone?

Take a moment to think a little deeper, perhaps love a little more. Focus on the reasons you fell in love with your spouse or partner. Consider the benefits your extended family and close friends bring to your life. And of course, if you have a child or children, realize the amazing beauty in their very existence.

Everyone is worthy of love and deserves to be appreciated.

Tell someone why you love them. Let them know the reason they hold a special piece of your heart. Remind them – and yourself – of their value. If speaking the words is difficult, write them. The sentiment does not have to be flowery or poetic, it just needs to be genuine. A simple card or note works. Or if you like to make it a gift, some ideas are below.

Love with joy. Love with purpose. Love and be loved.


Knock Knock What I Love About You Fill In The Love Journal – simple yet sweet, this book works for anyone but there are specific versions, too: mom, dad, crush, us, bestie.

52 Simple Reasons Why I Love You – Why I Love You prompts are easy and fun to fill in.

Why I Love You: A Journal Of Us  – Fun prompts for documenting your own unique love story.

Letters To My Love: Write Now. Read Later. Treasure Forever. – An Oprah’s Favorite Things Pick 2015 and an awesome keepsake for any couple!

I Love You Because – Wall Hanging Memo Board – Simple yet beautiful way to remind someone of your love every day.


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~Inspired ME, Joyful BE