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

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

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 · 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

acceptance · daily life · fears · renewal

How To Weather The Storms Of Life

Last night was a weather-watcher type of evening as hours of severe storms passed through our area. Growing up in the Midwest, I am quite familiar and comfortable with an active tornado season. They are random (often hitting one building and missing those surrounding it). They are unpredictable (veering from a path at a moments notice). They are devastating (I have witnessed the damage to people and property). They are to be respected (they often leave death in their wake).

As my little family huddled in our basement, I first thought about the editing I hoped to finish. I tried to resume the work but within minutes I shut down the laptop. Instead I snuggled on the couch with my son as he fell asleep for the night and listened as my husband monitored the forecast.

I thought about the storm raging outside. I thought about the storms of life.

The likelihood of something hitting our part of the world was slim, but I also knew tragedy could strike at anytime and to anyone. It could happen to us. It has happened to us. Not in the form of hail or wind damage but in illness and loss.

We cannot predict or prevent the storms heading our way.

No one is immune. If we are blessed enough to live a long life, tragedy will find us. It always does. Illness, death, financial struggle, personal betrayal, estrangement, job loss, an accident. Life is not created to be perfect. And because of this, we are not perfect beings meant to handle situations in a perfect manner.

Eventually, our homes will be the epicenter. And when they are, we can face the storm, hold on through the night, and embrace the morning after. It may not be easy but it is possible to come out on the other side. Here is how:

  1. Take ShelterGather with those you love in a comforting spot. The key is to have a support system you trust who has your best interests in mind. And being in a place that makes you feel safe and secure will ease the uncertainty.
  2. Ride It OutNothing lasts forever, not even personal pain. The feeling of helplessness is common for anyone going through a difficult time. Sometimes we do not have the solution and must allow things to fall apart before we can put them back together.
  3. Assess The DamageTake a close look at what has changed within your life and you. Too often people prefer to believe nothing is different, that life can return to what it once was. It is important to acknowledge some things might never be the same but if so, it does not mean they cannot be better.
  4. Accept What IsUnderstand things are out of our control. If the reality of your situation is too much to bear, allow ample time to process what happened. Let it all sink in at a comfortable pace but be wary of avoidance. Lingering in the realm of denial will only make the healing more difficult.
  5. Make A PlanCreate a path to recovery. It can be an overall goal or a series of smaller goals. It can be as detailed or broad as you like. Having a path forward does wonders for a fractured soul. And although it may seem the end result is unattainable, knowing you are in charge can ease the process.
  6. Take Your TimeMove one step ahead and celebrate small successes. Rebuilding anything – a home, a relationship, a life – does not happen overnight. Be patient with the effort required to get back on your feet. Get help where you can. Work when you can. Focus on the big picture.
  7. Be GratefulWe may never understand why tragedy hits one home and not another. But if you are fortunate to be missed this time around, show some gratitude. Volunteer time. Donate goods or money to those in need. Lift someone up. Do so with a grateful and giving heart because the next time it might be you in need of aid, compassion, and love.

Weather the storm…


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~Inspired ME, Joyful BE