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

daily life · relationships · self

The Legacy We Leave

A few years ago, I posted a book promotion for a complete stranger on my author blog. (You can read the original post but be warned, formatting or links may be off). She was an indie author and warrior who lost her battle with cancer and as a tribute, fellow bloggers were promoting the book on her behalf.

My reason to participate was simple: her story was my story. She was young (like me). A mother (like me). A writer (like me). A woman touched by cancer (like me). It did not matter if her book was good or not (in truth, I didn’t even think of it until now). All I knew was that she deserved a chance to share her story, to shine as a writer.

The only way I could help was to preserve her legacy.

Legacy is the reason I wrote and published my first novella in 2010. The entire purpose was for my son. I wanted him to have a book written by me, something tangible that I created. And as someone who has always been writing or thinking about writing, a book was a no-brainer. It is a clear representation and distinct memory of me. It is another layer of who I am that I wanted to share and preserve for him.

I chose a book but it is important to know there are countless ways to establish a legacy and leave something of us behind. And the best part? it does not need to be a grand gesture or require a lot of effort. Nor does it need to be done to impress or please someone else.

In fact, I can guarantee you have probably created a lasting memory and not even realized it.

HAVE YOU EVER?

loved unconditionally
shown compassion
volunteered time
lent a helping hand
lifted someone up
granted patience
caused a smile
said I love you just because
hugged and refused to let go
offered forgiveness
supported a decision
cheered the loudest
listened, really listened
opened your heart
donated to those in need
provided friendship
cared for another

If you have done any of these things, you have left a legacy, an indelible imprint on the life of another person.

Your time, attention, support, affection – these are the easiest gifts to give. Share them freely and often with those who deserve and appreciate them.

Be with the ones you love. Be present. 

By making the moments – the now – matter, you are providing a lasting impression of your time here on earth. The little things you do and say carry great power.

Leave a legacy.

Impact the lives of others and change the world simply by being here and in doing good things. You do not need a viral post or headline or something tangible to reflect your importance. You live it every day.


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~Inspired ME, Joyful BE

acceptance · daily life · gratitude · second chances

Living Right Where You Are

Sometimes I write on a schedule but much of the time, I simply write when I am inspired. Today, I am not only inspired (INSPIRED ME!) but also overcome with joy (JOYFUL BE!).

As a cancer survivor, I have regularly scheduled appointments with my Oncologist. Right now, I see him every six months. Each visit consists of routine blood work, a brief physical exam, and discussion of concerns. I admit the approach of an upcoming appointment clouds my thoughts.

The need for such checkups reminds me of where I have been and renews the fear of what might be.

In truth, the memory of my fight never leaves – I have physical and emotional scars to prove it. But with the passage of time, I have become better at managing my relationship with cancer. I use the term “relationship” because we are indelibly linked. And although I have become the dominant partner (I am stubborn and strong, unwilling to give in to its demands), cancer does hold the power to intimidate me (it is a bit of a bully).

Every new appointment reminds me it is still there. It will always be there. And it can return. Whenever.

But thankfully today was not that day. My doctor granted me another glorious all-clear, and I am off the hook for a few more months!

The true purpose of this post, however, is not to provide a detailed re-hash of my battle. It is a simple plea:

Start living.

Waiting in a cancer treatment center is nothing new to me. I have done it as the frightened, self-defeated, newly-diagnosed woman. I have done it as a post-surgical and chemotherapy dazed patient. I have done it for weekly blood draws, heart scans, drug injections, and intense follow-up visits. I have done it as a hopeful, triumphant, newly-declared-in-remission woman. I now do it as a survivor.

And each time I wait in that room for my name to be called, I am amazed. I see every stage of diagnosis and treatment level. I see young and old. I see caregivers and families. I see front office medical staff, phlebotomists, nurses, and doctors.

I see myself.

In that room, there is talk of tumor markers, cell counts, blood tests, prognoses, and pathology reports. There are people seeking aid, a path to recovery, a chance to return to the mundane, normalcy of life.

But I do not hear or see any of that.

Instead, I listen and look beyond. I hear hushed whispers and quiet laughter. I see brave eyes and remarkable smiles. Amid the presence of pain, there is joy, compassion, strength, kindness, and patience.

There is Peace. There is Life.

The next time you are upset over the ridiculously long line for coffee or angered by the person who cut you off in traffic, remember this: those are inconveniences not problems.

If you currently have steady employment, a roof over your head, meals on the table, family, friends, and good health … rejoice! You are one of the lucky ones.

If you are struggling financially, worried what will happen if the other shoe drops, estranged from someone you love, or battling an illness … rejoice! You are still one of the lucky ones.

Life may not always turn out the way we planned, but that does not mean we should fail to appreciate it. Whether you are in a good or bad place, you can still discover the hidden blessings and joy carried within each moment.

Be awake. Be grateful. Be alive. Right where you are.


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acceptance · daily life · discovery · learning · letting go

Learning To Live A Messy Life

Some days I am amazing. I get all things crossed off my to do list. I am on time for appointments, sports, and errands. I keep my inbox clean. Housework and laundry are caught up. I exercise. I eat healthy. I prepare meals from scratch. I write, edit, or blog. I listen intently as my husband speaks. I have ample time to relax and snuggle with my son. I connect with family and friends.

And then there are days like today when I simply cannot keep up.

You know the day. The one when you have a ton of things to accomplish but each one a) brings unexpected extra tasks along with it, b) hits a roadblock mid-project and does not get completed, or c) is a pipe-dream because life is happening instead.

All of the above happen to me more and more and when they do, I cannot help but wonder what I am doing wrong. I am a minimalist. I am organized. I have an excellent work ethic.

Why can’t I do it all?

Everyone around me seems to have it together. They look great. (I went to the post office this morning in the same pants I slept in last night). They have kids who are up-to-date with tech, clothes, sports equipment. (My son is in his second season of baseball cleats, and I refuse to buy any new clothes until he wears more than the same four outfits to school). They have tons of friends and do cool things. (I work from home and fear I am becoming more introverted by the day). They post, interact, and connect on social media. (Other than work, I have not posted for weeks nor have I read other posts. Notifications=94, Being Social=0).

My list could go on but the hard truth is: I have given up on keeping up.

Ever since my battle with cancer (in remission almost 5 years!), my body and mind have changed. I can go for days with no problem but then suddenly I am overcome by debilitating fatigue, unable to do anything. And my mind? There are times when it simply shuts down, as if the weight of everything is too much so it collapses in defense.

Before cancer, I would have ignored these signs. Pushed through until I was on the edge of oblivion, believing I had to do everything and do it perfectly. I would become physically ill by the stress. I would not sleep well. My temper and patience would be short. I would sacrifice me in order to please others. I wanted to be productive. I wanted to fit in. I wanted to impress.

I wanted to be strong.  I wanted to WOW.

After cancer, I understood how none of that mattered. What matters now is not getting it all done or doing all things. I matter now. If I cannot do it, I either seek help or move on. And when I cannot avoid being over-scheduled, I simply do my best.

My best is all I can ever do. I have learned to live a messy life.

The upside? My time is spent on things of value and importance. My energy is given to the people who deserve and appreciate it. I…

  • avoid over-thinking
  • follow my instinct
  • release guilt and regret
  • no longer have a fear of missing out
  • make better choices
  • enjoy a deeper purpose

I am strong. And I do WOW (even if I only impress myself). I simply do it on my own terms and at my own pace.

I still feel like I am constantly apologizing or explaining myself to those who have not yet learned to release the pressure. Thankfully most of my friends and family understand and encourage it. They have granted me the incredible gift of letting me be me.

My ultimate hope is you might also shed the burden of whatever weighs you down. Realize that you do not have to keep on keeping up. And when you do, you will learn to love the messiness of life.


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