confidence · fears · happiness · letting go · self

Declare Your Independence

Happy Fourth of July!

Today, I hope you find the courage. Courage to break free from:

HOSTILITY · DEPRESSION · FEAR · ANGER

STRESS · DISTRUST · THINGS · SADNESS · GUILT

JUDGEMENT · COMPARISON · PRESSURE · CRITICISM

HURT · FRUSTRATION · IMPATIENCE · NEGATIVITY

PAIN · INTOLERANCE · DISRESPECT · HATE

Seek all that is good. Celebrate it – by yourself and with those you love.

Live. Liberate. Pursue your happiness.


Photo by Trent Yarnell on Unsplash

confidence · fears · goals · happiness · obstacles

All The Things You Did Not Do: Risk, Reward, And Regret

My son is officially on summer vacation. Over the next few months my heart, energy, and time will be even more focused on family. But this doesn’t mean my mind stops. It never stops. And lately, I have been thinking a lot about regret.

Regret is a funny thing.

For some, there is the fear of missing out on the REWARD. The prospect of learning, improving, or gaining something we have always wanted can be a great motivator. It can push us to open ourselves to new ideas and worlds and experiences as we fear we may never have another chance. If there is something beautiful at the end, we believe the struggle will be worth it.

For others, the RISK can prove too much. The sacrifice required along with a fear of failure can overwhelm to the point of inaction. The perceived cost – relationships, time, energy, money, pride – may prevent us from moving toward something we desire. And sadly, some view life as an ‘either/or’ situation, one where there is limited choice and opportunities are lost forever.

We are only one person, given just one life. Sometimes we have to jump in and have faith everything will come together. Other times, it may require more insight and extensive planning.

Weigh the risk versus the reward. Maybe the reward is worth the risk, maybe it is not. But isn’t it better to be sure before you say no altogether? Perhaps there is a balance to be found. Or there might be a period of chaotic imbalance to get through. Sacrifice is a part of goal seeking. Map it out – the pros and cons, available resources, potential timelines. You might realize it is better to be sorry and try rather than be safe and disappointed. We all have responsibilities – to ourselves and others – but we also deserve to fulfill needs, feel purpose, and find personal happiness.

Live without regret.

FOR ALL YOU DID NOT DO If you wish you would have done things differently, do something today to change the situation. It is never too late to alter the course. Make amends with someone. Rewrite your dream. Start completely over. Sure, you might not get to the exact place you wished for years ago but maybe, just maybe, you will end up somewhere far better.

FOR ALL YOU ARE DOING – If you feel guilt because others make you believe your path is wrong, release the pressure. Pursue the life you envision (as long as it does not hurt someone else) and do so without apology or explanation. We are all unique with different choices and goals. Seek those who put joy over judgment and support your efforts without condition.

FOR ALL YOU HOPE TO DO – Find a way.

Regret nothing.


Photo by Austin Neill on Unsplash

acceptance · fears · learning · obstacles · self

Choose To Deal Rather Than Dwell

Ten days before my official diagnosis, I already knew I had cancer. Family and close friends remained positive, reminding me the mammogram, ultrasound, and lumpectomy were simply procedure. But something inside – my instinct – told me I was about to face the biggest challenge of my life. So while everyone else pretended all would be fine, I mentally worked it through, toughening myself for what I already knew.

I will admit the first month was the most difficult. It was a time of great sadness and hopelessness. The battle ahead seemed too overwhelming, and there were countless moments of deep despair. Unsure of what was to come, I questioned my ability to persevere. But even more, I feared an unknown end.

There was a turning point, however. A defining moment when the clouds passed and everything became clear. And as I look back, I realize it was when I acknowledged the possibilities. I could not only get through this, I could SURVIVE. There was opportunity for a LIFE AFTER. Yes, it would be forever changed, but it could still be beautiful. And yet I worried … how would I get there?

The answer was within me. I held the power. Cancer was strong, but I could be stronger. And that strength would come in many forms – education, goals, perseverance, diligence, relationships, motivation, and above all, attitude.

I decided to deal rather than dwell.

When we are hurting or fearful of the future, it is easy to become lost in the pain and frozen. Rather than face a hardship head-on, we allow ourselves to remain stuck in one emotion and place. And to be honest, sometimes we must do that before anything else. But it is important to accept reality at the appropriate time so we might regain or live a better life.

We cannot rush or force the process, however. Trust yourself. Pay attention. When the time is right, you will know to stop dwelling. Even the smallest step forward, the tiniest change, the slightest attempt to overcome is dealing.

What helped me through the darkest of times? THE FIVE Ps.

1) PLAN: Determine where you want to be and create a manageable path to get there. This does not need to be detailed or final. Establish baby steps. Be flexible. But have some idea of how to move yourself forward.

For me, this was two-fold. I educated myself about my stage of cancer to lessen the unknown. I also had my oncologist provide an estimated timeline of what treatments, surgeries, tests, etc. I would undergo so I could better visualize what was ahead.

2) PURSUE: Tackle the tasks in your plan. Even simple efforts should seem like a major victory. Celebrate the small things, but remember there are bigger hurdles to overcome if you hope to come out on the other side. Acknowledge them. Act on them. Take satisfaction in every achievement.

I took life day by day (sometimes minute by minute). But even on my hardest days, I focused on the opportunity to do something to advance my situation. I viewed everything – big and small – as necessary to moving me forward and welcomed them.

3) PERFORM: Even if you are not in a good place, act like you are. I do not mean pretend or ignore your feelings. But doing routine everyday tasks like it is a normal day can help you forget the difficulties ahead – even if just for a moment. [NOTE: Depression is very prevalent so please watch for the signs and seek immediate professional help if needed.]

In the first weeks after diagnosis, I fell into a depression which my doctor monitored closely. And once I came through that, I found solace in basic chores around the house, running errands, and maintaining a sense of normalcy for my young son.

4) PAUSE: Managing a major life crisis can be stressful, but it should never be allowed to erase all the joy. Whether it is something you love on your own or being with others, make time to do something that makes your heart happy – every single day.

Chemo and surgeries left me fatigued, sick, and unable to focus. My family and friends found creative ways to engage me socially online and via coffee dates and movie nights. The simple act of getting out of the house always lifted my mood.

5) PURPOSE: When something bad happens, it is common to question why. But there are lessons hidden in the toughest of times – about ourselves and life. Accept your journey will be difficult but also seek to appreciate that you have been granted a gift. To learn, to grow, to perhaps change or begin again. View it as a reminder of what is important or a chance to discover what truly matters.

Whenever I felt lost, I remembered what I was fighting for – this beautiful life and my amazing family. I learned to love everything.

[Bonus] PRAY: A spiritual connection can help to allay pain, worry, or fear. Whatever your belief, a faith-based approach can provide an incredible sense of peace for those who struggle.

It is inevitable – there will be difficult days. But when we are thrust unwillingly into the deepest of depths, we still hold the power. We have a choice. We can either dwell in the dark or we can make our way into the light.

Choose the light.


Photo by Lawrence Walters on Unsplash

acceptance · confidence · fears · letting go

When Failure Is The Only Option

Our little family is officially on summer break, but my thoughts are still wrapped around something that happened at the end of the school year. My son had a presentation due in the final weeks of the last quarter – an in-depth, visual, interactive, role-play type of assignment.

Now, while I am a hands-on parent and actively involved in my son’s education, I am also a realist.

He is in middle school so I only help when absolutely necessary. He is responsible for class assignments, school projects, homework, studying, deadlines, teacher communications, library returns, etc. I no longer interfere or assist or remind about his academics because he is old enough to be held accountable.

He needs to succeed on his own which also means he needs to fail on his own.

So it was that his presentation was due in two days, and he had neglected to mention it. I scrambled to purchase the most basic of supplies and offered to proofread his final report (I am a writer; I can’t help myself). And as I did, I realized he was probably not going to do very well. The example the teacher provided as a guide was far more elaborate, very detailed, extremely organized, and painstakingly set up to impress.

After rushing between school and baseball to print, cut, arrange, paste, and label, he declared himself to be finished and ready for the big presentation. I studied his project board – it was neat, organized, easy to understand. It was … presentable. But still, I am a writer, a person who loves to create and research. I enjoy the planning and effort it takes to make a project shine – pop – and wow.

I feared his project would not wow.

To be honest, I did not even care about his grade. What truly worried me was that he would feel inferior to other kids who had cooler projects with interesting props and better information. But as I watched my son gaze over his finished product with pride in its creation and satisfaction in its completion, I let it all go.

This was his and his alone – he would decide whether he did just enough or more than enough. And he would ultimately pay the price or be rewarded with his grade.

The next morning my husband went to the presentation (parents were invited) and texted a picture of my son smiling beside his project board. Over dinner that evening my son said a lot of people stopped at his station to listen to him speak and complimented his interpretation of a young boy from ancient China. He compensated for a lack of decorative props and colorful design with extensive knowledge and sheer confidence.

He proved less was more. He succeeded when I feared he might fail.

Too often we believe we know the right way to a happy ending simply because we have already walked the path ourselves, found how to get there. And because of this, we hope to save others from the pain or struggle, make it easier somehow.

The problem? If another person constantly tries to guarantee our success we will never understand the importance purpose, desire, and determination play in the achievement of goals. We will never experience the incredible sense of accomplishment that comes from difficult work or rough days. We will never know our victory is sweeter because we fell down and then picked ourselves up (as many times as it took).

And while sharing personal experience is important, it is not always the best predictor of success. Sometimes we must heed the advice of others who have been there while subsequently ignoring it. We must jump into something with nothing more than the simple faith we will be okay because we have done all we can do.

We need to rely on our ability, believe our best is good enough until we are told it is not. And if we do fail, we need to learn how to avoid failing again. On our own.

Mapping our own path often means we will stay on it longer. Perhaps more importantly, it might reveal that pushing to be better is not always a marker of success. Just because we try harder does not guarantee we will get what we want. Sometimes, perseverance is simply a reminder we are able to do great things, things we may have believed to be out of reach. Yes, we might reach a little too high and tumble to the ground. But that is the beauty of failure. It reminds us why we want something, makes it more desirable, and helps us determine if it is really worth it.

I still plan to nudge my son, encourage him to try a little harder, work a little more, and go above and beyond the moment when he thinks he is finished. But I am also going to let him make his own mistakes and allow him to fail. In truth, I hope he fails a lot because that would mean he stepped outside his comfort zone, took chances, and pushed the limits.

Perhaps then he will see himself as I do – so amazing and talented and smart and funny and loving and a reflection of all that is possible in this world. Only then will I feel I have succeeded.


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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

confidence · discovery · fears · learning

Sometimes We Fall Before We Fly

Lately, I have been repeating a favorite quote in my mind.

“There is freedom waiting for you,
On the breezes of the sky,
And you ask “What if I fall?”
Oh but my darling,
What if you fly?”
― Erin Hanson

As a writer, I have to deal with many more downs than ups.

It is not uncommon for someone who creates and shares their work to feel this way. The fear of putting myself out there and having no one care. The feeling of being ignored, unappreciated, or unacknowledged. The disappointment. The rejection. They are all part of the business.

Life is much like a roller coaster. Some parts are simply more thrilling than others.

The good? An official book release. The best? Hearing from a reader who loves my work. The worst? A not-so-flattering review. In an industry validated by book sales, viral shares, and best seller lists, it is easy to fall into the trap of negative thought. To somehow believe I am not enough or have failed.

But, there is one thing I believe more: without a little risk, there is no reward.

I can either play it safe where I know the outcome or seize an opportunity and see where life carries me. My choice? Take an enormous, frightening leap outside my comfort zone and fall into the unknown rather than deal with regret. Following my heart is the true measurement. I decide whether I am a success or failure. No one else.

Sometimes, life only gives us one chance.

Anytime we become caught in the web of criticism, missed expectations, or self-defeat, it is natural to turn and place the blame inward. A game lost, a job opportunity or promotion missed, an error of some kind, a broken relationship. Missteps like these and others may seem unfair, especially when we tried our best and believe winning is the only option.

But the perceived losses are actually part of the plan and that plan is always greater than any we could dream for ourselves. As such, a setback – big or small – should never be the deal breaker for quitting. Instead, it should serve as a reminder of how much we want something.

Have a little faith. Muddle through the not-so-glamorous in search of the true beauty. Realize the bumps and bruises we seemingly suffer will not only heal but strengthen and propel us forward. Without the low moments we can never begin the slow, exhilarating ascent to the top. View the struggle, the uphill climb as an integral part of the journey toward something better.

The next time you feel like giving up, stop. Straighten your wings and try again. Yes, you might fall. But you might fly.


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discovery · fears · health · learning · self

Depression: My Story

Months before I was diagnosed with cancer, I suffered through moderate depression. Living in the Upper Midwest, I often self-treated for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) in the late, gray months of winter, but this episode came early in the fall and it came hard.

DISCLAIMER about depression: There are many different types and causes. More importantly, there are tons of resources available regarding symptoms and treatment, tests to self-diagnose, and articles/tips on how to manage it. I will not pretend to be a resource nor will I provide medical advice. This is my personal experience. Everyone’s situation is unique. If you believe you suffer from any form of depression, please consult your doctor.

I am a fixer. I do not back away from problems and as a result am an avid seeker of solutions. When people confide their troubles, I want to help make it better. I am no different when it comes to myself. So when I realized what I had, I took action. First, I told a few people close to me and while most were supportive, some were unsure how to deal with it. Much like cancer, people become frightened when someone they love is “sick.” As if they might catch it, too. Or perhaps they are just someone who is afraid they will do or say something wrong.

I had this: I confided in someone important, and they essentially avoided me. No appreciation of my honesty, no acknowledgment of how difficult it was to open up. The sad part is I told them in order to improve our relationship. It had been a bit off because of my actions due to the depression, and I hoped to explain and clear the air. Even in my low state, I wanted to make them feel better. As you might expect, their lack of support was not a good reaction to someone who is already at the wobbly edge of a precipice. It made me feel insignificant, unloved, and a bit ridiculous. I knew what I was going though and yet this person made me question myself even more – as if I was making an excuse for my abnormal behavior. As if it was all in my already mixed-up head. As if I could just get over it. I tell you this because even if others do not recognize the pain, your feelings and needs are real – they matter.

And despite those who tried to tell me it was nothing and would soon pass, I knew better. I knew me. I did not want to linger there. And this – whatever it was – was not right. It was not the person I wanted to be. It was not me.

I was sad more than happy and overly emotional to the point of crying daily. I was impatient, lethargic, and extremely self-critical. I was uninterested in anything or anyone. I was anti-social and fearful. I was without purpose or direction.

I believed no one knew I was lost and even worse, that I would never be found.

My college minor was Psychology so I recognized my plight and knew there were options. With my time, budget, and minor symptoms, I chose basic therapy. (ANOTHER DISCLAIMER: Be wary and do your research, especially if considering online therapy: this is a hotbed for scams and unqualified people who claim to be experts. Seek advice from a trusted medical professional before you do anything). My referral came from my own doctor and over the course of our sessions, the therapist gave me in-depth questions to answer and projects to complete. And when it was all done, I came to realize why I was depressed. Turns out it was more mental than biological, and I was able to determine the cause was my reaction and negative thoughts to something that happened earlier in the year. Looking back, I knew this was the reason but while lost in depression, it becomes difficult to find a way out.

Seeking help provided much-needed guidance, a map for me to work through the messiness and discover ways to improve my thoughts and reactions.

That was over five years ago, and I have not suffered from that type of depression since. Even better, we now live in a warmer climate so I no longer get SAD. Yes, I have been down. Yes, I have been sad and melancholy too many times to count. Heck, I even battled cancer. But thanks to the lessons from therapy, I know to dig deeper and prevent myself from falling too hard. I have not only learned to release the negativity, I have chosen to do it. I am unafraid to seek help when I need it. I try not to belittle my feelings – they are not insignificant or ridiculous, they are real. I no longer blame others, but I also do not blame myself. I have compassion for me.

Often we believe life just happens to us, as if we have no control. And although there is much we cannot foresee or prevent, how we approach this life is a choice. Our reactions are up to us. When there is loss or frustration or hurt or rejection, feel the loss, frustration, hurt, or rejection. But as you work through it do not allow yourself to retreat to the point of no return. Make the effort to move forward and eventually past it. Depression is a part of life for many, but it does not have to be the everyday. More importantly, depression is not a weakness and you are never, ever alone! You do not have to do this by yourself. There are people who will understand. And while finding help is easy, working through the problems might be hard … but I promise, it is so worth it.

Rise above the storm, and you will find the sunshine. — Mario Fernandez


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~Inspired ME, Joyful BE