gratitude · health · renewal · self

What Is Waiting For You?

Last week was one of those weeks. The kind where everything is more difficult than usual and nothing seems to go right. I won’t expand on the gory details, but I will say this: the new-school-year honeymoon is over, my son is a soon-to-be teenager, my husband is travelling extensively (again), unexpected house problems keep popping up, and oh well … life.

I felt like all I did was put out fires. Every back-to-school fall is just different enough – just challenging enough – to change the rules for our little family. I generally do not like surprises. And last week surprised me with its continuous onslaught of frustration. Oh, did I mention I also don’t like being frustrated? Of course, I am a realist – I do not expect things to go smoothly every moment of every day. But it would have been nice to have one day pass with ease.

Yet even in the midst of catastrophic thinking, my mind kept returning to one glorious thought: I have two blog posts and a novel to draft. My writing is waiting for me.

In truth, part of my overwhelming sense of frustration comes from the simple desire to work. Back to school always means back to full-time writing for me. And not finding the necessary and appropriate times to do so leaves me flustered. You would think after almost eight years of doing this gig that I would have a very strict, set schedule, right? Well, I did. Once. But that did not last.

As with any family, our needs are in a constant state of change. Despite my effort to keep my son perpetually small and snuggable, he continues to grow and as such, the responsibilities grow. Also, my husband’s career is increasingly demanding, requiring frequent out-of-state travel. And of course, I have changed – in many ways. So though I crave structure and scheduled hours, I choose to be flexible when life builds up and overflows.

I could easily say “I can no longer do this, I’m done,” but I don’t. The reason? Writing is not only my job, it is my outlet. Aside from any financial benefit, it provides an escape, a purpose, a sense of accomplishment, the ability to connect, an opportunity to learn about myself and the world. Writing is not only entertaining but therapeutic. It challenges me, pushing me beyond my imaginary boundaries.

A whole lot of who I am is figured out when I write. Aside from the people I love, it is one of the things that truly matters – which is why I make time for it even when I do not have time.

I find comfort in knowing I have something waiting for me. 

WHAT IS WAITING FOR YOU?

Is there something that makes the outside world go away? If so, do not become so trapped by the duties of daily life that you neglect to do it. It does not matter what it is – reading, writing, art, gardening, cooking, baking, decorating, exercise, meditation, a sport, a craft, anything.

When you are caught up in the craziness of life, listen for what is calling to you. What do you wish you could be doing instead? What do you look forward to at the end of a long day? What truly matters?

Take a look at what you make time for. Identify your outlet. And when you do, plug into it.


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~Inspired ME, Joyful BE

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

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

gratitude · happiness · relationships

Find Your Person

I have been thinking a lot about comfort.

Even in the most routine of days there is enough to overwhelm, stress, push limits, or create unease. As a result, it is only natural to seek a balance, surround ourselves with whatever soothes, calms, and pampers. We have become wired (and encouraged) to search for things that make us feel good or reward our efforts. And we do this in a variety of ways – home, food, drink, shopping, entertainment, vacations, hobbies.

But have you ever thought about the people who bring comfort to your life?

Over a lifetime, there are countless people who fill an open or needful space in our hearts, providing solace and healing on a personal level. They appear in the form of spouses, children, family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, parishioners, teachers, and more.

It might be one individual. It might be many. But the important thing is to realize who is there for you.

Have you found your person? The…

LINK who connects you to others and maintains the bonds.
ADVENTURER who pushes you to do things you would never do on your own.
EMBRACER who lets you be yourself – never asks, expects, or wants you to change.
HAVEN who makes you feel secure and eases your fears.
ACCEPTER who will never judge, point out mistakes, or say told you so.
PARTNER who shares everything with you, knows everything about you, and loves you for it.
BELIEVER who has faith in you and your dreams even when you do not.
JOKER who makes you constantly laugh and smile.
COMPANION who is simply by your side, just because, whenever and wherever.
LIFER who has known you forever – witnessed your childhood, your past, your everything.
SOOTHER who calms you when the craziness of life becomes too much.
CHEERLEADER who supports and encourages you to take chances.
LIGHT who brightens your day – when the path seems dark, they shine the way.
REALIST who puts things in perspective and helps you see clearly.
GUIDE who gives great advice and whose opinion you value and trust.
LISTENER who really hears what you say and the meaning behind it.
SOCIALIZER who convinces you to go out, have fun, and let loose.
ROCK who stays strong when you are at your weakest – you fall down, they lift you up.
HELPER who always has a plan and if you have a problem, they seek to fix it.
CONSTANT who you rely on – when they give their word, you can depend on it.

It is important to note these are individuals who should bring positivity, inspiration, and joy to our lives. Leave no room for negativity or toxic, dysfunctional interactions.

Too often we overlook one of the most powerful healers – a caring and giving person – because for some, it is such a mainstay in life. Those who are fortunate enough to have fulfilling relationships tend to take them for granted or fail to acknowledge their value. We prefer to believe the people we depend on will always be there, that we will have ample time to express our love and appreciation.

If you have someone special in your life, take a moment. Think about how much comfort they give you.

Tell them. Thank them. Love them. And when the time comes, be their person.


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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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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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