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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celebration · gratitude · happiness · love · relationships

Sometimes We Forget To Love

love-the-world-you-made

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

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

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

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

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

Everyone is worthy of love and deserves to be appreciated.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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~Inspired ME, Joyful BE

celebration · daily life · gratitude · renewal

What My Father Taught Me About Living

forty-seven-2

Forty seven years. I celebrated forty-seven years of birthdays in December. This is not a milestone. This is not a year designed on any greeting card. This is not a reason to throw a surprise party.

And yet, this birthday is one that mattered. A lot.

My father died just three days after his forty-seventh birthday. I was only eighteen at the time and though his absence has touched every single day of my life, I feel as if I finally grasp the enormity of what he lost.

In those years, he missed so much: meeting my husband, both of my college graduations, my wedding, seeing my son born. He missed my successes, my failures, my ups, my downs, my sarcasm, my depression, my hugs, and my love. He missed my first home. He missed my first real job. He missed my first book. He missed my cancer diagnosis and my battle toward remission. He missed holidays and weddings and parties and the nothingness of ordinary days. And that is just me. There are three other children, grandchildren, countless other family and friends, and of course my amazing mother. He missed so much.

And now, as I become the last of his four children to reach the age of his death, I miss him more than ever. We accomplished what he wanted for himself. We made him proud. We honored his life with our own. We loved and laughed and cried and screwed up and succeeded. We took chances. We tried. We never gave up. And now, we owe it to him to make these years – the ones he did not get – count.

Birthdays serve as so much more than a celebration of the day we were born. They are a reminder we are alive. And number forty-seven is somehow more important and beautiful than all that have come before. I want to live in the everyday as if I might not have another. I want more love and less hate. I want more laughter and less tears. I want more silliness and less seriousness. I want to see the best in people even when they are at their worst. I want to jump outside my comfort zone and possibly fall and rise up with a smile.  I want more of everything that is good in this world.

I want to embrace. I need to let go.

Those desires are nothing new. The need to share and spread positive things – things that make me smile and think and believe and dream? That is definitely new. It is time. And the older I get, everything becomes about time. Living the years my father did not get to enjoy proves time alone will never be enough. It is what we choose to do with those moments that matters.

Let us be inspired. Let us be joyful. Let us choose wisely.

46992-nhat-hanh-quote-because-you-are-alive-everything-is-possible

 


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~Inspired ME, Joyful BE

daily life · gratitude · self

Stare Into Your Life

light-on-the-street-in-a-cold-winter-night-5120x2880

Have you ever gazed into house windows when they are lit at night? Or studied photos to see what lies in the space behind the subject?

I used to do that a lot when I was a young girl. I believed it would provide important details about how other people lived. To my curious mind, that split-second scene or snapshot captured what I perceived to be a better, more interesting world than my own.  As my father drove along dark roads, I would hungrily peer from afar and try to imagine what glorious things happened inside the random country homes. In photographs, I would study the sparse and limited backgrounds for some kind of clue. I had a very wonderful childhood, yet I needed to know: What did their home look like? How did they spend their time as a family? What made them happy?

Then, I would compare their lives to mine.

It wasn’t long before I realized this was a never-win situation. Whatever I dreamed up for others was always better than what I imagined for myself. It had to stop. Not the dreaming part. Never the dreaming. But the comparing? That had to stop. And it did. I don’t do it anymore. Now, I look around my own space and find ways to make it match my vision. When we get a glimpse of how another person lives – either via their home, a photograph, or on social media – we get only that: one glimpse, one moment, one perspective, one narrow view. This is not how they live the every day, and it is not how we should either. Rather than focus on someone else, stare into your own life. Be present in your moment. It is your perspective and panoramic view that matter.

If you don’t like what you see, change it. If you do like it, stay there. Linger. Laugh. Love. And above all, Live the life you imagine.


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~Inspired ME, Joyful BE