acceptance · renewal · self · simplicity

When You Hit A Wall, Lean Against It

This summer has been a lot tougher than I care to admit. For although we are officially on summer break, much of it hasn’t really felt like summer or a break.

My son loves sports – as in he could practice, play, watch, analyze, and research all day. And because he loves sports, he loves participating in a variety of camps. I register him for some because they are worth the time and cost. They also provide an opportunity to hang with friends, be coached at a different level than during the school year, and simply have fun.

And so it is that my son and I have very different views of summer. He prefers warp speed. I prefer slow and steady. He wants to compete. I want to relax. He likes places to go. I like no schedule. He seeks to be challenged. I seek serenity.

Of course I believe immense value comes from activities and experiences. But I also believe occasional boredom, having absolutely nothing planned, and stepping away from the crazy can be equally rewarding.

Any moment – grand or not – can become a cherished memory.

My struggle? Surviving cancer often makes me believe I should hold onto everything with a grateful heart while at the same time I should let go of whatever is a waste of time and energy and just … live.

I want every moment to matter – both for him and for me – which is why I often do things I do not necessarily want to do. As a parent, my son’s happiness automatically becomes my happiness. In a strange way I have to do things I do not want to do in order to get what I ultimately want … joy in the everyday.

The problem? For the first five weeks of summer we were on a tight schedule. And while I loved seeing my son do the things he enjoys, I tried to do too much. Even worse, when I reached my limit, I (stubbornly) kept going.

I HIT A WALL.

The solution? Pause. Reflect. Remember the magic summer can bring. I will make the most of the next five weeks. Our little family has already enjoyed one vacation – glorious days exploring, relaxing, and simply being together. Up next is another trip filled with family and fun. And in between we will do a little of something and a whole lot of nothing.

I AM LEANING AGAINST THE WALL.

Sometimes we must give in to the demands, feel overwhelmed, and push ourselves to get through busy or difficult days. And other times, we might have to say yes when we really want to say no, especially if it comes to pleasing the people we love. The key is realizing when we have reached maximum capacity. Yes, it takes strength to keep up with it all, but it takes even greater strength to release the guilt, take care of ourselves, and break away.

If you have hit a wall, lean against it.


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~Inspired ME, Joyful BE

change · confidence · goals · renewal

Dream Big And Work Small

Too often when we want something, we do not want to wait for it.

Instant messages, fast food, quick loans, overnight delivery, one hour glasses. The world has been wired to coddle and appease on-demand tastes. And with the increasing speed of everything, our desire to want experiences now has not only become commonplace but expected.

It is human nature to focus on the destination rather than the journey. But while a hurried approach might be fine for the service industry or technology, the rapid-fire tempo of life does not work everywhere, especially when it comes to far-reaching dreams or goals.

Change – real and meaningful change – does not happen quickly. It requires determination, organization, and extreme patience. And this is often the very reason why many people do not pursue their true dreams. They think big but do not work small. They want the reward without taking an honest look at the steps necessary to get there.

We cannot always get what we want simply by wanting it. We must work, then wait, work, and then wait again. Rushing toward satisfaction in certain areas will only lead to 1) disappointment with the result 2) lack of appreciation for the result 3) lackluster result or 4) complete failure.

Life is a project. Treat it that way.

Whether it be physical or mental, a career path, school, relationships, home improvement, or a major life change, mapping out the ideal end and expectation is the key. And the best place to start? At the beginning.

  1. Where do you hope to be? What exactly do you want? I mean truly want. Focus on the overall picture, aim high and dream big but be sure you are specific in your goal. Envision the intricate details of your final reward. Imagine the incredible feeling of accomplishment. Having a clear visual along with the anticipation of a successful end will help propel you forward when times get tough and all seems impossible.
  2. How will you get there? What is your simple plan? And I do mean simple. Create a few manageable steps. Again, you have to start somewhere so start at the beginning. Decide what must be done and go in order – do not jump to an easier, more appealing task if others must be completed first. Work diligently and once done, move onto the next. And do not forget to take pride in the smallest of victories and celebrate along the way.

And for those times when you feel stuck, defeated, or in need of a reality check:

BE DETERMINED Short term pain for long-term gain. If you made a decision, stay committed and resolve to see it through. There will be times when it all seems too much and overwhelming. With any large undertaking it is inevitable. You will question whether it is worth the time, energy, or emotional and physical effort. But if you obsess and get caught up in the amount of work involved, you will never get anywhere. When it all seems too much…

GET ORGANIZED Work small for big results. Think about it: a bridge is not built road first – it needs a stable, strong foundation, a base to rest upon. Even this article is not published immediately, it goes through stages of content creation, research, editing, proofreading, etc. Work in an organized manner and find a way to overcome every step, no matter how involved or consuming. If that way does not work, seek another. Simply crossing one thing off the list and moving onto the next can be a great motivator to…

HAVE PATIENCE Stay the course. Be sympathetic to the process and your journey. If you need to reassess and alter the course, do it. If you got through a rough spot, treat yourself. When you need a break, take it. And if all becomes too much, show some compassion. Just do not forget what you are working toward and the hurdles you are willing to overcome to get there. Baby steps can turn into long distance marathons and crossing that proverbial finish line will feel unbelievable.

If there is something on your wish list that seems unattainable, do not fret. It can be yours.  Just don’t expect to get it overnight.


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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

health · relationships · renewal

How To Help Someone Heal (When You Don’t Know How To Help)

Although we wish it would never happen, there will come a time when major illness / surgery / medical care affects someone dear to us.

As a cancer survivor who has battled multiple surgeries, chemotherapy treatments, and more, I have often been asked how to help someone in a similar situation. The most recent came last week and prompted this post.

The following list is a small sampling of ways to reach out. It is not just for illness but for anyone suffering through a difficult life event and is only limited by your own creativity.

Whatever gesture, no matter how seemingly insignificant, can have an incredible impact on how another person heals.

WHAT BROUGHT LIGHT TO MY DARK DAYS

 -Meal Service: Organize a network of dinners via Meal Train or Sign Up Genius. Meals are catered to allergies and tastes, and menus can be as complicated or simple as you like. During my chemo weeks, friends provided delicious home cooked and carry out meals for my husband and son.

-Dinner Gift Cards: A gift card for meal delivery or carry out on those nights when they are too tired to cook will be appreciated.

-Meal Alternatives: If they are unable to eat due to intensive treatment or recovery, consider doctor-recommended Ensure. There were many days when I could not stomach food and textures made me nauseous. A friend included a pack with her donated meal, and it worked to provide vital nutrients when I could not eat.

-Seasonal Arrangement: This one is obvious. I am not a flower person, but the sentiment certainly did brighten my days.

-Group Gift Basket: If your friend is part of a group or club, have the members contribute an item to a collective gift basket as a way to cheer them up.

-Media: A friend of mine gifted the season one DVD of a popular television show. I became hooked enough to catch up on the entire series while I was sick. Books and crosswords are also wonderful ideas to help pass recovery time. If you order from Amazon, you can gift almost any item (digitally or via mail) to another person.

-Drop A Note: I still have (and cherish) all of the handwritten greeting cards, notes, and kid drawings that came through the mail or were given to me. One friend sent a funny card every week to let me know I was not forgotten.

-Social Media: I received countless wall posts and private messages of support. A second of your time can make a world of difference to someone who is feeling down, isolated, or alone.

-Child Care: Offers to babysit, host play dates, pick up from school, or run a child to/from activities can be a lifesaver on those days when it is difficult to even get out of bed.

-Provide Transportation: If they are unable to drive, offer to take them to appointments, the store, etc.

-Run Errands: Save them a trip. Ask if they need groceries, a run to the post office, or a stop at the discount store.

-Home Care: Offer to do light chores. If you use a cleaning service, see if they provide free services for medical patients. Cleaning For A Reason offers free maid service and the opportunity to gift to someone battling cancer.

-Be Social: Friends invited me for coffee, movies, and more on a regular basis. Though I was not always up to it, I did go on many occasions. It felt wonderful to be included and escape the diagnosis for a while.

-Check In: Let them know you are thinking of them, just because and with no expectations. One morning my neighbor and her children brought me a bouquet of wildflowers after their morning walk. The visit took less than five minutes but made the day.

-Join The Fight: More than once, I was shown public support via fundraising, sponsorship, or recognition on my behalf.

-Prayer Chains: Regardless of your religious affiliation, it is heartening to know someone is praying for you. My hometown church included me on a weekly prayer list and a complete stranger who knew of my fight sent a lovely card.

These are just a few ideas and as you can see, I still remember them almost five years later! Each person is different and every situation unique, but there are some basic things to remember:

DO
  • Respect their privacy: ask permission before sharing with anyone
  • Ask questions and then listen to the answers
  • Allow them to choose topics of conversation
  • Avoid negative stories about whatever it is they battle
  • Help them feel normal whenever possible
  • Let them know you are willing to help if needed
  • Reach out!
DO NOT
  • Post on social media or make it public if they do not want it
  • Offer advice unless they ask for it
  • Judge: everyone fights in their own way
  • Hover: allow them the freedom to heal on their own terms
  • Minimize their pain or emotions
  • Call or visit if they are not ready
  • Avoid them just because you do not know what to say or do!
WHEN…

they seek companionship, be there.

they ask for space, leave.

they want to talk, let them.

they need silence, give it.

Honor the struggle. The greatest gift you can give someone who is healing is your patience and understanding.


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celebration · home · renewal

Breaking Away

Spring has arrived! The season of rain showers, baseball, egg hunts, birdsong, flowers, and promise. And yet despite it all, I am ready for a break. Spring break, that is.

Our little part of the world takes a late school break so when it finally arrives, my family is in desperate need of rest and relaxation. Sometimes we coordinate a big trip and venture across country but the past few years, we have retreated to our happy place – a city where we lived for a couple of years, one nestled among soothing mountains and fresh air.

When my husband and I moved there, it was opposite from what we knew with a differing landscape and culture. But we fell in love with the area, so much that even after we moved away, we began to call it home. Perhaps one reason? Our son was born there and though he has been raised elsewhere for much of his young life, he has come to appreciate his birthplace as much as we do.

And so we are breaking away from it all and escaping to our home away from home. It is familiar enough that we can forego strict itineraries and explore on a whim. Hikes, tours, restaurants, scenic drives, attractions. We have been there and done most but enjoy it so much we do not mind doing it again. The area is constantly growing and changing, and there is always something new to see and do. It never disappoints.

My family will revisit and renew and recharge. And when we return to the daily grind, hopefully we will look back and remember … it is possible to break away from it all.


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acceptance · discovery · learning · renewal

Dealing With The Dark Side of Life

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When something major disrupts our view of what life should be, it is natural to feel a sweeping range of emotions. Anger. Frustration. Hopelessness. Anxiety. Sadness. Fear. Depression.

Bad things should not happen to good people, but they do. Jobs are lost. Accidents happen. Trust is broken. Health suffers. Mistakes are made. Grief overwhelms. Tragedy touches us all. And when the painful task of living pushes our limits, we wonder … why is this happening? Why must we endure such difficulty? And the biggest question often spoken silently: Why Me?

Every one of us is a unique individual worthy of happiness and all that is good in this world, but we are not so special that we are immune to heartache. The ups cannot be appreciated without the downs. Trying to avoid every negative consequence or potential threat in life is impossible. We can be mindful, love fully, work hard, be diligent, and embrace each moment with gratitude, but the hard truth is we will still be submitted to the dark side of life at some point. Learning to cope with those challenges when they come can be the difference between long-term joy or sorrow, love or hate, confidence or fear, peace or discontent.

The path of Life is a bumpy one, but the bruises do eventually fade. There are lessons to be found in every situation and the process of healing makes room for goals, dreams, and plans for the future.

After my cancer diagnosis, I questioned many things but I refused to ask Why Me. My subsequent treatment carried the proverbial promises: a light at the end of the tunnel, a blessing in disguise, etc. The fight showed how much the people I love matter. It revealed my personal strength and determination and love of life. My eyes opened upon the amazing beauty of second chances. I was reminded that a positive outlook can drastically change the outcome.

I decided my struggle would not be in vain. It would have purpose. I wanted to be a survivor, but I also sought to learn from the experience. Rather than Why Me, I chose to ask Why Not Me?

We are not guaranteed a perfect life and to be honest, I am a bit leery of anyone who has not dealt with adversity. Personal loss, heartache, and challenges teach us to cope when things do not go our way. They force us to peel back the layers, look inward, dig deep, and reveal our true selves. Perhaps more importantly, they give us hope. Emerging from the fog helps us see people and circumstances more clearly. It encourages compassion toward others because we have been there. We understand.

Nothing is permanent in this wicked world, not even our troubles. – Charlie Chaplin

The next time life goes left instead of right, allow yourself to feel the pain of your situation. Do not hide from the reality but do not dwell in self-pity either. For although you may not deserve the challenge placed in your path, you have been given an incredible opportunity to become a better version of yourself. Look beyond the obvious and seek to answer the question of Why Not Me? 

Yes, we will be tested, but it is possible to come out on the other side. For even in the darkest moments the light is still there, just waiting for us to claim it.

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~Inspired ME, Joyful BE

bookshelf · renewal · second chances

Read Free, Inspired Be

I love a good deal, especially a free book! One of mine is currently available as a FREE Kindle Download at Amazon, and I wanted to share.

The Oak Tree holds a special place in my writer heart as it is the first book I finished after my battle with cancer. It is an entirely fictional tale of life, love, and second chances, but more importantly it is a story of celebration and hope. And for a limited time, it is FREE!*

Download. Enjoy. Share.

The Oak Tree

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No Kindle? Download the FREE KINDLE APP FOR PC or FOR ANDROID.

*Offer ends February 25, 2017.


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~Inspired ME, Joyful BE