gratitude · celebration · self · daily life · happiness

A Grateful Heart

In a modern world, it becomes easy to miss the blessings in the everyday. With all there is to do amid the weight of responsibility, we become lost, trapped in a cycle of obligation and distraction.

Realizing how fortunate we are. Recognizing the beauty that surrounds us. Finding joy in the simplest of things. Noticing what people do – not in service or duty but from kindness. These are often overlooked or forgotten in the mix of a busy day.

How do you react to what is around you? What is your message?

I encourage you to pay attention. To the blessings. To the world. To your life. To the stranger who holds the door, the co-worker who makes you smile, the friend who never fails, the family member who always listens. There are little signs everywhere and in everything, reminders of all that is good – in others, in ourselves.

This holiday season, begin a journey toward gratitude.

  • perform an act of kindness
  • tell someone they are loved
  • offer forgiveness without condition
  • thank anyone who comes to your aid
  • show compassion for those in need
  • lift another up without expectation
  • acknowledge your own worth
  • receive apology without judgement
  • look for lessons in the everyday
  • create joy in everything you do
  • accept what has been
  • embrace what might be

Begin with a foundation of basic appreciation, allow the smallest of blessings to build upon each other, nurture and watch them grow into something beautiful. Go forward with a grateful heart.


Photo by Alfred Schrock on Unsplash

discovery · goals · happiness · obstacles · self

FALL In Love With Life [2]: Let Nothing Destroy Your Joy

This is the second post in a two-part series FALL IN LOVE WITH LIFE which I hope will inspire you to regain control, discover what matters, embrace change, and get back to living a life you love.

In the previous post STOP PLAYING THE BLAME GAME I shared how viewing our difficulties solely as the result of external circumstances could lead us to believe we have no control. Blaming outside forces for our inability to reach goals is not only unproductive, it can be destructive, particularly if we project our frustration or resentment onto other people. Making and relying on excuses prevents us from gaining insight into what we want and the reasons we are not getting it.

PART TWO: LET NOTHING DESTROY YOUR JOY

We need to go back to the beginning and define What We Want. This can be difficult because our instinct is to make a list of every little thing we wish was different in our lives. That is a trap, a distraction, and unrealistic. Instead, we need to look deep within and diagnose What Is Missing. What is that ONE thing that is not working or broken?

This. This is what we want.

Discovering the core want has two benefits:

  • While it often seems we have many things to repair, there is usually a primary issue disrupting other areas and creating imbalance. Working to correct one can heal and improve others.
  • If we dedicate our thoughts and energy on one topic, the focus becomes clearer, the task appears less daunting, and our success is more likely. We realize real change is possible. We can do this.

First, ASK and ANSWER the tough questions:

1) WHAT WOULD YOU DO?
Think about what is missing. If you had unlimited free time, how would you spend it? On a hobby, travel, education, self-care, a goal, certain people? Write down everything you would do without the worry of a job, caring for others, home projects, etc. Once you see what your heart desires, rank them. What comes out on top? That is your Joy – pursue it.

2) WHAT HOLDS YOU BACK?
Determine what stands in the way. There is something preventing you from getting what you want – people, things/clutter, chores, self-esteem, fear, confidence, guilt, money. Yes, some things are out of your current control. There are people who need you and places you must be. Find the workable things you can simplify, delegate, prioritize, influence, or change.

3) WHAT ARE YOU HIDING BEHIND?
Be realistic but more importantly, be real. Pinpoint the excuses you use to procrastinate, distract, or even sabotage progress. Chronicle your actions for a week. Is it perfectionism, unnecessary tasks, perceived needs of others, your personality? You might be surprised to realize you waste a lot of time. Only when you accept your role and responsibility can you bring about change.

4) WHAT IS THE COST?
When we fail to nurture the person we want to be, we lose something. Frustration and resentment over not getting what we want can lead to broken relationships, poor health, risky behaviors, a lack of purpose, and a desperate search for peace. What do you pay for not doing what you want?

HONESTY is a requirement. When we believe we are stuck and just going through the motions, like our desires are not met, or that we are ignored, rejected, invisible to the outside world … THIS is when we must look inward and find out what lies at the heart of our frustration. Because that is precisely what frustration is: not getting what we want, expect, or need.

For me, it was an inability to make time to write effectively. I battled stress which led to emotional exhaustion which led to physical fatigue, procrastination, unrealistic expectations, and a life out of balance. I was letting go. In most instances letting go can be a positive move. The problem arises when we are constantly required to let go of the things that bring us joy in order to make room for things that do not. I got tired of putting off – my time, my aspirations, my dreams, my life.

LIFE IS NOT SOMETHING WE SHOULD EVER PUT OFF.

I challenge you to figure out what is missing and when you do, do everything in your power to reclaim it. Become committed to giving yourself more of what you want. Find a way. There is always a way.

Research multiple solutions
Develop a flexible plan
Delegate when possible
Let go of what does not matter
Prioritize what does matter
Determine the motivation
Take small steps and reward yourself with big happiness whenever you overcome one

CREATE A LIFE WITH YOU IN IT.


Photo by Sandis Helvigs at Unsplash

acceptance · change · goals · obstacles · self

FALL In Love With Life [1]: Stop Playing The Blame Game

This is the first post in a two-part series FALL IN LOVE WITH LIFE which I hope will inspire you to regain control, discover what matters, embrace change, and get back to living a life you love.

PART ONE: STOP PLAYING THE BLAME GAME

A new season is fast approaching. I love the changes they bring – to nature, to tradition, to ourselves. This coming fall, however, is a sad reminder of personal goals not met. One year ago, I was scheduled to finish edits and publish my latest novel. That didn’t happen. Then I planned to complete it in spring. That didn’t happen. Now, I intend to publish within months and am fearful I will fail yet again.

The PERCEPTION? Everything was to blame.

Family: It was not an easy year. I spent the majority tackling life’s bumps and bruises for the two people I cherish most – my husband and son. They needed me, I happily delivered. The time, attention, love, care, patience, worry, and stress dedicated to them is not something I regret.

Personality: We introverts require ample time to pause and recharge in preparation for the next day or challenge. And in my perpetually overwhelmed state, I gave myself the necessary moments to reset. But now I wonder … did I really need SO much downtime?

Priorities: There was always something more important. In addition to the family, jobs, home, school, sports, pets, travel, and the simple demands of daily life required my immediate attention, pulled me away from the long stretches of free time needed to work effectively.

Exhaustion: Thanks to cancer, I still suffer from extreme periods of fatigue. I have limited physical energy and once it is spent on the most pressing needs, all else gets pushed aside to the miraculous day when I will feel “better” and have “more time.”

Work: Getting a book to completion is not a simple task. Aside from the writing, editing, and rewrites, there is proofing, formatting, covers, marketing, blogging, launching, promotions, updates, and more. Finishing one step was daunting. Knowing another twenty waited? Sigh.

Every person struggles to manage work and home life. But, the needs of family encroached into such a large part of my day and at an unfair pace that I became overwhelmed and frustrated. There was not enough time set aside for my goals (namely, finish my book). I was last on the list. Heck, I wasn’t even on the list anymore.

The REALITY? Life had become unbalanced.

I am notorious for setting high standards for personal productivity. If I can’t give my best effort, I do not want to do it. So rather than tackle something half-way, I lowered expectations for myself as a writer. Yet even though my standards decreased, my desires and aspirations to improve, be better, and succeed never went away. In fact, they just kept piling on.

I wanted to be the best wife and mother. I needed to recharge. I kept getting more to do. I needed to rest. But amid it all, I still had a book that needed to be finished.

I was stressed and emotionally exhausted. And with so much weighing heavy on my mind and heart, I sought every possible escape, excuse, and method of procrastination.

Oh, and did I mention the enormous guilt? I felt it when I did the things for me (like wrap myself in a cozy cocoon of introversion), and I felt it when I did not (like neglect my passion for writing). I mean seriously, why should I want to do something so demanding and all-consuming that it steals time away from the people who need me, the family I love? Why should I want to publish another book? BECAUSE I DESERVE IT.

We all deserve something of our own. And if we are not getting that something, we need to stop blaming others and take responsibility. Be open to hurt and frustration but also be prepared to accept your role, your choices, and what you can do to change things and move forward.

There is an old saying that perception is reality and in my case, it became true. However, once I realized my perception was negatively impacting my capacity for joy, I sought something else:

PERSPECTIVE…

There will always be too much to do and too little time. There will always be distractions, worries, and reasons to complain. There will always be something holding us back from our hopes and dreams. But rather than search for imaginary scapegoats to everyday problems, we should seek greater insight into what might be wrong and then find workable solutions.

NEXT TIME: I ask (and answer) the tough questions in my quest to get what I want.


Photo by Roman Kraft on Unsplash

celebration · daily life · gratitude · happiness · self

This One Life

Today I celebrate six years cancer free.

At times it has been easy,
easy to forget the fear and struggle that came with diagnosis and treatment.
Other times it has been difficult,
difficult to remember the pockets of hope that come with remission.

For within peace, there lies chaos.

Life loves to stir the pot, rock the boat, press every button.
It gives and takes. Pushes or pulls. Hurts then heals.

Surviving has not made me perfect,
it has made me purposeful.
I have been gifted clearer eyes with which to view my world
and myself.

Parts of me are better than before,
others not so much.
I do not always like what I see,
but I love who I am.

I have changed. There is no doubt I have changed.
It is impossible not to…

I have always been curious,
but cancer gave me insight.
I was always outspoken,
but cancer amplified the voice
within my mind and heart.

Yes, I have changed the way I live and love and spend my time.
Some believe I no longer care enough but the truth is this:
I care too much.
So much that I made the decision to release the hurt, let negativity go –
from people, things, emotions.

I do not have much time.
No one does.

The moments that matter? Limited.
They come in waves and I choose to get lost in them. Swim in their joy.

We all have choices. Whether right or wrong, they are ours to make.
Love them.
We all have this one life. Whether short or long, it is ours to take.
Live it.


Photo by Jude Beck on Unsplash

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

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

family · happiness · love · relationships · self

Many Reasons To Love

What does love mean to you? Sure, there is a standard definition, but love is not as easily explained when it comes to each one of us.

There is no specific way to love. It is unique to the individual and ours alone to share. What’s more, there are many types of love and infinite ways to express it. It might be private or at times very public. It can seem magical but then leave us heartbroken. And while we may seek a one-true-perfect kind of love, the reality is this: love is quite messy.

It is not meant to be easy – nothing worth having ever is. But too often we become caught up in the “idea” of love – as if we should be doing it differently or better. We complicate matters rather than simplify. Love can be easier if we stop over-analyzing and comparing. Allow it to be what it is meant to be: a feeling of elation and affection. Real and pure.

LOVE IS AT ITS BEST WHEN IT COMES NATURALLY.

Listen to your heart. It is telling you there are many reasons to LOVE …

WHO you are – rather than hide your differences, embrace them
WHO you are with – spend your moments with those who matter
WHAT you do – follow your heart and your dreams
WHEN you can – see the good, be kind, show patience, find the joy
WHERE you are – enjoy the places life takes you and moments it gives you
WHY you love – cherish those around you without conditions
HOW you love – give to others without judgment
HOW you are loved – appreciate those who believe in you and see your value

Love really does make the world go around. It humbles. It connects. It hurts. It heals. It carries purpose, compassion, and a desire for others to find their happiness. And the best part of love is that we cannot help but share it with others.

Look to love. Choose love. Love everything.


Photo by Mara Ket on Unsplash