daily life · letting go · simplicity

What We Really Need

I am smack dab in the middle of a family vacation and while I enjoy the quiet moments and downtime with my family, there is a voice in the back of my head screaming I NEED TO 

… set up two orthodontic appointments, make a list for back to school shopping, clean out my inbox, have the oil changed and car washed, write 3 blog posts, finalize a book outline, get back on a full-time writing schedule, arrange a doctor visit, organize my work files, I NEED TO … I NEED TO … I NEED TO!

sigh

Family. Friends. Work. School. Home. Health. Hobbies. These days our plates are so full – overflowing with tasks and responsibilities – it is easy to become overwhelmed, frustrated, and even distracted.

Personally, I do not mind having things to do and a sense of purpose. But when they infringe on my family time, my fun time, my chance-to-relax time, my VACATION where I am supposed to get-away-from-it-all time … I become seriously annoyed.

These days with my husband, son, and extended family are fleeting. They are irreplaceable moments which might become memories. I refuse to allow everyday demands to taint them. I NEED TO …

… focus on my son’s smile when he tells a silly joke, squeeze my husband’s hand a little tighter when we walk side by side, cheer louder as we watch our favorite major league baseball team, linger longer over a delicious dinner and relaxing glass of wine, savor the memory of our recent family reunions.

WE ALL NEED TO …

seek to experience and explore new things
break away from daily demands whenever possible
put down our phones and other technology
give the people we love our full attention
make time to treat ourselves – often

Life NEEDS to be lived on our terms rather than directed by duty. Believe me, the to-dos will still be there – if and whenever we get back to them. The moments, however, will not.


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~Inspired ME, Joyful BE

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

acceptance · confidence · self · simplicity

7 Ways To Simply BE

Sometimes I wonder what is wrong with me.

In any given day, there is that inevitable moment: the one where I realize I am dropping the proverbial ball.

I want to do all things. BE all things.

A wife who dotes on her husband so he might realize how amazing he is, how much he is loved, and how wonderful life is with him in it.
A mother who expertly walks the delicate balance between tough and pure love while teaching her son how to succeed, fail, respect others, challenge himself, dream big, be realistic, and thrive in this crazy world so he might one day change it for the better.
A daughter who is not too wrapped up in this current life to appreciate the woman who gave it to her.
A sister who never forgets to thank her siblings for the memories, laughter, and unconditional support.
A niece who feels blessed to have funny, loving, caring, and giving women who are not only aunts but friends.
An aunt who loves her nieces and nephews as if they were her own children.
A friend who has time to listen, help, advise, laugh, and simply be there when needed.
A writer who understands the purpose of her words and the need to share them.
A woman who is all things for all people – one who never wavers, has the right answers, provides eternal praise, rarely criticizes, never hurts another, does not judge, always knows what to say, puts herself first, dresses impeccably, maintains a spotless home, prepares gourmet meals, never forgets an appointment/grocery item/to do item, is always on time, and all the while making it seem effortless.

Of course, this is a fantasy. Succeeding in one area of my life often means I am struggling in another. And to be honest, I am okay with that. Struggle is a part of life and as long as I am not failing completely in any given area, then I am fine.

It simply is not possible to be all things to all people all of the time. It is not only unrealistic and exhausting but impossible to perform at top speed and perfection every minute of every day.

I have learned to give myself two beautiful gifts: patience and compassion. And once I willingly accepted those gifts, I realized something: I am everything I hope to be. For even when I am not consciously performing some act to prove it, I am all of those things. They are part of me.

I have not lowered my standards, but I refuse to set too high of expectations. I no longer push myself to work toward something I will never master. More importantly, I do not even want to. I have learned:

7 Ways To Simply BE

  1. FACE REALITY – Take a ruthless look at your schedule and decrease the load wherever possible. Do not be afraid to say no! If letting things go is not an option, work to make it more manageable by simplifying tasks.
  2. BE PROACTIVE – Beware of the trap, the one where you juggle multiple things and seem to be doing well. Inevitably, a ball will drop and when it falls, it will fall hard and possibly shatter. Look for ways to lessen the stress before it is too late.
  3. SET PRIORITIES – Sometimes one area of life will require all of your time and effort. Focus on health, family members, education, career, etc. as needed. And once life is on track, carefully widen the circle to include the people and things you missed.
  4. REACH OUT – Let others know when you are overwhelmed. Ask for patience (or forgiveness). And if someone offers, do not be afraid to accept help.
  5. ANALYZE – Is leisure time being used wisely? Technology can be a huge benefit but it can also be a tool for procrastination or avoidance. Cutting back on screen usage (TV, phone, computer) can free up time for health, quality interactions, a hobby, etc.
  6. DIVIDE AND CONQUER – Consider working on one area of your life and once it is under control, move onto another. The nice thing here is that you completely focus on something you hope to organize and improve for a short time and then once it has become easier to manage, you tackle another one with equal and dedicated attention.
  7. ACKNOWLEDGE – Realize how much you actually accomplish. It is pretty amazing when you look closely at the things you do during one day. Make a comprehensive list – include everything, no matter how small. You will be amazed at all you do. An added bonus? It will show how time is spent and reveal areas to improve or simplify.

Balancing every aspect of life is not easy and as we pass through each new stage, the path only becomes more difficult to navigate. Even when life comes at us fast and hard, however, we can enjoy it. The key?

Show yourself kindness. Be patient and compassionate. Discover how to live this crazy, beautiful life on your own terms. Just BE.


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acceptance · health · letting go · simplicity

Master The Art Of Letting Go

I have been letting go of a lot lately. In truth, I have been doing it for years. It is not always an easy or smooth process. Too often, I find myself caught up in a cloud of worry. What if I make a bad decision? What if I hurt someone’s feelings? What if I follow the wrong path? What if? What if? What if?

What if we simply let go of…

THINGS: Where is all of your stuff? one friend asked when he visited our home. I am a lover of beautiful, useful, and sentimental things. I am also a minimalist. Letting go of clutter is not as difficult as one might think. With some practice and guidelines, I consistently maintain a large, lovely home and active family without much excess. This is a wide-reaching topic, so stay tuned for a future post.

OBLIGATIONS: I say no whenever necessary. If it does not fit into our family view, I refuse. Sometimes, I must say yes when I want to say no because well, that is just the way of life. But when I do, it is on my terms. Consider the options. Do not agree out of guilt. Say no to certain things so you can say yes to something better.

TO DOS: I am a list maker – daily, work, seasonal, etc. I am also a wish-list maker. I create grand, sweeping, dreamy lists of everything I would like to do. The secret? When I am done, I go line by line and slash and burn. I cross things off without doing them because I understand my reality. In the end, I am left with the priorities, the things that matter, and a lot less pressure.

DREAMS: Sometimes I have to pause and re-evaluate what it is I really want. Daily demands, previous choices, time constraints, finances, and more can have a major influence on what I hope and envision. Taking stock of where I am in the present moment helps determine where I get to be. Dreams can be changed. Dreams can be postponed. Just never, ever stop dreaming.

EXPECTATIONS: I have made the mistake of expecting too much – from myself, my family, my friends. And when I did, I was inevitably disappointed. It is nearly impossible to match the conversations and interactions I create in my mind so I have stopped doing it. Try to take things as they come and be in the moment because when you just do life, it often amazes and exceeds any expectations you could have set.

PERFECTION: I try to do the right thing, make good decisions, and be the best version of me. But I still have moments when I push myself too far, believing I can control A if I just do B and when I do, things will be perfect. Of course, perfection is a myth and once I remind myself of that, I go back to being perfectly imperfect. 

REGRET: There is not much I regret and the things I have regretted, I made an effort to correct. If you struggle with the after-effects of a bad decision, release the guilt and shame. Direct all energy into fixing whatever is wrong. And if you cannot correct the mess you made, lighten the emotional load by giving yourself the gift of forgiveness.

INDECISION: Making a decision can be difficult, especially if the consequences seem high. Once I make a decision, however, I rarely go back. I have the ability to embrace it, move forward, and give everything I have. One tip? Sit with the idea for a bit before actually committing. If your head and heart are good with the prospect of a new direction or change, follow your instinct and go with it.

PEOPLE: This one is difficult. Even when we know someone is harmful or no good, we tend to hold on. It is human nature to believe we can somehow alter a relationship if we simply try harder, do better, explain our side, convince them, or love more. But the hard truth is: some people are not meant to be together, whether in marriage, family, or friendship. If someone is perpetually negative, demeaning, unsupportive, emotionally unavailable, spiteful, mean, or abusive, it is time to leave. Letting go of toxic people is not an act of cruelty, it is an act of self-care.

TIME: With every passing second, I let go of something precious – time. Cancer scared me enough to realize just how important each moment can be. Yes, I still waste too much time doing stupid things. It is impossible to fill every minute of every day with grand experiences. However, I am hyper-aware of how irreplaceable most of my life is and protect my time every chance I get.

There are countless areas where we can learn to let go – fears, self-doubt, judgment, hate, anger, the list goes on. We are all a constant work in progress. Try one area at a time, then tackle another. With practice, it will not only become easier but welcome. You might even enjoy letting go once you feel the weight lift from your shoulders and the ability to focus on what truly matters. And if you ever feel stuck or unsure … listen to your heart. It knows when to let go.


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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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daily life · home · simplicity

Replace The To Do With I Did

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This week was going great until Tuesday night. Well, maybe not great but relatively good.

In trying to juggle my multiple writing tasks, I am in desperate need of a more structured schedule. And this was THE week. I was motivated to get organized with book outlines, blogging, family needs, and big house projects. I was committed to my TO DO lists. I was planning and prioritizing and letting go of perfection and then it happened …

LIFE.

Late Tuesday evening my son was injured in basketball practice. Not a sprain or broken bone but a fall flat on his face, bloody nose, split swollen lip, broken front tooth in half and root exposed kind of injury. My husband and I dropped what we were doing and ran over to where my son and his coach waited. As I went to hug my boy, I saw the destruction to his sweet, handsome face but perhaps more importantly, I detected the fear hidden behind tear-stained eyes.

The TO DO list I stringently toiled over just minutes before no longer mattered. I did not care about spring landscaping or my new book idea or the baseball equipment I needed to buy. Too much to do was immediately scratched off and replaced with one solitary thing: the well-being of my child.

A fellow basketball parent (who just so happens to be an endodontist) was gracious enough to perform emergency treatment. At a time when I am usually ready for bed, I sat in a shadowy medical office learning all about pulpotomies while watching my son handle it like the champ I know he is. As he leaned back in the exam chair with bright light circling his bruised mouth and blood spattering his shirt, I became hyper-focused in the moment.

I awoke this morning with a different to-do list and a desperate need to get my son smiling again. I have no idea how long that will take. It may entail a lot more treatment and pain and medication and soft food and mom snuggles. But I am ready.

My other TO DO list has been forgotten. I have put all other things on hold in order to focus on one: my I DID IT list.

Because once we get through this parenting challenge and look back, I will see that I DID whatever I could to help my son. I DID drop everything and focus on what matters. I DID show him the love and patience and compassion and help a child needs when they are hurting so much. I DID take time to research and ensure the best recovery path. I DID reduce stress and the overwhelming aspect of it all by eliminating distractions. I DID IT and my family came out better and stronger.

I like the idea of an I DID IT list so much I am instilling it in my planning sessions. This weekend while I map out my schedule for the following week, I will also reflect on the previous week and acknowledge the atta-girl, way to go accomplishments.

No matter how big, no matter how small, I want to be able to say I DID IT.

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~Inspired ME, Joyful BE

daily life · discovery · learning · simplicity

10 Tips For Mindful Single-tasking

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In this busy, non-stop world, a powerful myth has been formed that multi-tasking is the key to success and happiness.

Juggling multiple tasks can lead to a sense of pride and accomplishment. In many instances, multi-tasking is necessary to complete a huge undertaking such as a household renovation, work project, big move, or major life event. Doing more than one thing simultaneously and stretching our attention is often vital to making it through challenges, milestones, and celebrations. Yet when constant multi-tasking seeps into every facet of daily life, it can prove harmful.

I am a single-tasker. When too much is thrown at me, I stress out. I worry. I do not jump into action and cross things off my list with ease. I freeze. Then I retreat. I am wired to think things through, be methodical. Too much to do in a short time overwhelms me to the point of not wanting to do anything. And while I am entirely capable of putting out many fires at once, I make every effort to avoid it whenever possible.

Many of us strive to meet the dueling demands in any given day but this does not mean a) we are good at it or b) we enjoy it.

Jack Of All Trades, Master Of None
If someone spreads their time and mental focus across too wide a path, they will likely fail at something. Often people who boast at being good at everything are not. And if they dig deeper, they will discover some aspect of their life is suffering: health, self-care, relationship, job, school, social life, home. Multi-tasking is only beneficial when it leaves room for personal well-being, growth, and contentment. If the stress and pull of duties take away from the people and activities you love, it might be time for a significant change.

Do What You Love, Love What You Do
For many of us, the demands are overwhelming and unwanted. Closely monitor your calendar to be sure you do not over-commit. First should be the have-to-dos (basic needs of self and family). Next, add the agreed-to-dos (commitments to family, friends, work, school, church, community). Finally, consider the want-to-dos (hobbies, projects, entertainment). Review your schedule. Living up to promises and responsibilities is important, but there should be ample room left for what matters most to you. Priorities should be at the forefront and consuming the bulk of your time. If they are not, begin to say no to the excess.

TIPS FOR MINDFUL SINGLE-TASKING
1) Go technology-free. Check texts, phone messages, and email when you are alone or without distraction. More importantly, do not try to talk to someone who has eyes on a device rather than you.
2) Seize the moment. When someone you love asks to do something, do it with all you have. When my pre-teen son wants to snuggle and watch a movie, I drop everything and do it.
3) Write it down. If tasks are taking over your ability to think straight, document each one digitally or on paper. Seeing them in print helps with management and does wonders for perspective.
4) Be ruthless. When your list becomes too long or duties pile up, consider what can be put off, re-scheduled, or ignored completely. Immense relief comes from crossing unnecessary tasks off a list and letting go.
5) Compromise. If you cannot separate, strive to focus on one and then another in fair intervals. My husband fields work calls during family vacations by setting aside a few minutes every morning when my son and I are preoccupied.
6) Investigate. When you constantly sacrifice one area in favor of another or it begins to create problems, ask yourself why. Hiding behind duties in order to avoid people or situations might be cause for concern. Excessive procrastination may also be a sign your heart is no longer in a project, and it is time to let go.
7) Be sensitive to the demands of others. Sometimes we have to accept things will not always go our way. My husband travels a lot and when he does, my responsibilities grow. Initially, I fought it, but I have since learned to look at the bigger picture: he loves his job and my support is a huge reason for his attitude and success.
8) Find the magic. Moments of leisure are limited so make them extra special. If you are unaware of the cool trend of Hygge, consider it when you settle in for some quiet time.
9) Release perfection. We often believe we should perform a certain way in order to be a good parent, spouse, child, employee, friend, etc. Everyone has limits, and it is okay to acknowledge them. Giving to people we love is a fulfilling part of life, but be wary of the pressure to mold into a fabricated ideal. If you cannot do something well and with purpose, admit it and ask for help.
10) Find balance. With practice, patience, and understanding, you can learn to handle whatever life throws at you. Distractions are inevitable. Accept there will be chaotic moments and embrace the crazy, but also realize this does not have to be a permanent state.

Slow And Steady Wins The Race
Doing too much at once can give the false idea that we are somehow winning at life, getting ahead of others, or proving our value. Remember the classic fable The Tortoise and the Hare? The speedy hare taunts the slow tortoise into a race. Confident in its ability to win, the hare stops to nap. When he awakes, he is shocked to see the tortoise crawling across the finish line. The lesson? Overconfidence and rushing are not always the best approach. Perseverance, focus, and a little extra time to do the job right can be invaluable measures of success, putting you on a path to living the life you envision.

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~Inspired ME, Joyful BE