celebration · happiness

Pursue Your Happiness

For many, today is a time for cookouts and fireworks, a day of family and summer fun. And to be honest, the 4th of July should be filled with celebration. As Americans, we are fortunate to live in a country where we can express our beliefs, follow our dreams, and be our perfectly imperfect selves.

Declare your independence. Break free from whatever brings you down or holds you back. Pursue your happiness.

Happy 4th of July!


SUMMER HOURS: I am officially on break to spend time with my two favorite people – my husband and son. I will still post and answer emails or messages, but please be patient with any delays. #happysummer #grabeverymoment ~JL

compassion · generosity · kindness

Hope In Things Unseen

Once again I have a scheduled topic to write about and Life intervenes instead as teacher, guide, and reminder.

This morning I dropped my son at basketball camp early (as in “too early for coffee” early). And although he attended last summer, I planned to stay until it officially kicked off before beginning my day.

This camp is on a mid-size university campus a bit far from our hometown and though he has done it before, I worry. I am a mother. I cannot help myself. When he is away for 7 hours each day of the week at a location where no adult knows who he is, I worry.

Today, however, my attention was drawn elsewhere. As I watched kids of all ages crowd beneath the baskets in hope of rebounding a ball, a small boy came to where I leaned against a wall. He was about six with blonde spiked hair, pale freckled skin, and sparkling blue eyes. He knelt down to his water jug and played with the spout. I continued watching the activity on the court while sneaking glances at him. He seemed to be upset so I guessed he was having trouble getting the cap off his jug.

Not seeing a parent around (most leave right after registration), I asked if he needed help. He looked to me with wide eyes and nodded. I crouched close to him on the floor and as I reached for his jug, he began to cry.

“That’s okay, we’ll figure it out,” I assured, still assuming he was upset about his water. As I noticed him pop open the drinking spout with ease, I quickly realized he did not need help with that. “Oh, honey. What’s wrong?”

“I can’t play basketball. I tried to shoot the ball and didn’t make any,” he sobbed. “And I don’t have any friends here. No one wants to play with me.”

Needless to say, my heart instantly cracked in two for this little boy. Not only for the fact he was scared and feeling alone but that he had the bravery to share it with me.

“Can I tell you a secret?” I asked. “When my son came to camp for his first year, he didn’t know anyone either. But they do something very cool here. They put you on a team and you stay on that team all week and by the end you become not just teammates, but friends.”

He seemed to consider this while fighting back tears. “But I can’t make a basket!”

“Well, that is why you are here, isn’t it?” I waved my hand toward the gym floor. “Every boy out there wants to learn how to play better. And the coaches will teach you that.”

“Okay,” he shrugged.

I asked if he wanted to join the others, but he shook his head.

And so it was that I planned to leave, but then I stayed. Along with my boy, I wanted to see this little guy start camp.

We fielded wayward balls from under the basket together and he glanced to where I was still standing a few feet away. “Where should I put these?” he asked, looking at his water jug and lunch.

“Upstairs on the balcony,” I pointed. “Do you want me to show you?”

He nodded, and we walked up the two flights of stairs. Once he found a spot he would remember at lunch time, we headed downstairs and during the final minutes of free-shooting, he sat against the wall, content to watch. And when the head coach instructed the campers to the center of the gym, he got up and began to walk in that direction.

As he passed by I told him to have a fun day. “And if you have any questions, just ask someone with a whistle.” There were over a dozen coaches and college players with whistles, and this was my equivalent to telling my son to look for a mommy with kids if he ever needed help and I was not there.

He nodded and maneuvered between boys twice his size to find a place to sit on the floor. After one final glance at my son and another at the little boy, I left to begin my day.

Even if we are not parenting our own children, we are responsible for parenting.

Whether we have children or not, adults have an important role to play. We have an unspoken duty to care for the children of this world. And when one of us is not there for our child, others need to step in if necessary to soothe, calm, cheer, or help in our absence.  Too often we leave it up to family, teachers, coaches, or clergy to guide a child. But in reality, it is up to all of us to display kindness, show compassion, be patient, and reach out to someone in need.

Of course I get the whole notion of stranger danger and overstepping bounds when it comes to helping another person’s child. I am in no way suggesting we should infringe, impose, or interfere in a situation that is none of our business. It is important to know when and how to help without leaving an impression of impropriety, endangerment, or misunderstanding.

But when the intent is innocent and the purpose is to ease the pain of growing up, I have no apologies.

I have hope. 

Hope that sweet boy goes home to his parents with a smile on his face, telling stories of a fun first day at camp.

Hope he realizes how brave he was to ask for help, accept it, and keep moving forward in the face of fear.

Hope he understands there is so much more good and love in this world than bad and hate.

Hope he remembers the kindness of a stranger and pays it forward one day.

Hope that if this had been my son in need, someone would have done the same for him…


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acceptance · confidence · fears · letting go

When Failure Is The Only Option

Our little family is officially on summer break, but my thoughts are still wrapped around something that happened at the end of the school year. My son had a presentation due in the final weeks of the last quarter – an in-depth, visual, interactive, role-play type of assignment.

Now, while I am a hands-on parent and actively involved in my son’s education, I am also a realist.

He is in middle school so I only help when absolutely necessary. He is responsible for class assignments, school projects, homework, studying, deadlines, teacher communications, library returns, etc. I no longer interfere or assist or remind about his academics because he is old enough to be held accountable.

He needs to succeed on his own which also means he needs to fail on his own.

So it was that his presentation was due in two days, and he had neglected to mention it. I scrambled to purchase the most basic of supplies and offered to proofread his final report (I am a writer; I can’t help myself). And as I did, I realized he was probably not going to do very well. The example the teacher provided as a guide was far more elaborate, very detailed, extremely organized, and painstakingly set up to impress.

After rushing between school and baseball to print, cut, arrange, paste, and label, he declared himself to be finished and ready for the big presentation. I studied his project board – it was neat, organized, easy to understand. It was … presentable. But still, I am a writer, a person who loves to create and research. I enjoy the planning and effort it takes to make a project shine – pop – and wow.

I feared his project would not wow.

To be honest, I did not even care about his grade. What truly worried me was that he would feel inferior to other kids who had cooler projects with interesting props and better information. But as I watched my son gaze over his finished product with pride in its creation and satisfaction in its completion, I let it all go.

This was his and his alone – he would decide whether he did just enough or more than enough. And he would ultimately pay the price or be rewarded with his grade.

The next morning my husband went to the presentation (parents were invited) and texted a picture of my son smiling beside his project board. Over dinner that evening my son said a lot of people stopped at his station to listen to him speak and complimented his interpretation of a young boy from ancient China. He compensated for a lack of decorative props and colorful design with extensive knowledge and sheer confidence.

He proved less was more. He succeeded when I feared he might fail.

Too often we believe we know the right way to a happy ending simply because we have already walked the path ourselves, found how to get there. And because of this, we hope to save others from the pain or struggle, make it easier somehow.

The problem? If another person constantly tries to guarantee our success we will never understand the importance purpose, desire, and determination play in the achievement of goals. We will never experience the incredible sense of accomplishment that comes from difficult work or rough days. We will never know our victory is sweeter because we fell down and then picked ourselves up (as many times as it took).

And while sharing personal experience is important, it is not always the best predictor of success. Sometimes we must heed the advice of others who have been there while subsequently ignoring it. We must jump into something with nothing more than the simple faith we will be okay because we have done all we can do.

We need to rely on our ability, believe our best is good enough until we are told it is not. And if we do fail, we need to learn how to avoid failing again. On our own.

Mapping our own path often means we will stay on it longer. Perhaps more importantly, it might reveal that pushing to be better is not always a marker of success. Just because we try harder does not guarantee we will get what we want. Sometimes, perseverance is simply a reminder we are able to do great things, things we may have believed to be out of reach. Yes, we might reach a little too high and tumble to the ground. But that is the beauty of failure. It reminds us why we want something, makes it more desirable, and helps us determine if it is really worth it.

I still plan to nudge my son, encourage him to try a little harder, work a little more, and go above and beyond the moment when he thinks he is finished. But I am also going to let him make his own mistakes and allow him to fail. In truth, I hope he fails a lot because that would mean he stepped outside his comfort zone, took chances, and pushed the limits.

Perhaps then he will see himself as I do – so amazing and talented and smart and funny and loving and a reflection of all that is possible in this world. Only then will I feel I have succeeded.


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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

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

change · confidence · goals · self

What To Do When No One Has Your Back

Face it, there will be times when no one supports your decision, when you are on your own, and when it is all on you.

We like to believe we achieve goals or succeed because someone helped us along the way. And to be honest, the majority of the time that is the case. Many of us would never overcome the bumps and bruises of life or exceed our own expectations without the aid of a spouse, family member, friend, neighbor, school, church, or community.

While it is true we pull our strength and motivation from those around us, there will come a time when we have no one to lean on – when no one has our back.

If you find yourself adrift in a sea of doubt and alone in your dream, it might be time to look inward rather than out for the validation and support you need.

3 WAYS TO BE THERE FOR YOURSELF

Become your loudest cheerleader –
When the crowd around you quiets to barely a whisper, that is the perfect time to unleash your inner voice and speak up loud and clear. In the most difficult and darkest of moments, seek whatever is good. Positive affirmations, celebrations for small victories, and personal rewards or incentives can all be the driving catalyst to keep you moving forward. Telling yourself “you got this!” or shouting out an “atta-girl!” (even if you do not completely believe it) may seem silly or insignificant but it can make an incredible difference when it matters most.

Do not give up on yourself (even if others have) –
A goal, particularly a far-reaching one, may take a toll over time. People will come and go and possibly tire of your journey, but that is to be expected. It is not their desire, it is yours. Dreams are tricky things. They can seem awesome and attainable at one moment and then ridiculous and out of reach the next. If living with it 24/7 pushes you beyond your limits, it might be time to reset. When at your lowest, focus your mind and heart on the end game and try to remember how great it will feel to reach the highest point. The ability to say you did it when no one thought you could can be an amazing motivator.

Remember the impossible is possible –
At some point someone will tell you it is a waste time and you should let it go. That is okay, especially if it is something you really want and believe in. A personal passion does not always need to be understood by an outsider. If you want and believe it that should be the key motivator. Some of the greatest inventors, doctors, musicians, artists, leaders, etc. were told they were crazy and wasting their time. But they had a vision, something no one else could understand in its beginning stages because it seemed too abstract and unreal. Even when others may not see it, keep your eyes wide open. Fight for what you know to be true and when you are done, share it in all of its entirety and beauty for the rest of the world to see.

In a world where we gain affirmation from virtual thumbs-up, social likes, and shares, it can be difficult to find and place value on our own thoughts and actions. Support comes from a variety of sources and whatever is given should definitely be appreciated. Just do not forget that sometimes, the most important person to have your back is you.


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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