Remembering Your Identity: Your Essence

Finding Your Identity

Finding Your Identity

At some point or another along life’s way, everyone struggles with their identity, or the particulars of their essence.  Essence is defined as “the qualities that make a thing what it is.”  Naturally, the qualities that make you who you are and what you are evolve through the years, as you live and learn. Someone once said that  “we are nothing more than the sum of our memories and experiences.”   But, the changes you experience along the way can sometimes keep you guessing.  Personally, as my primary roles have changed, from a busy non-stop mother to a more self-reflecting, self-serving role of an empty-nester, reflections of my identity have sometimes been conflicted.  While many of my qualities have been enhanced from life’s experiences, and are innately part of what makes me who I am, other qualities have required nurturing and work to bring them back to the surface.  Every so often, it’s important to recognize and cultivate the qualities or the essence that once fueled our souls, and sparked our own dreams and aspirations.  And, acknowledging and identifying the qualities that makes each of us unique and special is an important step in remembering and restoring qualities that we’ve pushed aside and shoved to recesses of those memories and experiences, such as strengths and weaknesses,  fears and dreams, or beliefs and desires.

And, while we’re talking about identity, it has been with great interest and quite a bit of amusement that I have watched the increasing numbers of quizzes that have populated the social networks, sparking readers curiosity in discovering their true essence. What is your “hippie” name?  What career were you “destined to pursue?”  What is the “quality” that makes you unique? What type of  “flower” are you?  These quizzes are certainly not scientific, and yet they’re fun and interesting because they verify what we already believe, or they offer insight into what we want to know about ourselves.  I find them worth the time invested, since they randomly remind me of why the daffodil is my favorite flower, and why I’m a child of the 70’s.  They reassure me that I have easygoing vibes (hard to plug-into sometimes), and that I’m a Hippie at heart.  They trigger thoughts and questions about my likes and dislikes, sparking further reflection of what makes me…ME.

And…for the record, my Hippie name is “Tree.”  Peace Out…peace

S0me quotes about Identity:

“It is easier to live through someone else than to complete yourself. The freedom to lead and plan your own life is frightening if you have never faced it before. It is frightening when a woman finally realizes that there is no answer to the question ‘who am I’ except the voice inside herself.”
Betty Friedan

“He allowed himself to be swayed by his conviction that human beings are not born once and for all on the day their mothers give birth to them, but that life obliges them over and over again to give birth to themselves.”
Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez, Love in the Time of Cholera

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A Sister and A Friend: A True Story

SistersI saw a post on Facebook that declared that this week was National Sister’s Week.  Being the Google geek that I am, I had to search to see if this was true. In fact, there are varying dates listed for the observance.  August 1 is National Sister’s Day, and there are some dates listed in March for a week-long recognition.  But, the search started the “wheels-a-turnin” in my head, and in truth, in my heart.  It doesn’t take a National Sister Week for me to appreciate the treasured relationship that I have with my sister, but it’s a nice opportunity to show some love.  And so, my sister…this is for you!

Thanks…for taking me to my first drive-in movie.  Even though it was a horror flick (your favorite back then), and you prompted me not to cover my eyes (and risk missing the “really good parts”), it’s a treasured memory. To this day, I can still vividly remember the experience.  I think maybe it was as much because you asked me to go with you…after all, I was 11 and you had just gotten your license.  It was the ultimate testament of your approval.

Thanks…for sharing your love of music with me.  You had an album stack to be envied…all the great 70’s bands.  To this day, I don’t hear the Allman Brothers, Crosby, Stills & Nash, or Steely Dan (just to name a few) that I don’t think of you.  Our bedrooms were close enough that I could hear the tunes that you were spinning, and so…I’m a proud 70’s music junkie.  Memories that are generated by a song are distinctive, and I’m thankful that they make me think of you.

Thanks…for always being by my side.  There’s a quote from a movie that goes something like, “Because she is my sister, she is therefore, one-half of me.”  We have it in our nature (genetically) to hold things back, so let this serve as a declaration for now and for always…I am here for you.  You are truly “one-half of me.”  We’ve both been told, through the years, that we look alike, laugh alike, and talk alike.  It is because we share a common thread that forever binds us.  You’re stuck with me, and I’m stuck with you…and I’m good with that.

A Quote About Sisters:

“Sister. She is your mirror, shining back at you with a world of possibilities. She is your witness, who sees you at your worst and best, and loves you anyway. She is your partner in crime, your midnight companion, someone who knows when you are smiling, even in the dark. She is your teacher, your defense attorney, your personal press agent, even your shrink.” – Barbara Alpert

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Forgiveness and Happiness: Hand in Hand

iStock_000001398323MediumI like to think of myself as a work-in-progress. At fifty, there are still many short-term and lifelong goals that I want to reach, and dreams that I want to accomplish.  Those goals have not diminished as I’ve aged; if anything…they have intensified.  As the saying goes, “Life comes at you fast.”  So fast, in fact, that it’s necessary to let go of things that are holding you back or dragging you down, or standing in the way of emotional and real-life progress.  In that spirit, and in recognition of yesterday’s unsung observation of National Forgiveness Day, it’s important to realize the impact that forgiveness can achieve. While it may be a tough pill to swallow, it can also be just the remedy needed for forward momentum.

We’ve all had those seemingly unforgivable random acts of unkindness generated towards us at one time or another.  The remembrance of the act fester in the wounds left by the attacks on our hearts, and our souls.  Left untreated, the wounds grow deeper and deeper, until it consumes our spirit and our mind.  Such consumption is stifling and prohibits our true purpose to achieve happiness on many levels, both personally and professionally.  The big question then is…how do you forgive?

1.  Recognize that harboring the resentment in your heart is not beneficial.  And, I’m talking long-term here, folks.  Obviously, a freshly-broken heart or spirit isn’t ready to forgive and forget.  It takes time to heal.  But part of the healing is being able to forgive enough to enable yourself to look to the future and remember what’s really important…your happiness.  Holding on to the resentment won’t make the hurt go away.  In fact, the opposite is true.  Holding on allows you to relive the pain and keeps it fresh.  Surrendering the resentment enables the wounds to heal.

2.  Forgiving does not necessarily mean forgetting.  Although forgiving will promote healing, remembering fosters learning, and there’s something to be learned from almost all of life’s experiences.  For example, in a particularly hurtful situation, where forgiving is essential for your own well-being, remembering can offer helpful insight when it comes to similar future circumstances.  Because you have forgiven you can move forward, but because you remember, you are stronger from the realizations that you have ascertained.

3.  Why do we forgive?  Because we ask for forgiveness.  As Paula Deen so southernly put it in her most recent interview,  “If there’s anyone out there that has never said something that they wish they could take back, if you are out there, please pick up that stone and throw it so hard at my head that it kills me. Please, I want to meet you.”  You get the gist…we all have faults, and therefore we all make mistakes.  Hence, at some point, we all seek forgiveness. I know, I know…it’s not so cut and dried, you say.  But, like any wise, old saying that we’ve referenced from the recesses of our minds from time to time throughout the years, such as “treat others as you would like to be treated,” or “every cloud has a silver lining,” forgiveness is something which is inherently known to us as being right, and something that we will – from time to time –  inevitably pursue.

Some quotes on forgiveness:

Forgiveness is a funny thing.  It warms the heart and cools the sting.  ~William Arthur Ward

The weak can never forgive.  Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.  ~Mahatma Gandhi

Forgiveness is the fragrance the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.  ~Mark Twain


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You Are Not Special…A Graduation Speech

I recently came across – for the first time – a graduation speech, given by a high school English teacher, that went viral last year.  I was obviously immune, because I never saw it, read about it, or heard about it from anyone.  The underlying message is powerful, and I wanted to share it with you.  It’s a great lesson for young adults beginning their journey outside of high school and college, but it’s also powerful advice for anyone, and a reminder that we are, in reality, just cogs of humanity.  We play an integral role in society, but no one more so than another.

Until you have the opportunity to watch the video, here are a few of my favorite quotes from the speech transcript:

The fulfilling life, the distinctive life, the relevant life, is an achievement, not something that will fall into your lap because you’re a nice person or mommy ordered it from the caterer.  You’ll note the founding fathers took pains to secure your inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness-quite an active verb, “pursuit”-which leaves, I should think, little time for lying around watching parrots rollerskate on Youtube.  The first President Roosevelt, the old rough rider, advocated the strenuous life.  Mr. Thoreau wanted to drive life into a corner, to live deep and suck out all the marrow.  The poet Mary Oliver tells us to row, row into the swirl and roil.”

Like accolades ought to be, the fulfilled life is a consequence, a gratifying byproduct.  It’s what happens when you’re thinking about more important things.  Climb the mountain not to plant your flag, but to embrace the challenge, enjoy the air and behold the view.  Climb it so you can see the world, not so the world can see you.  Go to Paris to be in Paris, not to cross it off your list and congratulate yourself for being worldly.  Exercise free will and creative, independent thought not for the satisfactions they will bring you, but for the good they will do others, the rest of the 6.8 billion-and those who will follow them.  And then you too will discover the great and curious truth of the human experience is that selflessness is the best thing you can do for yourself.  The sweetest joys of life, then, come only with the recognition that you’re not special.

Because everyone is. ~ David McCullough


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Inpirational Tips For Becoming A Better Person a better person“To laugh often and love much; to win the respect of intelligent persons and the affection of children; to earn the approbation of honest citizens and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to give of one’s self; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to have played and laughed with enthusiasm and sung with exultation; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived—this is to have succeeded.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Every so often, I hear someone remark about the terrible state of the world today. And, I guess there’s some validity to such a statement. After all, when you tune-in to the evening news, it’s usually one tragedy or crime after another that’s being reported. At the end of the broadcast, the newscasters often share a closing, uplifting report…to reassure us, I suppose, that it’s not all doom and gloom. I’ve always considered myself to be an optimistic-type. I look for the good in people, and it’s not often that I’m disappointed. And, I’ve learned from the social networks that I’m not alone in my quest to see the good side of humanity. News feeds are full of shared inspirational videos and hero stories. Still, I believe that within us lies the obligation to be the best version of ourselves and to be the type of person that we aspire others to be. In that spirit, I’m sharing some inspiration to help us on our journey…

Helpful Tips To Be A Better Person

1.  Pay It Forward – April 25, 2013 is National Pay It Forward Day.  Paying It Forward is a  concept based upon the premise that together we can change the world, one good deed at a time, by performing random acts of kindness, in the hopes that it will cause a ripple effect.  Good deeds have a tendency to restore faith, both to the giver and to the recipient, that there is still an underlying layer of compassion in the human spirit; a desire to see good things happen for others.  Although random acts of kindness shouldn’t necessarily be saved for special days, it’s a reminder to do something good. Mark your calendars…

2.  I still believe in the adage “If you can’t say something nice, say nothing at all.”  Origins of the saying are somewhat iffy, ranging from being attributed to Thumper (Bambi), to an old wives tale.  Regardless, it’s hard to argue with the notion.  That’s not to say that you shouldn’t voice your opinion, or that everything that comes out of your mouth should be all flowery and bubbly, but if you take the time to think before you speak, it might give you the opportunity to say something else instead.  It’s hard to take back words once they’ve been spoken in anger or otherwise, and it’s worth the effort it takes to bite your tongue.

3.  Let go of the past, and look forward to the future.  Letting go of past disappointments, betrayals or failures can be one of the most difficult hurdles to clear in life.  It’s easier said than done.  But living in the past – constantly dredging up old feelings and resentments – can be paralyzing to your emotional well-being, preventing you from being your happiest.  Forgiveness can be the tool you need to move forward. Try it…and then try again.

Some helpful quotes:

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”  ~ Harper Lee

“Always dream and shoot higher than you know you can do. Do not bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself.” ~ William Faulkner

“I am a better person when I have less on my plate.”  ~ Elizabeth Gilbert

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How To Clear Your Mind of Clutter and Focus On What Matters

Peaceful and Clear ThoughtsWhen it comes to clutter, the television show Hoarders has absolutely nothing on me.  Oh, my house is clean enough…the clutter is in my mind.  At times, my mind is so full of junk that it’s hard to get a thought in edgewise.  I recognize this comes from being  busy, and when we juggle life, it’s inevitable that thoughts will get a little jumbled. Still, the noise can get a little loud sometimes. I’m a big movie fan, and one of my favorites is a Kevin Costner film For Love of the Game.  In the movie, Costner is a major league baseball player nearing the end of his career, trying to hold on through his last season, and finish strong.  One of the techniques he uses, while on the pitching mound, is a mantra that he repeats to himself to quiet the noise from the fans in the stands.  He repeats Clear the Mechanism, Clear the Mechanism until he achieves absolute silence.  Okay…so I’ve been mumbling this to myself for the last week or two, and so far…no silence.  So, what’s up with that?  I mean, it worked for Costner.  I know…this isn’t the movies. Still, in an effort to find some techniques that might work,  I’ve done a little research that I thought I would share.  Ready?  Ommmmmmm……

1. Madison K. Krown, a MidLife Empowerment coach, and blogger for the Huffington Post recommends sitting down for 30-60 minutes per day, and doing what she refers to as free form writing.  The process, according to Ms. Krown, is to take three deep breaths, and then write nonstop, without thinking, all of the thoughts that are cluttering your mind. Don’t stop to think about what you’re writing.  Just write, and write, and write…get it all out there.  Don’t edit them, change them, or rearrange them on the paper.  Stop when you feel the need,  but don’t read the finished product, and then immediately destroy or shred it.  She recommends doing this consecutively for 30 days.  Okay…I’m going to try this.  I’m so glad I have access to a shredder.

2.  The second technique I found was from a YouTube video of Dr. Sharon Melnick,  a psychologist dedicated to helping talented and successful people “get out of their own way”.  This breathing technique involves a three-step exercise that, according to Dr. Melnick, gives the same benefits as a 90-minute Yoga class.  Hey, I’m all for saving some time, so I actually tried this as I watched the video, and it was helpful.  The basic concept is to breathe in, hold, and exhale, all for the same count.  For example, breathe in (count to five), hold (count to five), and exhale (count to five).  Do this for 3 minutes, once or twice a day to rewire your nervous system.   Since Dr. Melnick recommends closing your eyes during the exercise and placing your fingertips together, I did this too.  As a plus, during my future breathing exercises, I’m pretty sure if anyone sees me doing this, with my eyes closed and my hands in front of me taking deep breaths, holding, and exhaling…it will communicate that I’m temporarily unavailable.  All together now…inhale…hold…exhale…

3.  The third technique involves (again) writing down the thoughts that are cluttering your mind, and listing them into categories – the thoughts that are actually productive (such as tasks), and the thoughts that are just worries and unnecessary clutter.  By actually visualizing the thoughts, you can prioritize the productive thoughts, and mark them off once they are accomplished, and for the worrisome thoughts…well, if they’re worries that you can’t control, then mark them off the list, as well.  I’m going to grab a Sharpie for this one…it’s time to start markin’ stuff off..

If you’ve got any helpful techniques for clearing the mind clutter, share them with me!

A quote or two for inspiration: 

The greatest revolution of our generation is the discovery that human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives. ~ William James

Don’t believe everything you hear–even in your own mind. ~ Daniel J. Amen

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Appreciate The Simple Things That Make Life Remarkable

Appreciate The Simple Things In LifeToday began like most; in a mad dash to get ready for work, ran some errands on the way, and then on to the 9-to-5er.  I was checking my emails, as is part of my early morning routine, when I came across a message from someone who is very dear to me.  We don’t often exchange emails, so it was a pleasant surprise to see the message in my inbox.  What was so remarkable, though, is the fact that the email contained a link to a podcast, and a website – both of which had a profound influence on my for-the-moment state-of-mind.  The first thing that I thought, after listening to the podcast and checking out the website, was how we need to take the time to appreciate how even simple things, like an email with a shared link, can make a remarkable impact on our daily lives.  Let me explain…

The website that was shared with me was The Happiness Project, a blog by NY Times and international bestselling author Gretchen Rubin. In case you’ve been living in the same bubble as I have apparently been inhabiting, The Happiness Project book, which chronicles Ms. Rubin’s yearlong quest “test-driving the wisdom of the ages, current scientific studies, and lessons from popular culture about how to be happier”  has been on the bestseller list for more than a year, taking the country by storm.  Since I was just introduced to the blog this morning, I haven’t read the book, of course, but I’m looking forward to reading it.  In the meantime, I’ve found a lot of inspiration from the blog.  Since beginning my own blog for the purpose of accomplishing what seems like a lifelong goal of writing, I found in The Happiness Project blog validation, if you will, that I’m not completely off-my-rocker for wanting to pursue something that I am passionate about and something that makes me happy.

The podcast link was another bonus. Dean Dwyer is an inspirational blogger and host of The Lifestyle Hacking Show podcasts, in which he interviews people who have achieved success in accomplishing goals.  It had been suggested to me to listen to podcasts before, and I hadn’t taken the time to pursue them, but this morning, because of that special email, I listened to Mr. Dwyer’s interview of Gretchen Rubin, and the discussion of how she came to realize that her pursuit of a career in law was not her true passion and about how she committed to following her true path as a writer.  What resonated even more with me though was the discussion of committing yourself to something that you are truly passionate about, whatever the case may be, and taking the time to realize what really makes you happy.  For instance, what do you do when you have some free time? If it’s something that you keep coming back to, it might be that it’s a passion that you should commit to pursue.

It’s important to recognize that simple things can make life remarkable.  In my case, the simple thing was an email message, but it served to reinforce my commitment to the challenge that I gave myself before my fiftieth birthday.  In your case, it might be as subtle as a fleeting thought that flashes through your mind, reminding you of something that you love to do or something that makes you happy.  Pay attention to the details and the clues that life gives you.  And, when you get the chance, pass along some inspiration.  You never know what a difference you can make for someone, on an otherwise ordinary day.

 As always, a quote:

“It’s the simple things in life that are the most extraordinary.” ~ Paulo Coelho
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Life…Best Accompanied by Music

Music and Dance“Everything in the universe has a rhythm, everything dances. ”  ~ Maya Angelou

It’s been a long winter…Long days and long, dark nights.  I’m ready for Spring, and I’m grasping for every bit of sunshine and warmth I can find.  It’s times like these (dreary, winter days) that I find myself reaching for my headphones or cranking up the volume of my favorite Pandora stations in an attempt to put a little dance-in-my-step.  Inevitably, I find the inspiration I need in the words to songs that relate to me, and the tempo to lift my mood.  Studies have long shown that music therapy can help with depression, anxiety, productivity, and healing. Like the background ballad on one of your favorite Grey’s Anatomy episodes, or the interlude in a good movie, life is best accompanied by music.  In the hopes of spreading a little sunshine, I’m sharing a few favorites from my play list.  Feel free to click on the links if you want. I hope it makes you tap your foot, and in the best of circumstances, sing along.

Gravity by John Mayer.  Love the lyrics to this song.  “Gravity…is working against me. Gravity…wants to bring me down.”  It’s not necessarily a pick-me-up song, but the lyrics speak to me about not letting things get me down.  Truthfully, it’s also reminds me of how gravity is affecting me physically, but I’m pretty sure that wasn’t John Mayer’s intent.  As a plus, it has a great bluesy vibe.

Into the Mystic by Van Morrison.  Just because I’ll forever be a fan of 70’s music and because it makes me think of the ocean.

Hey Ya by Outkast.  Try to keep perfectly still when you listen to this one…I dare you!

Pink Cadillac by Bruce Springsteen.  Crank this one up while housecleaning.  No way you can sit down for this one… Dust, Dance, Dust, Dance….Dust, Dance, Dust, Dance…still going…

Hotel California by The Eagles.  Still remember having this eight-track in my player, and still love The Eagles.

The Midnight Special by Creedence Clearwater Revival.  Everybody needs a little CCR in their life.  Let it shine on you…

Share some of your favorites with me…

As always…a few quotes.

“You’re like a song that I heard when I was a little kid but forgot I knew until I heard it again.” ~Maggie Stiefvater

“Joy, sorrow, tears, lamentation, laughter — to all these music gives voice, but in such a way that we are transported from the world of unrest to a world of peace, and see reality in a new way, as if we were sitting by a mountain lake and contemplating hills and woods and clouds in the tranquil and fathomless water.” ~ Albert Schweitzer

“We are the ones who take this thing called music and line it up with this thing called time. We are the ticking, we are the pulsing, we are underneath every part of this moment. And by making the moment our own, we are rendering it timeless. There is no audience. There are no instruments. There are only bodies and thoughts and murmurs and looks. It’s the concert rush to end all concert rushes, because this is what matters. When the heart races, this is what it’s racing towards.” ~ Rachel Cohn

“The times you lived through, the people you shared those times with — nothing brings it all to life like an old mix tape. It does a better job of storing up memories than actual brain tissue can do. Every mix tape tells a story. Put them together, and they can add up to the story of a life.” ~ Rob Sheffield

“Our lives were just beginning, our favorite moment was right now, our favorite songs were unwritten.” ~ Rob Sheffield

“No matter who we are, no matter what our circumstances, our feelings and emotions are universal.  And music has always been a great way to make people aware of that connection.  It can help you open up a part of yourself and express feelings you didn’t know you were feeling.  It’s risky to let that happen.  But it’s a risk you have to take-because only then will you find you’re not alone.” ~ Josh Groban

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Sharing a Little Love…For Every Day

I was standing in front of the Valentine card selection in a local store yesterday, sifting though the remains of cards that were left over.  I’m a true procrastinator, but in my defense, I was picking up a replacement card for one that I had somehow misplaced. (It’s true!)  LoveThere was a man standing there, holding two heart-shaped boxes of chocolates, staring blankly ahead.  “Nothing like waiting until the last minute,” I said nonchalantly, just making conversation and for some reason wanting to indicate to him that he wasn’t alone in his quest to find a great card among the bleak selection of valentine remnants.  When I glanced at him, he must have seen something in my face that said, “Share Your Life With Me…Tell Me Your Troubles” because he began a conversation about how none of the cards said anything about his real feelings and how they were all empty words… And, how the chocolates in his arms were probably useless, too because she probably wouldn’t like them.  Because I didn’t have the time, nor the inclination, frankly, to delve into the stranger’s personal life, I told him, “Pick a pretty card that says something nice…because that’s what you should do.”  As I was leaving the store, though, I thought about the peculiar encounter.  A card is, after all, just an expression of love.  But maybe, for some, the card is their only way of expressing how they feel, or in other cases, just an obligation. Because I believe love should be shown year-round and not just on special days, both to family and life’s partners, here’s a few quotes about love and relationships that I hope can be shared with others, at any time, on any day.

“Accept the children the way we accept trees—with gratitude, because they are a blessing—but do not have expectations or desires. You don’t expect trees to change, you love them as they are.” ~ Isabel Allende.

“He loved her for almost everything she was and she decided that was enough to let him stay for a very long time.” ~ Brian Andreas.

“Remember that the best relationship is one in which your love for each other exceeds your need for each other.” ~ Dalai Lama.

“As mothers and daughters, we are connected with one another. My mother is the bones of my spine, keeping me straight and true. She is my blood, making sure it runs rich and strong. She is the beating of my heart. I cannot now imagine a life without her.” ~ Kristin Hannah (Summer Island).

The best thing about having a sister was that I always had a friend.  ~ Cali Rae Turner

You don’t choose your family.  They are God’s gift to you, as you are to them.  ~Desmond Tutu

Share the love…

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Looking Back: Things I Wish I Could Tell Myself at 20

Looking Back: Things I Wish I Could Tell Myself at 20There are times in our lives, as we reflect upon the choices we’ve made and the paths that we’ve chosen, when the thought comes to mind…if only I’d known then what I know now.  Looking back, there are many things I wish I could tell myself at the age of 20.  I’ve learned enough through the years to realize that I probably wouldn’t have listened to “me” but that doesn’t stop the wonderment of the thought. For the sake of brevity, I will share with you a few that come to mind for myself, and I’ll try to keep it lighthearted.  So…this is to “me” – at 20.

1.  Keep a Diary.  There will be countless memories that you will want to preserve…many in great detail.  Write it all down; every minuscule detail that makes you laugh, makes you cry, or makes you want to relive the moment.  Write about the people that mean the most to you and make notes about why they’re so important to you.  Believe me, you’ll want to reflect back to your diary.  You’ll want to remember the moments, both good and bad.  You’ll want to remember the times that you laughed so hard that your stomach hurt, the mistakes that you made and what you learned from them, and the details about the people that are important to you, particularly your family and others that you love.

2.  Slow Down…Don’t Wish The Time Away.  You know how you’re always saying (at 20) “I can’t wait until I’m 21, or “I can’t wait until I’m out on my own?”  Take your time.  Believe me, the older you get, the faster times goes by.  Just relax a little and enjoy the moment.  Enjoy the fact that you have so few responsibilities and don’t be in such a hurry to conquer the world.

3.  Take Lots of Pictures.  Now, I know this may seem trivial, but you’ll thank me for this.  Carry a camera with you and photograph friends, relatives, vacations, silly times, serious times…you’ll want to look back on them like you will your diary.  And, this is really important…you’ll just have to trust me on this one…put them in an album as soon as you get them developed.  Don’t let them pile up in a box.  That box of photographs will hang over your head like a black cloud, and you’ll be so busy that you’ll have to take a vacation from work to get them all sorted.  When you get older, it’ll all be digital, but I can’t go into that now.  You’ll see, and you’ll be amazed.

4.  Hang On To A Few of Your Favorite Shirts.  Sounds silly, doesn’t it?  But when you get older, you’ll come across a picture every now and then and you’ll think “Oh, I loved that shirt.”  Now, it won’t, in any stretch of the imagination, fit you when you get older, but I think you’ll enjoy having them just to bring back memories of the times when you wore them, and to remind you of why that was your favorite color.

5.  When You Get Pregnant, You’re Not Really Eating for Two:  Oh, you’ll want to believe that you are, and it will, in your mind, justify eating a whole pizza by yourself.  Again, trust me. Put.Down.The.Fork.

6. Keep Working Toward Your Goals.  It’s really easy to push your goals into the background when you get busy.  Just stay focused and keep them in front of you.  Don’t give up.

7.  Pay Attention To Your Health.  You’ll hear and read a lot about the benefits of exercising and eating right.  Turns out all that stuff is true.  Develop a habit of daily exercise.  Make time for it.

8.  Don’t Pick Up A Couch Just Because You Can.  Well, since we’re talking about health, you really need to know this.  I know…you’re 20 and you’re strong, but seriously…if you want to rearrange the furniture, get some help.  You, and your back, will thank me for this, too.

9.  It’s Okay to Say No.  You’re a people-pleaser, but don’t feel guilty if you can’t do something, or don’t want to do something.

10.  Don’t Turn Down Those Rolling Stones Concert Tickets.  You’re not into the Stones much yet, but believe me, you will be.  When you get offered the chance to go to see them, cancel whatever you have planned.  Oh, they stick around for a long time, and you’ll be amazed at how well Mick Jagger ages, but hello…it’s The Stones!

A Quote on Looking Back:

I always knew looking back on my tears would bring me laughter, but I never knew looking back on my laughter would make me cry. ~ Cat Stevens
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How To Add Some Punctuation to Your Life

How To Add Some Punctuation To Your LifeMy mind is a whirly-twirly playground these days; a potpourri of thoughts and inspirations about how to accomplish goals and stay motivated.  As an example, just the other day I was editing one of my posts and making some punctuation changes and trying to decide how to most effectively use those changes.  This action led me to an Internet search, which led me to an article on how writers use punctuation marks (very helpful, by the way), and then I came across a Pinterest board titled “Punctuate Your Life” (very clever, I thought). But then that started the whole whirly-twirly thingamajig in my head and I wondered, “How Do You Use Punctuation in Life?” Specifically, how can you apply punctuation marks used for  writing to everyday life?  In our day-to-day rituals (sometimes day-to-day grind)  when is it best to use a comma, a period, or an explanation mark?

The Comma (Used to separate several items) – Obviously, the comma can be used to separate a To-Do list for the day, such as paying the water bill, getting the oil changed, and picking up groceries.  But, for better use of the comma, use it to list the things in life that you most appreciate, like your health, your family, your job, or maybe thirty minutes of solitude at the end of a long day.

The Semicolon (A break, but not as abrupt as a period) – Sometimes a break can make a world of difference, both in attitude and outlook.  So, for the sake of sanity…insert a semicolon.  When you need a break from reality, if only for a little while…insert a semicolon.  If you’re working and just not making much progress no matter what you do…insert a semicolon.  When you’re exhausted or just need an excuse to get away with some friends for the weekend…insert a semicolon.  You get the message (me inserting semicolon); okay…I’m back. On to the next one…

The Question Mark (Who, What, Where, When & Why) – I’ve used this punctuation a lot through the years.  From raising teenagers, in particular, asking who are you with, where are you going, when will you be back, and what the he** were you thinking?? Nowadays, most of my question marks are used to ask myself a few things, such as what do I want to accomplish, where do I see myself in say, five years, who messed with the scales because they must be wrong (as I check the rings on my fingers knowing they must be tight, what with water retention and all…right?)  why did I eat those carbs yesterday, and then finally when will I ever learn?  As I’ve stated before, I’m a work in progress, but then, aren’t we all?

The Exclamation Point (Shows strong feelings) Probably one of the most overused punctuation marks used in writing, or so I’ve read, but in life, an exclamation point can be a good thing!  Strong feelings of love, devotion, determination, and joy are capable of producing companionship, endurance, achievements, and laughter. I think Émile Zola said it best. “If you ask me what I came to do in this world, I, an artist, will answer you: I am here to live out loud.” Use the explanation point punctuation in your life liberally; don’t worry about what the critics say.

The Period (A full stop)  It’s sometimes difficult to use periods in life.  For instance, pulling out the full stop to a relationship can be hard, to say the least.  In other instances, using the period can be just the punctuation needed to propel yourself forward; towards bigger and better things.  Punctuational periods in life are like stop signs.  You must come to a full stop, but it’s still your choice as to which direction to go from there.  Still, when and where to insert a full stop in life takes some thought.

Today’s Inspirational quote is on living life to its fullest:

“Life’s like that. As we grow and change, some things we’ve experienced before take on new meaning. It’ll happen for the rest of your life.”   Richelle Mead

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Life Comes At You Fast…Take Time to Enjoy the Sunsets

Life Comes At You Fast...Take Time To Enjoy The Sunsets

I heard a song on the radio the other day; the lyrics were about how “life comes at you fast.”  It was befitting that I didn’t have time to reflect on them much, since I was running late to work.  The tune and the lyrics stayed with me, though, as I suppose was the intent.  They made me think about slowing things down, and about taking more time to enjoy the simple pleasures in life…like a sunset.

I can remember a point in my life (it seems like years ago) when I would wake up every day and think of something that I had to look forward to in that very day.  It might have been something very small or seemingly insignificant, but no matter how small it was, it was a practice that I somehow developed. It wasn’t anything that I planned or conditioned myself to do.  It wasn’t a mantra that I declared as I faced the mirror while I was getting ready for work.  It was an honest-to-goodness, fleeting thought that would come to me soon after I opened my eyes. And then, I guess life got busy.  I was rushing from daylight to dark, running my children to school and sporting events, and working my full-time job and loving most every minute of it all.  But, for whatever reason, probably a combination of exhaustion and the hodgepodge of thoughts about picking up brownies for bake sales (no, I never cooked them myself) or about getting uniforms out of the dryer, the thoughts stopped coming to me, or maybe I just wasn’t taking the time to listen.  What is strange to me, though, is that I was so busy, that I didn’t even realize they had stopped. That is, until lately.

I know I’m preachin’ to the choir.  We’ve all been victims of our busy lives.  But the truth of the matter is that we all truly do have something to look forward to in every day, no matter how slight or frivolous it might be.  The beauty lies in the ability to not only recognize the simple things, but to appreciate them, as well.

The habit that I developed many years ago is gone, but that’s not to say I won’t try to regenerate it.  In the meantime, if I’m heading westwardly towards home in my car, or sitting on my front porch, and a beautiful sunset looms ahead of me, I’ll slow down enough to enjoy it, if only for a minute.

As usual, I’ll leave you with a quote.  Of course, on sunsets…

“…she remembered watching a summer sunset from this very spot. Not so long ago; just a lifetime.”  ~ Sharon Kay Penman

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What Would You Do If You Knew You Wouldn’t Fail?

What Would You Do If You Knew You Wouldn't Fail?It’s “Might-As-Well” Monday.  At least, that’s what I’m calling it.  Since Mondays are typically non-Fundays, my new objective is to attempt to think about the question  “What would you do if you knew you wouldn’t fail,” come up with some  reasonable, not-completely-off-the-chart options, pair that up with it’s “might-as-well-Monday” and make a plan to do some things that I would do if I truly knew that I wouldn’t fail. Now, I’m not going to go to things like “If-I-Had-a-Million Dollars” or “World Peace” because again, I’m thinking “not-completely-off-the-chart,” and this is not the question and answer session of the Miss America pageant.

Okay, here’s my short list for now, and I’m going to start light and work my way up towards loftier goals.

1.  I would go the nearest retail clothing store and buy myself a pair of Skinny, size 8, hip-hugging jeans.  I mean, if you knew you wouldn’t fail…well, who wouldn’t? But, it’s “might-as-well-Monday,” and I haven’t seen size 8 since middle school (I actually think I went from size 6x to size 14, and skipped all the sizes in between), but since I didn’t make any new year’s resolutions, I’ll add this to my “might-as-well” category and work towards that objective.  Stranger things have happened…

2.  I would run a marathon.  Seriously.  Aside from the fact that I don’t even exercise on a daily (OK, rarely) basis, wouldn’t it be fantastic to run a marathon?  I used to run track when I was in middle school (maybe that’s why I was a size 8) and I enjoyed it a lot.  And, this wouldn’t be totally unachievable.  Of course, I’ll have to start exercising first to get in shape for that…

3.  I would write a book and have it published.  (Getting much loftier, now)  But, I think this is possible.  As far as the writing is concerned, my main restraint is my imagination.  I don’t have one.  If I do, I can’t find it.  It’s hard, at least for me, to come up with ideas about characters, and plots and all the twists and turns that keep a reader interested.  But, there are books on writing that can help with this, and that’s my next step.

What would you do if you knew you wouldn’t fail? I think it’s time for some quotes, folks….

“Success if not final, failure is not fatal; it the courage to continue that counts.”  Winston Churchill

“Don’t spend time beating on a wall, hoping to transform it into a door.”  Coco Chanel


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Expectations: What Did You Expect?

Expectations: What Did You Expect?

It’s Surfin’ Saturday…a little free time for me to surf the net and catch up everything wacky and wonderful in cyberville. What I found was a lesson on Expectations.  So…I’d heard a little buzz this past week about Subway, but I didn’t  know the full story.  Seems some guy measured a foot long sub, and the measurement came up short, and now all you-know-what has broke loose and lawyers are getting involved, blah blah blah. What I found amusing though was a quote from a Subway rep stating that they were “sorry the footlong fell short of expectations.”  I don’t know exactly why the statement made me chuckle, but I think it’s probably because  if I bought a foot long sub, I don’t know that I would exactly expect it to measure a foot long.  Guess I’m just gullible or a not-so-savvy consumer, but it made me wonder, “Do I just expect too little out of life?” I mean, should I be measuring my expectations, and playing closer attention if they fall short, and then reacting accordingly?  If life hands you lemons, do you make lemonade, or do you gripe about why your hands smell like Pledge?

Like everyone, I’ve had expectations, or things that I expected to happen a certain way, that didn’t go according to plan. I mean, shouldn’t that be expected?  But I’ve also discovered that setting expectations too high is like buying a summer pass to the water park, expecting to get your money’s worth.  Every now and then, you’re going to get rained-out, and you’re bound to be disappointed.  That’s not to say that you shouldn’t have any expectations, like good service at a 5-star restaurant, or to be respected by your children.  I guess I’m referring more to very specific expectations, like an exactly-measured foot long sub, or sunshine every day on the vacation I planned for a year.  For me, I think I’ll stay on the same path I’ve followed so far, which is to expect good things, and to expect not-so-good things sometimes, too.   As a plus, I read that you should toss your expectations into the ocean, and let the waves carry them away (it’s supposed to be cleansing).  I figure that just gives me a good excuse to go to the beach.  In the meantime, I’ll keep making lemonade if I have some extra lemons.

As always, here’s a few quotes of inspiration, this time about Expectations.

“I’m not in this world to live up to your expectations and you’re not in this world to live up to mine.”  Bruce Lee

“There were two ways to be happy: improve your reality, or lower your expectations” Jodi Picoult

“When you stop expecting people to be perfect, you can like them for who they are.” Donald Miller

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Happy is as Happy Does…Really?

Happy Is As Happy Does...Really?As I’ve mentioned in my previous posts, I’m a big fan of inspirational quotes.  I’m your average Pinterest-crawling, Facebook-stalking, Internet-searching soul, looking for inspiration through happy, go-get-em’ quotes and sayings. If I find something that really strikes a chord with me, I save it to my desktop or phone to look at later or pass along.

For some reason this week, the term “Happy is as Happy Does” kept coming to my mind.  Of course, it had to fight it’s way through, past all the other mumbo-jumbo, and I don’t know why it came to me, (no, I hadn’t just watched Forrest Gump) but regardless it sent me crawling through the social networks looking for happy quotes, and made me start thinking about what makes people happy, and how those people that you see with a smile on their face all the time maintain that state of mind.  Happy is as Happy does…but is that really the case?  And if it is, how do you “do” happy? Well, let’s look at some quotes:

1.  “People are just as happy as they make up their minds to be.”  This is attributed to Abraham Lincoln.  Frankly, I have to disagree with Abe on this one.  I’m all about positive thinking and I do believe in the willful mind, but I don’t believe you can will yourself to be happy.  But, no need to stop there…let’s go on.

2.  “Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.” Well, this seems pretty sound to me, and who am I to disagree with Dalai Lama?  But, seriously…I do firmly believe that your own actions dictate a great deal towards how your life is treating you.  And, I’m not talking about Karma here (that’s just too deep to tackle).  I’m strictly referring to day-to-day actions, as in the decisions we make regarding how we choose to treat others.

3.  “Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know.” Ernest Hemingway said this.  OK, we all know he was obviously very intelligent,  but also obviously not very happy.  Still doesn’t make me want to lose any brain cells, although…I’ve always heard “ignorance is bliss.”  Hmmm…food for thought.

4. “Don’t worry…be happy.”  Okay, so a lot of people attribute this saying to Bob Marley, and understandably so (’nuff said..), but it actually came from Meher Baba, an Indian mystic and a very spiritual being who coincidentally (I think not) maintained silence, communicating only through gestures, for over 40 years.  Perhaps this goes along with the saying, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all” and takes us back again to how our actions affect others, but, who knows what the ancient mystic said with hand gestures…

5.  “Happiness is a warm puppy.” Well, this came from the lips of Charles Schulz, who created the Peanuts comic strip.  I love a puppy as much as the next gal, but…can you say marketing?

6. “Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” Marcel Proust.  Well, this is just really nice.  I am grateful to the people who make me happy and as a plus, I love flowers…

7.   “Sanity and happiness are an impossible combination.”  Mark Twain said this, and I can totally identify. So, does this lead to being “insanely happy?”

8.  “Happiness depends upon ourselves.”  Aristotle said this, and I think it’s a grand statement.  It’s wonderful to strive to make others happy, but in the end, our own happiness is ultimately our own responsibility.

9.  “One of the keys to happiness is a bad memory.”  Rita Mae Brown.  I’m relating to this more and more all the time.

10.  “Maybe the truth is, there’s a little bit of loser in all of us. Being happy isn’t having everything in your life be perfect. Maybe it’s about stringing together all the little things.”  Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.  And, I have to say, I love this quote.  Who among us doesn’t have some extra string laying around?

There are literally thousands of quotes, just like these, scattered in books and across the web. In all, they are remarkable and spark our eagerness for morsels of enlightenment. But, we own our happiness.  It’s how we use it that matters.  Still, here’s one more for good measure.

“Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed.  Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude.”  ~ Denis Waitley

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Find Your Passion and Take a Leap of Faith

Find Your Passion and Take a Leap of FaithSo you might be asking…what is my passion? Well, you know that nagging feeling that you have when you leave the grocery store and you know that there was something you were supposed to get, or something that you were supposed to do, but you just can’t quite put your finger (or for that matter, your mind) on it?  OK, well that might actually be a loaf of bread or your husband’s aftershave…but that feeling…that nagging feeling that there’s something you’re supposed to be doing – that is your passion.  It might be a passion to pursue a career that you’ve always felt that you were destined to pursue, or a passion to travel to far and exotic places.  It might be a passion to be a parent, or a passion to have the same body you had in your early twenties (hey, we can all dream), or a passion to climb Mt. Everest.  You get the gist.  Everyone has a passion.  The hurdle is taking that first step towards making your passion a reality.  I have listed some helpful tips that I hope will help you take that first leap of faith.


1.  Define your passion. Write it down so that it becomes real to you.  I’ve been aware of my passion to write since high school, but actually sitting down and putting it on paper made it tangible and palpable.

2.  Again with the writing…but it really does help.  Write out the steps that you need to take to accomplish your goals, or realize your passion.  In my case, my passion is to write a novel someday.  I’m not quite ready for that, and that’s okay.  I’m taking steps, and my first was this blog.  Your first step, big or small, will be determined by the goals that you set.

3.  Keep your eye on the prize.  I have a friend who has a picture of herself, taken many years ago, in a bikini that she boldly displays on her refrigerator.  Now, for obvious reasons, this picture serves to remind her that 1. she doesn’t really want that Death by Chocolate ice cream in the freezer, and 2. what she hopes to accomplish by continuing to work towards her goal.  Visual motivations are huge, so put something up to remind you of your passion…stick a photo on a wall or add a picture to the wallpaper screen of your phone.  Whatever it takes.

4.  Share your passion with others, and seek their encouragement.  Anyone that knows me well is aware of my passion for writing, and they give me a lot of support towards achieving my goals.  Share your goals with others and ask for support, if necessary.  More often than not, they will, in turn, share their passion and goals with you, and before you know it, you’ve got a little support-group-thingy going on.  Encouraging words from others, and to others, works wonders for the soul.

5.  Most importantly, don’t give up.  Even small strides towards your passion has tremendous benefits.  You’re making progress, and that’s what counts.  And, because I’m big on motivational quotes, I’ll leave you with one of my favorites:

It is never too late to be what you might have  been.  ~George Eliot

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Making Strides Towards Goals

iStock_000006147663_SmallGoal #1:  Establish A Blog:  Okay…so this is a work in progress.  My reason for wanting to establish a blog stems from advice I’ve obtained from Creative Writing classes, and that is if you want to be a writer, you have do just that….write, and then write some more.  It’s a difficult task, though, unless you have a reason to write.  So, here I am…

Goal #2:  Try to find freelance writing jobs:  Bazinga!!  Yep…I can cross that one off, too.  This week, I landed my first freelance writing gig.  Can’t wait to see where that takes me.  Hopefully, it will open up more opportunities for me.

Goal #3:  Enroll in a fiction-writing course.  Although all of the creative writing courses I’ve taken have been focused on fiction-writing/poetry, I want to take a course geared strictly towards developing plots and characters.  I like the workshop atmosphere, and the feedback I get from other writers.


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Setting Goals and Achieving Dreams

iStock_000016745994_SmallI remember when I was 16 or so, I would love to sit for hours and listen to my Grandfather tell me stories about his life.  He was a fascinating man and had led a fascinating life.  He was a retired teacher, and a retired nurse; a very educated man. He had a sense of humor, and knowing my love of writing, would indulge my curiosity and encourage me to put all that he was telling me on paper.  Along the way, he would also give me quotes of inspiration, nudging me in a not-so-subtle way to achieve all that I was capable of achieving.  I’ve never forgotten his words, although I never put them on paper as he suggested.

As a parent of two (a son in college and a daughter fresh out of nursing school), I’m often looking for words to inspire my children in much the same way.  But, times have changed.  We live life at a faster pace, and I don’t often get hours to sit with my children and share life stories and quotes of inspiration. I’ve succumbed to modern technology, and texting as a tool to send snippets of motivation and encouragement.  After sending my second quote of the week to my son the other day – you know, the ones about setting goals and not giving up until they’ve been achieved, or about how one person can make a difference in this big ol’ world (The Starfish is a favorite story of mine) – it occurred to me that I needed to heed my own advice.

And so, on the cusp of my 50th birthday, I’ve decided it’s time to practice what I preach, and what my grandfather preached to me.  My goals are pretty simple, even though I haven’t worked very hard at attaining them.  I love to write and have always wanted to see what I could accomplish with writing.  This blog will be my first step, but there are others.  I’d like to share my journey with you.  I’m not suggesting that you merely follow my quest.  I’m asking you to join me.  Together, we’ll tackle our goals and inspire one another.  I’ve taken my first step.  What’s yours?

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