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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