Category Archives: The Tough Stuff

Stories on facing the tough stuff. Going after your dreams is not all fun and games.

How To Join The Secret Suicide Club

Robin Williams has passed away. That news alone was shocking enough while standing at the pool yesterday…and then the details came out. Suicide has claimed another life.

My friend stood across from me and gave me the news as she read from the alert on her phone, our eyes locking. She’s in the club too. Those who have survived the loss of a loved one in this manner know. They know.

This club is bigger than we think, and every time another member joins, there is heartbreak and the scar deepens. I remember the first time I heard about this club. I was sitting across from this same friend, sharing a beer over lunch and opening up for the first time about some of the emotions I had been dealing with after my world had been ripped to pieces months before. She shared details about losing her dad, identifying and recognizing the part of the journey I was in. After a long pause, she looked me deep in the eyes and said, “Weird little club we’re in, isn’t it?” Stunned, I stared blankly at her. She was right.

It’s a club no one talks about and no one wants to ever join. Unfortunately, it’s an irrevocable forced membership. Every 15 minutes, someone in the United States takes his or her own life. That’s 35,000 suicides every year in this country—and likely more, since many suicides are disguised as accidents. Statistically, only 10% of suicides leave a note. Sadly, suicide occurs among Christians at essentially the same rate as non-Christians. Each suicide leaves behind on average six to ten survivors – husbands, wives, parents, children, siblings, other close friends or family members. Every year, hundreds of thousands of people, including many of our church members, will grieve the loss of a loved one to suicide.

I am one of those people.

Though all deaths are tragic, suicide affects us differently than when someone dies in a car accident or from a terminal illness. Counselors call death by suicide a “complicated grief” or “complicated bereavement,” like death by murder, violence, or terrorist attack. Not only do family members grieve the loss of the loved one, they must also face the trauma of the suicide.

More than other deaths, suicides raise the question of Why? Why did he do it? Why didn’t we see this coming? Why did this happen? Why her? Why him? Why me? In other situations, we can often clearly identify the cause, a drunk driver or a disease, for example. But with a suicide, the victim is responsible for the death, not some outside force. That person is gone now. He can’t tell us why he did it or the reasons he had for leaving us.

More than anything, the biggest question that lingers in the air and haunts our thoughts is, Could I have done anything to prevent it? Scenarios, conversations, last words, and hidden signs flood the thoughts of those in the club. If only we had come home in time. If only we had talked to him that evening. If only I could have “seen the signs.” If only there were signs at all.

Asking why is not so much a search for answers as it is a search for comfort. We assume that having these answers will ease our grief and pain. But the questions are often unanswerable, and we must come to grips with the possibility—the likelihood—that we will never know why it happened. Even without knowing why someone chose to take his own life, survivors can experience God’s comfort and healing. God is a God of the broken.

While grieving, another question comes up, particularly among people of faith: Why didn’t God prevent this? There aren’t any easy answers to this. In short, God honors our human choices, even if they’re bad ones. If we choose to smoke, we might get the consequence of lung cancer. And if someone we love chooses to kill himself, God honors that choice as well. He is the God who makes all things right and can bring good out of any circumstance. This is one of the many mysteries of an infinite all-knowing God that does not make sense to our finite human hearts.

But this doesn’t mean that God doesn’t care about us or our loved one. The Bible tells us that God grieves with us in our loss. Jesus wept at the tomb of Lazarus, and he stands with us and weeps over our loved one’s death. Throughout Scripture, God comforts the grieving and brokenhearted, and he understands the suffering of grief and loss. He experienced ultimate pain, suffering, and grief on the cross. Where is God when it hurts? He stands with us, grieving beside us. He’s not only in the club, He’s the president and He leads it.

God loves the broken. He is a God of the shattered. Only He can put the pieces back together in a way that is even more magnificent than the original version. Our job is to trust Him to do so. When the journey makes no sense, when the pain is overwhelming, and when the process doesn’t seem to have an end in sight—keep trusting. He’s not done yet.

So as the memories flood back and the tears well up with the discovery of Mr. Williams and his tragic loss, I am reminded yet again that there are now more in the club than just me. We are never alone.

Quotable Quotes From People Much Smarter Than Myself:

Oh, great and just God, no man among us knows what the sleeper knows, nor is it for us to judge what lies between him and Thee.” – novelist Willa Cather, My Ántonia

What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.Albert Pike

The life of the dead is placed in the memory of the living.” – Marcus Tullius Cicero

Wrong Question.

You don’t have to look very far to be offended, see injustice, or experience something that seems unfair or hurts the heart. Sometimes it feels that there are more things happening out there that are wrong than right. Lately, as some big fat question marks plaster my world, I’m slowly realizing that there is a possibility that I may be asking all the wrong questions.

The Real Question

When stuff like this happens, when there is a loss, when the unfair and unjust occurs–the question is not, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” If this is the question being asked, then the answers we come up with (if any) will never be satisfactory or come close to satisfying our souls. There are things that happen that we may never know the “why.” How could this have happened to her? Why did that happen to him? Why me? Wrong questions. Instead the question perhaps needs to be asked this way, “What happens to good people when bad things happen?”

Really, what happens to good people when bad things happen?

The answers to this question make far more sense and are far more satisfying, if given a chance.

1. They become stronger.

Junk happens to us all. There’s no getting around it. Whether we consider ourselves good, bad, or somewhere in-between on the deserve-it-scale, there’s no escaping it. Being a “good person” does not excuse us away from being dealt life’s problems or from having bad things happen. There’s no “I’m sorry, that can’t happen to me, I’m a good person” card that blocks us from the hard stuff.

There’s no rule that bad stuff can only happen to bad people, or that good stuff can only happen to good people. But it’s interesting how our minds want to make things work out that way, and when it doesn’t, it’s labeled unfair.

Even more interesting are how the reactions and results of the exact same scenario can be drastically different depending on how one chooses to respond to the inescapable junk tossed their way. The exact same thing can happen to two different people, yet the outcomes can be completely different…and it’s not based on how “good” or “bad” they are or whether or not they deserve it.  No one is immune. No matter how good the heart or how caring the person, something (or even many somethings) is going to happen to try and take them out. We cannot escape the tough stuff, but we can have a say in how we react when it does and who we turn to, which is very much so linked to the end result. We can choose to keep going, give our hurts to the One who does know, and let it make us stronger.

The only way to build muscle is to challenge it. Strength is not built through inaction. We cannot become stronger if we never have to deal with anything, work through problems, or choose to always take the easy road. And if we’re not getting stronger and we try and avoid challenges we’ll atrophy,  become weaker, and eventually not be able to handle even the simplest issues. When bad things happen to good people, it doesn’t take them out, they get stronger.

2. They help others.

When the heartbreak comes or when the hurt happens, it’s the ones who flip it and somehow figure out a way to benefit someone else that are the victors. There’s nothing better than hearing a story of how someone came back from a knockdown or a failure only to use it to help someone else. It’s that much sweeter when despite the wrong, despite the wound, and despite the hurt, something good and loving soars through the dust and the rubble and positively touches others.

There is no better way to combat the darkness in our lives than by helping someone else while we are hurting. We may  not be able to solve our own problems or heal our own hurts, but there is something we can do to help someone else…and chances are they need it more than we’ll ever know. We may not have the ability to help ourselves or fix our own issues, but we definitely have the ability and capability to reach out to someone else who needs it. It’s in showing kindness in the midst of our pain where the breakthrough, the healing, and the triumph takes place. When the bad stuff happens, they help others and that’s when doors can open up for the really good things to happen.

3. They spread hope.

Despite the pain, despite the injustice, and in spite of how wrong it feels–those that survive and come back from the ashes are people that give hope and are examples of God’s goodness triumphing over evil. We need that. We need to know that no matter how bad it looks or how wrong it feels or how deep the injustice, there is hope that something good can come out of it. We need to know that failure is not final. Hope is free. It does not cost anything to hope…but it can cost us everything if we don’t.

Nope. The question is not why do bad things happen to good people. The real answers we need may not necessarily lie in the why, but perhaps may be found in the what…or Who.

Looking For Next Steps

For those that feel stuck….

I know what it's like to be so worried you'll either do the wrong thing or, just as bad, do nothing at all. I imagine you've experienced this feeling before too. It seems that we all have, at one time or another, stared at a roadblock in life and wondered, Is this it? Am I finished? Should I give up? What do I do now? But scripture tells us the Word of God is a "lamp to my feet and a light to my path" (Psalm 119:105). This means that no matter how dark your surroundings, you never lose your way. God will guide you to your destiny. It's never too late.

Here is the key: You have to take a step. New beginnings don't happen on an escalator, they happen along a path. In faith you make progress by taking one step at a time. If you are determined to succeed in life, God's grace will enable you to do what may seem impossible to your natural thinking. God has promised to do His part, but you have an important part to play as well. 

- Joyce Meyer, You Can Begin Again

Quotable Quotes From People Much Smarter Than Myself:

  • “Chords that were broken will vibrate once more.” – Fanny Crosby
  • “You can’t start the next chapter of your life if you keep rereading the last one.” – Anonymous
  • “The new day is too dear, with its hopes and invitations, to waste a moment on the yesterdays.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • “Moses spent forty years in the king’s palace thinking he was somebody, then he lived forty years in the wilderness finding out that without God he was a nobody, finally he spent forty years discovering how  a nobody with God can be a somebody.” – Dwight L. Moody
  • “A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.” – William G.T. Shedd

 

One Year Ago – Remember When…

One year ago…

This time last year I had my entire life packed in a car and leaving everything I knew during an evacuation notice. The fires were here.

Our view last year...
Our view last year…

Today the vines are blooming, the river’s up, and the sun is hitting the cliffs just right that it’s hard to imagine the chaos, fear, and uncertainty that was very much so a reality one year ago. I’m currently unpacking and getting settled in from a recent trip and I can’t help but look at my suitcase and remember jamming it full for an all together different reason, seams splitting with no idea of what really was in it.

I am so grateful that we were spared from the flames that burned over 100,000+ acres of our forest, and looking back I am truly in amazement at the whole thing and can see His hand of protection throughout the entire experience. After eight days in evacuation filled with Red Cross meetings, national guard checkpoints, red-tape politics, and brave firefighters…not one life lost, not one structure burned. God is good.

Little Pyros
Little Pyros

I remember the faces, the fear, the angry attitudes and different perspectives at the time. I remember sitting on the porch of the house we evacuated to, with nothing to do but watch the smoke plume 17 miles away. Sit. Think. Pray. Wait. Everyone reacts to emergencies and fear differently. Soooooooo differently! Ever want to know what someone’s really like, watch them go through a stressful situation. Tough times can bring out the junk in everyone.

This year is a reason to celebrate. Things can change in an instant. So when it’s time for the parade and the summer activities, I know that because of last year, I’ll enjoy them that much more…

The Green Monster Fight

“Looks like fun. Must be nice,” they said in such a tone that didn’t make me feel so nice.

I didn’t quite know exactly what to say. They know how hard I’ve worked, I thought they’d be happy for me in crossing off a long-time dream. What do you do when someone asks about something you’ve been working towards and before you can answer, you can tell they don’t really want to hear about it? They asked, but they don’t really want to know. The jealousy is palpable.

I’d like to say that this has been a one-time occurrence and a one-time wound, but I cannot.

I would be remiss if I didn’t touch on an interesting phenomenon I’ve noticed in making progress on my 30×30 list. In choosing to go after goals and enjoy the life and the journey along the way, there will be some that will not smile or cheer you on. No matter how happy some may want to be for you, how much some may love and support you, how big the sacrifices you’ve made, or how hard you’ve worked…on occasion the little green monster will make an appearance and can turn things weird. Sometimes it can come from some very unexpected sources.

It’s true, misery does love company. If someone is not enjoying the same success or enjoyable moments in their own lives that you are being blessed with, sometimes deep down there’s a part of them that, uh, rathers you didn’t. That’s human nature. (Think about it–jealousy and envy go back to the beginning of time. It lead to the first murder between two brothers over sibling rivalry and a fruit basket when Cain killed Abel…and has been going strong ever since.)

Actually, it may not necessarily be that they don’t want good things for you…it may just be that there’s a wee bit of jealousy that it’s not happening for them too. It’s not so much that you “do”, it’s that they “don’t.”

Be prepared that not everyone is going to have the best attitude or be as supportive as you would like them to be once you seriously start seeing success or make any kind of progress on your list or in your life. You’re going to have to make the choice to keep moving forward, or not. It may even be the people you love most or that are closest to you. A husband may not support his wife in her weight loss efforts, gossip may surround the purchase of a new car or dream home, family members may criticize you as you go back to school, some may not support your efforts to get back out there and scope out the dating scene, or a friend may not attend your baby shower. Ouch.

No one sees the years of loneliness or the bad breakups  and heartbreak before the happy wedding day. They’re not witness to the years of sleepless nights, mountains of homework, lack of a social life, or the student loans taken on in order to finish a degree. They can’t always see all the hours at the gym, the 6:30am workouts every Saturday for over four months, and the self-discipline needed while training for a 26.2 mile marathon. There’s no parade while you’re eating in, canceling cable, and shopping garage sales in order to get out of debt. No one sees the endless prayers and countless tears shed in secret. It’s easy to want what someone else has but not be willing to do the work or make the sacrifices that they did to get it.

It's easy to want what someone else has but not be willing to do the work or make the sacrifices that they did to get it.

They may attend the celebration party or see the smiling pictures, but they weren’t around for the difficult decisions, the sacrifices, the hard work, the tears and the effort that came before it. They weren’t there for the fight. They can’t see the surrounding circumstances that lead up to the reason and the need to celebrate in the first place. All they can see is the fun part or the season of celebration…and hate it.

Or maybe they were around for the fight, yet the monster surfaces.

This can be confusing. And hurtful. At no point in my life, or especially on this entire 30×30 journey, have I ever intended for someone to feel bad about themselves or inferior in any way. And if I have caused someone to feel that way, I am very sorry. My intentions in sharing my story are just the opposite. My goal and the desire of my heart is to encourage, inspire, elevate, and motivate into passionate action. In fact, when asked to write this book and publish the 30×30 story,  I had extreme reservations about being labeled as vain, to be seen as bragging, or having anyone think that I was selfish or “better than” anyone. It took me years before I could ever even let someone else read it.

It was an incredibly personal decision to make the choice to publish my story and put myself out there. Honestly, I didn’t want to do it. I avoided the call as long as I could, but in the end had to succumb to the nagging pull on my heart. Nothing in me desires to go through the self-promotion, scrutiny, judgment, and “look at me” or “lookie at what I did” marketing mentality that seems to be required in doing this. How unattractive and ugly. The attention that can go with that type of success makes me squirm. *nose crinkle*

Sometimes I don’t even want to talk about my list at all, that I was blessed to have crossed off 29 of my 30 items, or let anyone know when I cross something off of the Next List. I don’t ever want someone to feel bad because of something I’m doing or have done. Ever. That’s the thing about progress and success–it’s admired, encouraged, and applauded…yet hated and despised at the same time. Success, no matter how small, is tricky.

That's the thing about progress and success--it's admired, encouraged, and applauded...yet hated and despised at the same time. Success, no matter how small, is tricky.

Is that a reason to not move forward, to not change, to not go after the dreams placed in your heart or take steps of faith in pursuit of progress? I hope not. But it is a reason to pause for a moment and be sensitive to situations that others may be going through. Everyone’s story and journey is different. Just like they don’t know the difficulties that you’ve walked through, you also don’t know the internal and external struggles they may be dealing with. We’re all dealing with something.

Don’t worry, in time it will be their season to shine and you may be the one having to fight off the mean green envy beast.

 

Fake Smiling. Know When It’s Needed…And When It’s Not.

Fake Smiling. Know When It’s Needed…And When It’s Not.

There are times that come when it is time to celebrate. C-E-L-E-B-R-A-T-E! Admittedly, we’re not always ready or in the mood to party. Sometimes those celebrations have the most inconvenient timing and come when we do NOT want to and have no intention of celebrating…at all. This  can come in the form of a best friend’s wedding, a friend’s graduation, the birth of a baby, or even a loved one’s birthday. I knew a friend who miscarried her baby the morning of her son’s birthday party and still put on a smile and helped blow out the candles that evening with no one ever knowing. Those momentous occasions don’t really care if we feel like celebrating or not, they still come. They still deserve to be celebrated.

It can be a struggle to celebrate and be happy for someone else when we are in the midst of our own pain and in the middle of our own struggles. Part of us wants to stay in and attend our own pity parties, not go to their real ones. But the other part of us in our heart of hearts is truly excited for them, but that doesn’t change our own situation or make it any easier to attend their party or celebrate with them.

We may drag our feet when it comes to attending and celebrating, but be damned if we ever show it, lest we take away from their special moment. But I am so glad for those situations that come along that force us to smile. Sometimes when we’re forced to fake a smile, we actually end up smiling for real.

Although I am not an actress in any sense of the word, I can still put on a good show. Doesn’t take much more than a flash of pearly whites and a flirty giggle to convince most people that things are dandy. My insides may be screaming but for the most part you’ll probably never be the wiser. There is an art in knowing when we need to step up our performance for the benefit or protection of someone else and in knowing when to let down our guard and show our raw and real emotions. There is a balance in taking one for the team and pushing through, and in being vulnerable enough to not always have to put on a show.

There is an art in knowing when we need to step up our performance for the benefit or protection of someone else and in knowing when to let down our guard and show our raw and real emotions.

I recently had a moment where in the midst of celebrating my best friend’s wedding to the amazing man in her life I had to sneak away and step out of the reception for a few moments to collect myself. As much as it’s a privilege and honor to stand next to her and be a part of this wonderful moment, weddings still sting for me.

I know myself well enough that I am the type of person that needs to fall apart in private and then be able to put myself back together in solitude. I thought I had done a good job in using the “I need to go to the bathroom” ruse, but unfortunately a friend totally busted me when she came into the house to use the lou herself. Good friends are hard to find. I may have fooled a dance floor full of people but I had to laugh when she called me out and said, “Your lying lips are telling me you’re fine but your eyes give you away and tell me you’re not.” 

Wordlessly she let me have my moment, handed me a tissue, sweetly cleaned me up and led me through the hallway and back outside to the dance floor just in time for the happy couple’s first dance. I am so glad she did and I am so thankful for her understanding, her strength, and her discretion. I finished the evening bouncing and vogue-ing with the best of ’em. Besides, I didn’t wear smokin’ hot pink shoes for nothing! Did I have fun? Yes. Was it tough? Absolutely. But it was completely worth it. I wouldn’t have missed this celebration for the world.

Sometimes we have to take one for the team and go to the party, fake smile and all. The celebrations and our loved ones deserve it…they deserve both our support and our smiles. Who knows? If we let ourselves, we might even enjoy it and smile for real.

Real or Fake? Can you tell?

 

 

Progress…and what to do when there seems to be a lack of it.

Let’s talk about progress…and what to do when there seems to be a lack of it.

Maybe it’s a job hunt that has gone nowhere. Maybe your kids are getting worse instead of better even after investing in expensive resources to help them. Maybe it’s an addiction that just seems to keep rearing it’s ugly head. Maybe it’s a project at work that you just can’t seem to make any headway on. Or maybe it’s a relationship with a family member or a marriage that just seems to be getting colder and more distant despite your efforts to turn it around.

There is nothing more frustrating than seeing a lack of progress in a situation that has been given so much time and effort and energy already. We are a people and live in a culture that likes to see results. Better yet, instant results. In school we’re taught that if we do the work and put in the effort we’ll get the good grade and move up. Unfortunately, that’s not always how it works in real life. It’s easy to look at a situation that’s not changing fast enough and want to give up on even trying anymore. Seeing a lack of progress often feels like failure…but it’s not.

It’s always the in-between phase that is the most difficult and quite frankly, sucks the most. That part where you’re already invested, you’ve already tried, you’ve already sacrificed…and nothing. The funny thing is, there’s always magic going on in the background that we can’t see. Secret progress that we’re not privy to. Just because we can’t see it doesn’t mean that nothing is happening.

Sometimes deep down we know that change is happening, but if we can’t actually see it first hand, it feels like absolutely nothing is happening. That’s a little how I felt during the editing stages of this upcoming book. I sent the manuscript off to the editor knowing full well that it would be over a month or two before getting it back. But the fact that I couldn’t touch it, couldn’t look at it,  couldn’t work on it, and I couldn’t see who was or view the process or progress while they were working on it–felt like nothing was happening. But there was. There’s been progress on this project even when I couldn’t see it.

I believe God loves working behind the scenes. When our prayers go up and we invite Him in to work on our situation and give control over to Him, it often times feels like there’s way too much time and far too little progress than we’d like. The thoughts start coming–did He hear me? Am I doing something wrong? Why is nothing changing? Why am I even trying? Does He even exist?

And then there’s a suddenly. If we don’t give up, in a moment and in a way that we never could make happen ourselves, He moves. And if we’re lucky, maybe one day we can look back and see some of the behind-the-scenes divine manipulation only He could pull off. Our job is to never give up. Never quit. Even if it seems like absolutely nothing is happening, or especially if things seem to be getting worse rather than better. He is never late. How awful would it be to give up a day or even hours before our breakthrough happens? I cringe to think of how many times this happens.

So keep at it. Keep fighting. Keep on keeping on. Stand your ground and hang on to the tiniest glimmers of hope and smallest signs of progress. Sometimes an inch is far more meaningful in a journey than a giant leap. There will be progress and there will be results as long as you don’t give up.

Don’t give up. Never give up. Your suddenly is on the way.

QUOTABLE QUOTES FROM PEOPLE MUCH SMARTER THAN I:

  • Being defeated is often a temporary condition. Giving up is what makes it permanent.” – Marilyn Vos Savant
  • Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is to try just one more time.” – Thomas A. Edison
  • Giving up is conceding that things will not get better. And that is just not true.” – Aimee Mullins
  • If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” – Frederick Douglas
  • We all want progress, but if you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road. In that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.” – C.S. Lewis

 

Becoming Living Proof

Becoming Living Proof –

It’s here. The moment you’ve been procrastinating, dreading, and avoiding is here.

You knew it was coming. You could see it in the distance. You did everything you possibly could to avoid it. But the disbelief that God would actually ask you to walk through it didn’t stop it from happening.

We all have experiences in life that we never thought would happen. Things we never thought we would be experiencing. Specifically alone. Maybe there was someone in the picture that was supposed to be there with you. Your stability, your anchor, your hope, your rock and maybe even your trusted partner in crime. That is who the moment or experience was supposed to be with. For whatever undefined reason, they’re not. Never in a million years did you ever picture walking through it without them, let alone by yourself. Alone.

But the person that should be sitting next to you isn’t. Or the person you want sitting next to you, isn’t. What do you do when you are asked to do something or go through something on your own that you never thought you would have to face or be doing alone? There is nothing more crushingly lonely than that. You would give anything, do anything, say anything to not…well, to not.

I had that moment. Actually, I’ve had a multitude of moments like that. These are the moments that I’ve had to take to my Maker with every hurt and confusion written on my heart and pour it out to Him. (Oh, Him and I–we’ve had words.) I do not know why He asks some to walk through this type of pain and these types of moments and not others. It’s maddening and almost unbearable to be surrounded by those who seem to have exactly what you want–what you’ve waited, hoped, and have been believing God for.

I have friends who don’t know what to do with me or to make of me when I have these moments. It’s not their fault. They’ve never had to walk through it. I pray to God they never do. But to those that have, and those that do, and those that will…there is a strength that is built no other way but by going through.

Who knows? Maybe for no other reason than that is why the seemingly unbearable must be bared. I firmly believe that we each have a personal individualized plan for our lives that doesn’t look like anyone else’s, and only God knows the type of strength that is needed to be built to carry out that plan. So in those moments of envy and jealousy that unintentionally spring up when we see others being spared or not being asked to walk through the same thing we are, we have no idea what they are going through or what they are dealing with in their own journeys. We’re all on a journey.

The “why me?” or “why this?” questions that can’t be helped may not ever be answered. Maybe they will, but chances are it won’t be until much, much farther down the road. When those dreaded moments catch us, confront us, and cannot be avoided no matter how hard we try–that is when it is time to take a breath, ask for that specific grace to keep going, and then to keep going. There’s no shame in falling apart. Sometimes it’s needed. When we do there is a Master Builder who can put us back together even stronger, tougher, better than we were before. We are stronger than we will ever know.

And when we meet or come across or see someone else who is going through their own uncomfortable and indescribable tough moments, we will know how to respond. We will know how to understand. We will know how to stand with or sit next to them without squirming. Because we’ve been there. And we made it. We can be living proof. It’s not easy to be somebody else’s living proof that they will make it, that they can make it…but it’s worth it.

Be living proof.

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30 Things To Stop Doing To Yourself

30 Things To Stop Doing To Yourself

I read this post yesterday and  absolutely loved it! Not one to often share the work of others on the blog but this post was definitely “share-worthy”. Creating a bucket list lifestyle and living life before the lottery encompasses treating yourself right and learning from your mistakes. This post is a great reflection of those lessons. Thank you to the original contributors!

Written By Marc and Angel
Shared By Lesley Carter, Bucket List Publications

Seriously, stop.
Seriously, stop.

“When you stop chasing the wrong things you give
the right things a chance to catch you.”

As Maria Robinson once said, “Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.”  Nothing could be closer to the truth.  But before you can begin this process of transformation you have to stop doing the things that have been holding you back.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  1. Stop spending time with the wrong people. – Life is too short to spend time with people who suck the happiness out of you.  If someone wants you in their life, they’ll make room for you.  You shouldn’t have to fight for a spot.  Never, ever insist yourself to someone who continuously overlooks your worth.  And remember, it’s not the people that stand by your side when you’re at your best, but the ones who stand beside you when you’re at your worst that are your true friends.
  2. Stop running from your problems. – Face them head on.  No, it won’t be easy.  There is no person in the world capable of flawlessly handling every punch thrown at them.  We aren’t supposed to be able to instantly solve problems.  That’s not how we’re made.  In fact, we’re made to get upset, sad, hurt, stumble and fall.  Because that’s the whole purpose of living – to face problems, learn, adapt, and solve them over the course of time.  This is what ultimately molds us into the person we become.
  3. Stop lying to yourself. – You can lie to anyone else in the world, but you can’t lie to yourself.  Our lives improve only when we take chances, and the first and most difficult chance we can take is to be honest with ourselves.  Read The Road Less Traveled.
  4. Stop putting your own needs on the back burner. – The most painful thing is losing yourself in the process of loving someone too much, and forgetting that you are special too.  Yes, help others; but help yourself too.  If there was ever a moment to follow your passion and do something that matters to you, that moment is now.
  5. Stop trying to be someone you’re not. – One of the greatest challenges in life is being yourself in a world that’s trying to make you like everyone else.  Someone will always be prettier, someone will always be smarter, someone will always be younger, but they will never be you.  Don’t change so people will like you.  Be yourself and the right people will love the real you.
  6. Stop trying to hold onto the past. – You can’t start the next chapter of your life if you keep re-reading your last one.
  7. Stop being scared to make a mistake. – Doing something and getting it wrong is at least ten times more productive than doing nothing.  Every success has a trail of failures behind it, and every failure is leading towards success.  You end up regretting the things you did NOT do far more than the things you did.
  8. Stop berating yourself for old mistakes. – We may love the wrong person and cry about the wrong things, but no matter how things go wrong, one thing is for sure, mistakes help us find the person and things that are right for us.  We all make mistakes, have struggles, and even regret things in our past.  But you are not your mistakes, you are not your struggles, and you are here NOW with the power to shape your day and your future.  Every single thing that has ever happened in your life is preparing you for a moment that is yet to come.
  9. Stop trying to buy happiness. – Many of the things we desire are expensive.  But the truth is, the things that really satisfy us are totally free – love, laughter and working on our passions.
  10. Stop exclusively looking to others for happiness. – If you’re not happy with who you are on the inside, you won’t be happy in a long-term relationship with anyone else either.  You have to create stability in your own life first before you can share it with someone else.  Read Stumbling on Happiness.
  11. Stop being idle. – Don’t think too much or you’ll create a problem that wasn’t even there in the first place.  Evaluate situations and take decisive action.  You cannot change what you refuse to confront.  Making progress involves risk.  Period!  You can’t make it to second base with your foot on first.
  12. Stop thinking you’re not ready. – Nobody ever feels 100% ready when an opportunity arises.  Because most great opportunities in life force us to grow beyond our comfort zones, which means we won’t feel totally comfortable at first.
  13. Stop getting involved in relationships for the wrong reasons. – Relationships must be chosen wisely.  It’s better to be alone than to be in bad company.  There’s no need to rush.  If something is meant to be, it will happen – in the right time, with the right person, and for the best reason. Fall in love when you’re ready, not when you’re lonely.
  14. Stop rejecting new relationships just because old ones didn’t work. – In life you’ll realize that there is a purpose for everyone you meet.  Some will test you, some will use you and some will teach you.  But most importantly, some will bring out the best in you.
  15. Stop trying to compete against everyone else. – Don’t worry about what others are doing better than you.  Concentrate on beating your own records every day.  Success is a battle between YOU and YOURSELF only.
  16. Stop being jealous of others. – Jealousy is the art of counting someone else’s blessings instead of your own.  Ask yourself this:  “What’s something I have that everyone wants?”
  17. Stop complaining and feeling sorry for yourself. – Life’s curveballs are thrown for a reason – to shift your path in a direction that is meant for you.  You may not see or understand everything the moment it happens, and it may be tough.  But reflect back on those negative curveballs thrown at you in the past.  You’ll often see that eventually they led you to a better place, person, state of mind, or situation.  So smile!  Let everyone know that today you are a lot stronger than you were yesterday, and you will be.
  18. Stop holding grudges. – Don’t live your life with hate in your heart.  You will end up hurting yourself more than the people you hate.  Forgiveness is not saying, “What you did to me is okay.”  It is saying, “I’m not going to let what you did to me ruin my happiness forever.”  Forgiveness is the answer… let go, find peace, liberate yourself!  And remember, forgiveness is not just for other people, it’s for you too.  If you must, forgive yourself, move on and try to do better next time.
  19. Stop letting others bring you down to their level. – Refuse to lower your standards to accommodate those who refuse to raise theirs.
  20. Stop wasting time explaining yourself to others. – Your friends don’t need it and your enemies won’t believe it anyway.  Just do what you know in your heart is right.
  21. Stop doing the same things over and over without taking a break. – The time to take a deep breath is when you don’t have time for it.  If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep getting what you’re getting.  Sometimes you need to distance yourself to see things clearly.
  22. Stop overlooking the beauty of small moments. – Enjoy the little things, because one day you may look back and discover they were the big things.  The best portion of your life will be the small, nameless moments you spend smiling with someone who matters to you.
  23. Stop trying to make things perfect. – The real world doesn’t reward perfectionists, it rewards people who get things done.  Read Getting Things Done.
  24. Stop following the path of least resistance. – Life is not easy, especially when you plan on achieving something worthwhile.  Don’t take the easy way out.  Do something extraordinary.
  25. Stop acting like everything is fine if it isn’t. – It’s okay to fall apart for a little while.  You don’t always have to pretend to be strong, and there is no need to constantly prove that everything is going well.  You shouldn’t be concerned with what other people are thinking either – cry if you need to – it’s healthy to shed your tears.  The sooner you do, the sooner you will be able to smile again.
  26. Stop blaming others for your troubles. – The extent to which you can achieve your dreams depends on the extent to which you take responsibility for your life.  When you blame others for what you’re going through, you deny responsibility – you give others power over that part of your life.
  27. Stop trying to be everything to everyone. – Doing so is impossible, and trying will only burn you out.  But making one person smile CAN change the world.  Maybe not the whole world, but their world.  So narrow your focus.
  28. Stop worrying so much. – Worry will not strip tomorrow of its burdens, it will strip today of its joy.  One way to check if something is worth mulling over is to ask yourself this question: “Will this matter in one year’s time?  Three years?  Five years?”  If not, then it’s not worth worrying about.
  29. Stop focusing on what you don’t want to happen. – Focus on what you do want to happen.  Positive thinking is at the forefront of every great success story.  If you awake every morning with the thought that something wonderful will happen in your life today, and you pay close attention, you’ll often find that you’re right.
  30. Stop being ungrateful. – No matter how good or bad you have it, wake up each day thankful for your life.  Someone somewhere else is desperately fighting for theirs.  Instead of thinking about what you’re missing, try thinking about what you have that everyone else is missing.

In Honor Of…

In Honor Of…

I read an article the other day about a family who is continuing to cross off items on the bucket list of their daughter who was killed by a 20-year old drunk driver. I teared up as I thought what a wonderful way to honor a loved one and how difficult it must be for her friends and family to do that.

Her parents found her list folded and tucked inside a make-up bag with only a handful of items checked off in her short 21 years. Most recently, her parents took her ashes up in a plane during a flying lesson, checking just one of the many things off of her list. They may not be able to “fall in love” for her, but they can run through a poppy field, tour Niagara Falls, drive Route 66, and visit the Smithsonian.

In Honor Of Cristina Chesterman
In Honor Of Kristina Chesterman

There are so many things in life that just seem unfair. Losing a loved one to a drunk driver, the death of a child, a loss to cancer, a school shooting, natural disasters and so many other things that break our hearts and cause us to ask the big question. Why? The injustice of it can lead us through feelings of anger, loneliness, heartbreak, depression, more anger, and often times hopelessness. No matter the cycle of swirling emotions, the big question still lingers. Why?

Questions. So many questions. Where’s God? Why didn’t he come through? Why did He allow this to happen? How come this isn’t happening to anybody else? How come that person is not suffering any kind of consequence? Why?

The haunting part of this young girl’s story is the item on her list to “save a life.” I’m sure as a student going to nursing school she had different thoughts as to what this may look like. Little did she know that her unexpected death would save 5 lives through her choice to be an organ donor. A nine-month old infant, a 55 year-old man in San Francisco, a 64 year-old grandma…and even a family friend received one of her kidneys.

Personally, when I find myself asking these burning questions that just won’t seem to go away the only answer I seem to come to is the gaping reality that I don’t have any answers at all. I am not the answer holder. But just because I don’t have an answer doesn’t mean that there’s not an answer. It just means that I don’t know it…yet. All I can see and all I can focus on is the finite point in time of the pain and the loss, the bigger picture is lost on me. The only thing that seems to help is to know that there is a bigger picture.

In this season where spring is springing and so many are about to celebrate the Easter holiday, I can’t help but think of the pain that went with those individuals surrounding the Easter story. Whatever you choose to believe or not believe, this particular holiday is a marker of new beginnings and fresh starts, forgiveness, and a symbol of ultimate love and sacrifice. The key players in that crucifixion saga I’m sure could not see the bigger picture either. They did not know the lives that would be saved through the tears and the innocent blood shed. There were no bunnies or chocolates in that story, but violence, betrayal, confusion, pain, injustice, and death. Not all that different to what we feel when going through our own losses.

But in that story, the bigger picture is just that. Bigger.

There is a comfort in knowing that there is a bigger picture, a bigger plan, and a broader tale than what can be seen at the moment. Some questions will never be answered, but that does not mean that there is not a bigger picture. We can ask those questions–especially that ugly big one. Pretty sure our Maker can handle our tough questions. But the answer may not come in the form that we expect. We’re not the author of the bigger Story. We’re not even the author of our little story within the bigger Story. Sometimes our piece of the tale is to continue on in the journey even when we don’t know how the story will end or even what the next chapter may entail.

Maybe our part is to continue on through a poppy field, the Smithsonian, or even Route 66.

 

Susan Vieira: 64 year-old organ donor recipient
Susan Vieira: 64 year-old organ donor recipient

 

To read more about Kristina Chesterman, please click here.Kristina Chesterman Memorial Foundation

Kristina’s bucket list:

  • Be in four places at once
  • Go to Venice
  • Learn to play chess
  • Beat someone at chess
  • Save someone’s life
  • Own two pieces of property (one with livestock)
  • Manage or own my own business
  • Get married
  • Have kids
  • Learn to fly a plane
  • Go to four (out of seven) wonders of the world
  • Fly first class on a plane
  • Visit the 50 states
  • Ride in a hot-air balloon
  • Go parachuting
  • Go sky diving
  • Ride a camel
  • Travel to all the continents
  • Be remembered as “the smiley girl”
  • Break up a fight between two guys over me
  • Be in homecoming court
  • Run through a poppy field
  • Tour Niagara Falls
  • Go to the Smithsonian
  • Drive Route 66

A Tale To Be Told…The Whole Story

What’s the story you want to tell?

It happens to everyone. We all go through something tough, something challenging, something that takes us by surprise or something heartbreaking and we have a decision to make. Usually these are decisions we were never planning to have to make in the first place. When it’s all said and done, years later, what’s the story you want to tell?

There's a tale to be told...

No matter what difficult situation you’re in right now or what tough moments you’re currently going through, breathe. Later on it’s going to be a story to tell. This incredibly difficult thing and these tough decisions are just another part of your tale and in time, the thing that you are going through right now is just another chapter and another addition to your story. It will be a part of your overall story that you’ll be able to look back and say, “I remember when….” The good thing is, we all have a choice in what that story looks like. Not in what happened or the circumstances given–that part we have no control over–but in how we handle it and what we do.

I know a friend whose wife left him and his three small kids for their realtor after they just relocated to a new state. How he handled that situation, how he treated her, how he acted during and after the divorce is part of the story that he has to tell his kids…and tell his future wife later on. I know multiple friends who lost their houses during the housing bust. Financially devastated. What they did, the choices they made, and how they handled those losses and how they picked up the pieces and moved forward is now a part of their story. What happens when a family member suddenly passes away, or when a natural disaster takes out everything you’ve ever loved or known? Job losses and how unemployment, job hunting, and maintaining communication and relationships with family during that time frame is part of the story.

Tragedy happens. Difficulties happen. Unfair things happen. That part is out of our control. But what is in our control is our reactions and how we handle those moments. It’s not just about the “getting through” and the “going through” process, but about what we want our story to look like years down the road as we tell it in the other chapters of our lives to the other people in our lives. The struggle is part of the story.

When I flunked out of college I…  When I lost my job I…  When I got cancer I… When my kid went south and became pregnant I… When he got deployed I… When he passed away I… Or when she left me I…    These are the things that combine into the overall story of our lives. These defining moments and surprise decisions are what create our individual and personal story. There’s always a story to tell.

http://blog.whitneyenglish.com/the-struggle-is-part-of-the-story/

Even every day living is part of our tale. When we’re single, how we act and what we do becomes our backstory for when we meet that significant someone. What’s really fun to hear are how two single people’s stories collide and become one tale. At weddings and engagements we always want to know how two people met. We want to know the love story. Oh, how the choices we make determine the type of tale we can tell! When we don’t even know it, we are writing our own story.  (And maybe even the story of someone else!)

The question is–are we doing things that we want to be a part of our story and tell about? Are we creating the type of story that we even want to tell at all? Or are we brave enough to ask ourselves if we’re making choices that later on we won’t want to talk about? Hide that part of the story. In light of our past experiences, our present circumstances and our future hopes and dreams, are we making the choices and decisions that are creating a story we want to tell? There’s always that one moment, that one decision, that one chance that can take the story in a completely different direction. The funny thing, sometimes we know when those moments are and sometimes we don’t.

Who knows? Right now, there may be a decision that needs to be made or a choice that can take you in one direction or another. The question is not necessarily what should you do, the question may be what story is it that you want to tell?

Whatever it is, make it a story you want to tell. Go ahead, make it a good one!

QUOTABLE QUOTES FROM PEOPLE MUCH SMARTER THAN I:

  • The struggle is part of the story.” – Whitney English
  • If you don’t want anyone to find out, don’t do it.” – Chinese Proverb
  • Decide that you want it more than you are afraid of it.” – Bill Cosby
  • May your choices reflect your hopes not your fears.” – Nelson Mandela

The Going Through Process

Life is a process. Boom–that was deep. After going to a recent author’s conference and soaking in tips from the experts like a sponge, I have been thinking a lot about the processes of writing and publishing. Then that got me thinking about processes in general.

The Going Through Process
The Going Through Process

In an age where practically everything is instant and on demand–90 second microwave dinners, instant upload and streaming, instant messaging, even instant degrees–we rarely have to wait for anything anymore. This has lead to the misconception that waiting, for anything, is bad. Waiting is not bad. It may be uncomfortable at times, but it is in the process of waiting that character  or something equally amazing is developed. It’s in the “going through” that we become stronger, wiser, better, and more prepared. Learning to wait well is priceless.

Just like how pregnancy is  a process–a 9 month waiting process where a lot is going on and good things are happening–there’s a waiting period that is needed in order for things to develop and go well. It does not turn out well if that waiting period is fast forwarded, shortened or skipped in any way. But the end product is totally worth it. That’s what I’ve told myself…I’m birthing a book.

In developing the game plan for the book and walking out the steps to go from a document on my computer to a quality book in print I have discovered several things. There’s a reason for the process. True, there are websites out there where in just a couple clicks one can upload a file and have it in print the next week. The trouble with that is that it looks like it. There is a quality that is only developed when the time is taken to go through the actual process of anything that is worth having or doing.

I can choose to skip the process, but then I’d end up with a watered down crap book. That’s not the story I want to tell. I can also choose to do nothing. (I actually did that for awhile. It wasn’t until this last year that I decided that that wasn’t an option and made the effort to dust off the dream.) Funny how we try to do everything other than the actual work. We want to press fast forward or skip button or bail out altogether in order to avoid the actual process of going through.

This book deserves my patience. It is worth the process. It is worth the research, the meetings, the waiting, the edits, the cost, and the time. It is worth the effort. It deserves far more than vanity press or print-on-demand and the crapola quality that goes with it. As much as I would like to fast forward to summer and physically hold it in my hot little hands, I am going to do this right and I am going to wait.

Now whether or not I wait well is the question. *laughing*

QUOTABLE QUOTES FROM PEOPLE MUCH SMARTER THAN I:

Failure Hall of Fame

With 9 days left to go in the 30×30 Kickstarter publishing campaign, there’s a lot of questions on what is actually in the book. Let me be the first to say that it’s not just my stories. Here are some of my favorites profiled in the section on failure.

  • Henry Ford failed and went broke five times before he succeeded with his motor company. He went on to revolutionize the assembly line and become one of the most successful entrepreneurs of all time.
  • Beethoven’s teacher called him “hopeless” as a composer. He went on to write 9 symphonies, 32 piano sonatas, 5 piano concertos, and 1 opera.
  • Winston Churchill failed the sixth grade. He was defeated in every public office role he ran for. He then became British Prime Minister at the age of 62.
  • Thomas Edison’s teachers told him he was “too stupid to learn anything.” Edison also famously invented 1,000 light bulbs before creating one that worked.
  • Steven Spielberg was rejected from his dream school, the University of Southern California, three times. He sought education elsewhere and became a director of over 50 movies, producing over 111 films.
  • Harland David Sanders, the famous KFC “Colonel,” couldn’t sell his chicken. More than 1,000 restaurants rejected him. He went on to have over 600 KFC restaurant franchises throughout the country.
  • Vera Wang failed to make the U.S. Olympic figure-skating team. Then she became an editor at Vogue and was passed over for the editor-in-chief position. She began designing wedding gowns at 40 and today is the premier designer in the business, with a multi-billion dollar industry.
  • Walt Disney went bankrupt at age 22 and was fired by a newspaper editor because he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas.” He created 81 feature films with 48 Academy Awards.
  • Fred Astaire’s first screen test, the judges wrote: “Can’t act. Can’t sing. Slightly bald. Can dance a little.” Astaire went on to be the most famous dancer of all time and won the hearts of American women forever.
  • Dr. Seuss’ first book was rejected by 27 different publishers by age 33. He’s now the most popular children’s book author ever.
  • Vincent Van Gogh only sold one painting in his entire life, to a friend. He sometimes starved in order to create the 800 paintings he’d eventually do. Today, his works are priceless.
  • Sir Isaac Newton was tasked with running the family farm but was a miserable failure. Newton was sent off to Cambridge University and became a physics scholar, discovering many of the laws and theories that not only furthered our understanding of the universe, but also gave future scientists the tools to discover how to enter space. He discovered gravitational force and established the three Universal Laws of Motion.
  • Abraham Lincoln failed in business in 1831, lost his job and couldn’t get into law school in 1832, was defeated for state legislature in 1832, defeated for Speaker in 1838, defeated for nomination of Congress in 1843, lost re-nomination in 1848, defeated for U.S. Senate in 1854, defeated for nomination for Vice President in 1856 and again defeated for U.S. Senate in 1858. In 1860 Abraham Lincoln was elected President of the United States, ending the Civil War and slavery during his presidency.

Every single one of these people failed. Multiple times. Every single one is a success story of someone rising up and overcoming hardship to influence the world around them and is an example of what can be done when failure is refused. Persistence pays off. Facing fear and refusing to give up is what defeats failure. Do not be afraid to fail. Do not be afraid of the tough stuff.

(Pledge on Kickstarter by Feb 6th to help get more of the story out.)

What Happens When The Dream Dies

Dreams. We all have them. As children we dream of being doctors, firefighters, astronauts, teachers, moms, and dads. We dream of our wedding day. Of throwing the winning touchdown. Of performing in front of thousands. But then somewhere along the way something happens. Somewhere in the process of growing up, we quit dreaming. It happens to everyone. Security and safety took the place of risk and reward. It happens to everyone.

It happened to me. It’s easy to give up. Sometimes we even pretend we don’t even want it anymore. We lie to ourselves. It happens to everyone.

I’ve started and stopped writing the 30×30 book multiple times. Even now with 30,000 words written and a game plan in place, I find myself wanting to pretend I don’t care about whether it happens anymore. To protect myself just in case it doesn’t happen. When I don’t know what to do next, when it looks like it won’t happen, when each step forward turns out to be two steps back, or when my efforts seem utterly fruitless…it’s tempting to give up on the dream. It happens to everyone.

But what if God is asking you to dream again? What if your heart’s desires are planted there by God Himself? He is the ultimate dream giver. What if it’s not for your glory, but for His? To inspire others. Feed the hungry. Help the poor. Start a business. Lead a group. Help someone else. It’s never too late. Ever. The world is waiting.

That’s part of what’s behind my 30×30 Kickstarter campaign. I have a dream to publish the 30×30 stories and the concept of living life before the lottery–living out your dreams…and I have 15 days left (or until February 6th) to fundraise and see it happen. It’s an all-or-nothing campaign where the entire $8,500 is pledged and raised or I get nothing. Zilch. Nada. In some ways it seems totally doable. That’s only 242 $35 pledges–and if I think about it, with 254 Facebook friends, I can wrap my mind around it. Completely and totally possible when the goal is broken down and thought about it like that. But then on the other hand when I look at the overall $8,500 goal, sometimes it can seem so far away and completely overwhelming. But that’s the beauty of dreams. There’s a side of them that’s overwhelming, and there’s a side of dreams that can be tangible and real.

I should know. I’ve lived it. The whole story behind the 30×30 list is that I lived out and saw 29 of the 30 things on my 30×30 list actually happen! I am a living breathing example that dreams really can and do come true. Against all odds, we truly can see the impossible become possible. And I am also a living breathing example that we need to keep dreaming. Always keep dreaming.

To Be A $35 Pledger:
Kickstarter.com

 

Dream it.
Go ahead. Let yourself dream.

Phone Sensitivity – Guilty.

While at a Christmas cookie party I found myself barraged with questions which later led me on a journey of self-reflection. It’s funny how something that seems so simple on the surface can be so fully loaded underneath. There are several things on the “Next List” that fit into that category. Without knowing the backstory, they look pathetically easy and almost like a cheap check-off. This is the case with #13, “Kiss goodbye to the dreaded Blackberry.

Don't be jealous....
This is how I roll…don’t be jealous.

One fabulous and lovely girl at the party started innocently poking fun at my cell phone (as she should, it’s a sad beat-up little Blackberry from the ancient days), and I was quite amused and rather relieved when a long-time girlfriend stepped in and ever-so-sweetly yet protectively said, “Uh, uh. Ash is a little sensitive about her phone. Leave her alone.”

This goes far beyond new tech phone jealousy. Much deeper than affordability or upgrade eligibility. I’ve been eligible for a fancy phone upgrade for months. So why the delay? Why the sensitivity? Why not just cross that off the list and get it over with?

Because in my world, it’s not that easy. I wish it were.

Little backstory: First and foremost I had a Blackberry for work back in the day when it was still cool to do so. At the beginning of the year I had given up the yucka Blackberry when a loving and generous boyfriend bought me a new state-of-the-art fancy pants phone when he asked to merge phone plans. Cute. It was a random act of kindness that meant a lot to me. I wish the story stopped there. I’m not a tech person, and it took me a long time to succumb to the Apple bug when I bought a Mac for photo editing purposes. I loved that someone would see the need and step up and take care of it for me, not because I couldn’t do it myself, but because they were willing and wanting to do so. There is just something so beautiful when someone shows they are paying attention and that they care.

Fast forward several months and I am sitting front row at a funeral and later canceling the account and returning to the store the very gift that once made me smile and feel so cherished. Going back to the yucka Blackberry stung in so many ways that I can’t even describe without fighting back tears. And as painful a reminder it is and as desperately needed a new one may be, I somehow just can’t bring myself to purchase one for myself. I wish I could. I’ve even walked into the AT&T store multiple times telling myself that “this is the day,” and have walked out empty handed every time. Maybe some day I’ll be successful. Maybe a small part of me wishes that somebody, anybody else, will be kind enough to know me well enough to be strong–and care enough–to take that bullet for me (because I evidently am not strong enough to do it myself.) But today is not that day.

It does not make it any easier that just a few weeks ago I sat on a friend’s couch catching up with a bunch of giggling girls and looked around and saw that all three girls sitting around me had not just fancy new phones, but iPhones. Of course I would notice them. When I salivated and oogled their new toys like they were candy I couldn’t and shouldn’t touch, I winced to find out that each girl had been given the phone as a gift by their significant other. Random acts of kindness in action. The salt in the wound was when all three acted as if it weren’t a big deal at all. I heard multiple times, “I didn’t even really need one, he just did it. I don’t even know how to use it.” Ouch.

So at the cookie party when I awkwardly fell silent and turned red in the cheeks, I was grateful to not have to answer or defend my questionable taste in phones. The fact that I’m even able to talk about it now to the “public” is for me, a really big deal and a huge step in an attempt to hopefully someday be able to cross off #13 on the list. In my world, this is not just  simply “time to get a new phone,” it really is for so many reasons something I need to have the courage to kiss goodbye. Anyone can purchase a new phone. It’s not hard. But when it comes to supposedly “easy #13” on my Next List, it IS hard for me and I really do have to kiss it goodbye. And if I am the one that has to go in and make that big girl purchase, then quite honestly I’m just not ready to do that yet. For now, it stays on the list.

One Frustrated Cookie

Can You Identify?

Ever had a dream drop down in your heart that you know you were to do, to have, or to experience? It’s actually quite scary when it happens, because the excitement of living out the dream can drown in the very realistic possibility of it not happening. And who wants to live with an unfulfilled dream? Maybe that’s why some people crush it before it can even begin to take shape. Sometimes we think that it’s easier to not even start than to take the risk beginning something we don’t know how to finish.

Destiny and fate are words that don’t quite describe it accurately, but the feeling is something along those lines. It’s that nagging feeling of a dream that just won’t die, no matter how dyer the circumstances seem. The scary part happens when you just can’t see, reason, or figure out how it’ll happen, but you know deep down that it’s on its way and it’s for you.

That’s faith, my friend. Believing in something that you can’t see, feel, or touch…but believing nonetheless.

That’s how I feel about several things in my life, but mostly about this stinkin’ 30×30 book. More than anything I know, that I know, that I know I’m to write this 30×30 book and get it out there. There have been many many moments when I want to throw my hands up in the air in utter defeat. I’m not sure I even want to any more, but that deep down gut feeling that I’m to do this just won’t let me go. Barf!

The struggle lies not just in the writing, but in the actual producing and publishing processes that I know absolutely nothing about. I’m just me, who am I to write a book? Let alone how to publish it. And who am I to give any type of advice to other people…it’s not like my life’s in order or that I have everything figured out.

But when we’re given a dream and a vision, it’s in the pushing forward when we don’t have it all figured out that breakthroughs happen. It’s in doing what we can and trusting that God will come through in the things we cannot. And that’s where I sit right now with this book dream.

As I move forward in this book project my head spins with ISBN’s, layout, editing, websites, marketing plans, and of course…funding. All things I don’t have the slightest clue in. So as a little peek under the tent, I’m in the process of putting together a Kickstarter fundraising project to kickstart the final stages of what needs to happen to get this book dream out and in print. All I have to say is, I don’t know exactly how, but I know it’ll happen. Stay tuned for more on that as I put the pieces together. It’s coming…

I read something this week that hit home in my heart. “We often think receiving what we’ve been guaranteed ought to be a cakewalk, but Scripture shows the opposite is more often true. The most profound things God promised were often fulfilled against the greatest of odds and through the most difficult of hardships. To God, faith is often the point–God does nothing cheaply. Perhaps the divine nature of a promise fulfilled guarantees its expense. We may receive a hundred unexpected things from God with delightful ease while the fulfillment of some of the things we believe He promises us proves virtually impossible. You see, the impossibility is what makes the fulfillment of the promise fall under the God category. God makes promises man simply can’t keep.” — Beth Moore, The Patriarchs

So on that note, all I have to say is that I’m hanging on to this book dream…along with several others. Quite honestly I’ve had it for a while but I just didn’t, and don’t, know exactly what to do with it. I feel that God dropped this book idea into my heart for a reason and come hell or high water, it’ll happen! Who am I to let my fears and doubts stop God from doing His thing. There are some behind-the-scenes reasons why this book project seems impossible, but I am so glad to know that I am hooked up with the One who specializes in the impossible. Can’t wait to see how this whole thing plays out.

One day there will be a book in print. And then I am going to throw a party.

Thankful for random fortunes that make me smile. How did it know? Thanks cookie.
Thankful for random fortunes that make me smile. How did it know? Thanks cookie.

QUOTABLE QUOTES FROM PEOPLE MUCH SMARTER THAN I:

The Suckee Part of Crossing Off East Coast Fall

The Suckee Part of Crossing Off The List

If there’s one thing I can pass along to those creating their own lists, it’s that random check-off opportunities will arise and when they do, no matter how ridiculous, scary, or ill-fit the timing…take them. This is something I am re-learning as I create my “Next List” and am watching unexpected check-off opportunities unfold.

Celebrating crossing off “East Coast Fall” by taking a selfie with the nation’s capitol.

Today I am officially unpacking from a journey that included almost four weeks, 7 cities, 6 flights, 4 states, 2 bus rides, 2 countries and ending in the overall culmination in the crossing off of 3.5 “Next List” items. (The .5 goes to the addition of 3 more states to my “visit all 50 states” goal. Pennsylvania, Washington, and if I really choose to count it–technically Delaware.) I must say, after all that I have an intense date with a stack of mail and a rather overwhelming laundry pile in my future. But that can wait–for now, I write.

This particular adventure, as exciting as it sounds on paper, was an emotionally charged and at times rather draining and challenging experience. As difficult and heart breaking as some parts were, I would not trade them for anything.

You see, not everything on my list is about good times and fun adventures. Whaaaaaaaaaaat? True story.

Due to some ex-boyfriend issues and some painful memories from the past, there are parts of the country and some specific places that I personally made off-limits and have chosen to avoid up until this point. It wasn’t until just recently that I was able to have the opportunity–and the courage–to face some of them head on. Ever dread a high school reunion, an encounter with a past love, or drive past an old childhood house and have to process both good and bad memories and feelings that go with them? Yeah, this trip was kind of like that.

When I put “East Coast Fall” and “Annapolis” on my Next List, they were items that were fully loaded with behind-the-scenes reasons as to why they made the list. I knew crossing them off would mean facing some ghosts from the past as I replaced them with new experiences in the present. Thankfully I was armed with some phenomenal support from friends and family as I did that. Fighting emotional battles like that unarmed is not a wise idea…gather your army and bring your own weapons.

Go ahead, let your freedom flag fly
Go ahead, let your freedom flag fly (Old Glory in Church Falls, VA)

I am a firm believer that we are designed and meant to live in freedom, but that does not come easily and we have to intentionally make an effort and fight for it. Some people choose not to fight, and their world becomes increasingly limited, restricted, and eventually stifling. Avoidance and procrastination can only last for so long until the very method we use to protect ourselves causes problems and hinders opportunities for good things in the future. Fighting for it comes in drumming up the courage and finding reasons to face the tough stuff. And as tough as it is, the rewards are worth it. They are so worth it.

Holy cow Batman! They get a little out of control here on the East Coast, don't they?
Holy cow Batman! They get a little out of control here on the East Coast, don’t they?

If I wasn’t willing to make myself (and sometimes those around me) uncomfortable while facing some of those less-than-pleasant memories, I wouldn’t have been able to create and add new ones to the mix. Like photographing the Washington Monument on the last night it was lit in full scaffolding, getting lost while driving at night in less-than-stellar parts of D.C., running off eleven miles of tears through autumn leaves and cobblestone bridges, wine tasting at a friend’s winery in the afternoon sun in the hills of Virginia, trying three different versions of bad clam chowder, eating world famous crab cakes overlooking the Chesapeake bay, or waiting in line to get your picture taken (and sneak a touch when the guards aren’t looking) with the Liberty Bell.

Construction on the Washington Monument after the earthquake left a unique look among the scaffolding. This was the last night the scaffolding would be lit, never to be seen like this again. (Hopefully.)
Construction on the Washington Monument after the earthquake left a unique look among the scaffolding. This was the last night the scaffolding would be lit, never to be seen like this again. (Hopefully.)

Construction on the Washington Monument after the earthquake left a unique look among the scaffolding. This was the last night the scaffolding would be lit, never to be seen like this again. (Hopefully.)

Freedom  and liberty often comes with cracks
Freedom and liberty often comes with cracks
Cheers from Hillsborough Winery
Cheers from Hillsborough Winery, VA

None of these would have been possible if I was not willing to be uncomfortable for a moment. It’s in moments like these where growth happens. It’s in choosing to take a stand and fight through the tough stuff where freedom and life and new beginnings are found. So cheers to the “tough stuff” items and those who take a chance in order to move forward. And on that note, it’s time for me to move forward on that laundry and mail pile.

This is Mojo's way of welcoming me back after being gone almost 4 weeks...by knocking off the counter and dancing in the mail pile. Thanks buddy.
Mojo’s way of welcoming me back after being gone almost 4 weeks…knocking off the counter and dancing in the mail pile. Thanks buddy.
Walking (the very rainy) streets of Philidelphia
Walking (the very rainy) streets of Philadelphia

The feeling of invisibility. Not being seen, not being heard. Being ignored. Being forgotten.

I walked through the hallways of the nursing home my Ginnymom has been living in since January after a series of strokes left her unable to stay in her home, and I realized part of what makes visiting her so difficult is walking by all the lives and wrinkly faces far past their prime. (I realize not everyone has a Ginnymom. For those of you who are unfamiliar with what a Ginnymom is…my adorable eighty-nine year-old grandma.)

It is human nature to want to connect, to be heard, to be loved, and to be valued. What do you do when someone seemingly is unable to do that? Is unable to respond? When there is no interaction and no way to communicate, it is far too easy to become invisible and fade into the background. Nursing homes seem to be a collection of people and lives who have faded into the background of a young and bustling society that has left them behind. The thing is, their value as a human being hasn’t changed, just their physical ability.

You don’t have to be old and in a nursing home to feel invisible though.

I had the opportunity to go to California a few weeks ago and visit and reconnect with friends. I drove past my old apartment, waved to my church, and had the chance to eat at some of my favorite restaurants. But the best part of the trip was seeing my friends and getting updates on each of their lives since I had left. I was quite surprised to find each of them in their own way and situation admitting their struggles with loneliness.

Some were married, some had gotten new jobs, others had recently become new moms. Each one in a different situation and life stage, but surprisingly all going through their own version of invisibility and loneliness. Not at all what I was expecting, but real nonetheless.

I remember how miserable and alone I felt during the time I created the 30×30 list. I felt invisible. Even though it was my list, it got me to focus on something other than myself. It created vision, reasons to interact, and it gave opportunities to move forward. The list created a connection to others around me in ways I never could have imagined.

Feeling invisible, forgotten, or left behind? You’re not the only one. Take a moment to look around and it won’t be hard to find someone else facing the same thing.  We have the power and the ability to reach out and help others in ways we cannot help ourselves. So do. Find a way to be kind. Step outside your comfort zone and get beyond yourself. Go be good to someone. You’ll be surprised at who really needs it.

kindness

Ever had the feeling of being left out? I’m having it right now.


Ever had the feeling of being left out? I’m having it right now.

Who chooses to be left behind and left out on purpose? This girl. At this very moment my two best friends who I’ve both known for over two decades are in San Francisco right now…and I am not. I love girls’ trips. I just like them better when I’m actually on them. And as I’m sitting at home on the couch watching TLC’s last episode of “What Not To Wear” on a Friday night, I can’t help but think that I was supposed to be on that trip.

Little background: A few years ago when I created this 30×30 list, one of these two fabulous ladies conned me into training for a full 26.2 mile marathon…and I was dumb enough to do it. (See previous blog post on that whole crazy experience!) I had never run more than two miles in my life, so you can only imagine my reaction when given the push and challenged to run 26.2.

After hooking into Team In Training (an organization whose mission is to find a cure for Leukemia and blood cancers), I reluctantly committed to going to 6:30am workouts every Saturday morning for over four months, wearing through multiple pairs of sneakers, fundraising over $5,000, and choking down more Gu and salt packets than I’d care to admit. The friend that convinced me and supported me to take on that experience also trained for her first full marathon as well. We picked a race, trained in two different states for it (her in CO, moi in CA), and then met up in Florida to cross the finish line together. Ok, I’m super slow, so she actually crossed before me, but it was still pretty fantastic. This was an experience I will never forget, nor will ever be able to truly express to her how special it was. And the best part? The other friend flew out to support us! I thank God for friends like that.

The short one...I blame her.
The short one…I blame her.

Fast forward several years later, and the other friend who flew in and supported us on the sidelines trained this year for her own race, fundraising and having her own Team in Training experience after watching her father fight and survive his own battle with blood cancer. I am so proud of her and have seen what her and her family have been through, so you can only imagine how excited I was to join both of them in San Francisco and support her as she crossed that fabulous, hard-earned, finish line. This was a girls’ trip, a celebration of life, and a way to support amazing friends as they go after their own dreams.

But I’m not there. I’m here.

In life there are disappointments and detours that take us in a different direction than what was originally planned. In life, there are moments that require the tough choices and for us to do things that are not enjoyable at all and sometimes downright uncomfortable, but ultimately for our benefit. I fully admit this is one of them.

Due to some family needs and obligations I am having to wave from afar and cheer them on from my home in Colorado. Don’t feel sorry for me. This was a choice. A hard, difficult, and not-so-fun choice, but a choice nonetheless. You see, my parents are celebrating their 40th anniversary with a looooooong awaited trip to visit wine country in California. In order for them to be able to do that, I had to stay and hold down their business, keep an eye on the funny farm (three dogs, two cats, a horse and 5 acres of property), and be around to take care of my elderly grandmother.

Am I sad that I’m not in California too? The brat in me says “absolutely!” I should be wine tasting with my two best friends, “cheersing” their hard earned accomplishments on their own lists. Would I make the same decision again if given the opportunity? *Pausing only slightly* You bet. I am so blessed to have parents who love each other and have fought to stay together through the tough stuff, who actually want to celebrate their 40 years together, and have worked hard enough to have a life that needs to be looked after and cared for. Since we were all evacuated for 8 days due to the fires this summer during their actual anniversary (I remember the morning my dad wished my mom happy 40th on the way to a Red Cross meeting with the smoke plume looming in the air), I am honored to do my part in order for them to be able to get away. There is no way I would even dream of taking that away from them.

What it really comes down to is this–in order to be able to support my family and give back to them I had to swallow my selfishness and temporarily put my own wants and needs on the back burner and choose to support my friends from far away. The best thing about friends like that–they love me enough to not have it any other way either.

When all your plans go to pot…

The derailment of plans and good intentions. It happens. Even after completing 29 of my 30 items on my original 30×30 list and creating and beginning the Next List, I still find myself getting derailed and disappointed. After taking on the self-imposed 30 day blog challenge to fall back in love with the list I seemed to have found a second wind to get crackin’ on the new Next List. During the blog challenge, not only did I create and pen the items on the Next List, I’ve been able to knock out a few fun things here and there, which has been quite encouraging.  So far I’ve crossed off 7+ of the new items on the Next List…and it’s been less than two months! People have been sending in their own lists, which I absolutely love! I even saw some light and movement on the book publishing front. Woo hoo! That my friends, is progress. And progress feels good.

But then in the course of one week there were a couple of setbacks that took me by surprise. Both on some upcoming plans for the Next List and on the headway made in moving forward with the book. One step forward and two steps back. Just when I think things are opening up–boom. Doors slam. Guess I need to start knocking on other doors.

A couple weeks ago I pulled the trigger and made plans to cross off “East Coast Fall” off the Next List, lining up a much needed trip with possibilities to cross off multiple Next List items all in this one trip. How can you not be excited about that? The plan was to stay with my aunt in DC and check off a few states on some day trips while out there for two weeks, heading up with her to Boston and/or Philadelphia during the weekdays to go see friends. I was excited at the possibility of visiting  and crossing off Delaware, Pennsylvania, Jersey and even good ol’ Massachusetts.  (I’m working on visiting all 50 states–so far I’ve got 30 down and will be on track if I cross off 2-3 a year. Any chance I get to cross another state off the list, I’m in!)

But as life would have it, it looks like my initial plans to play tourist are fading fast. Unbeknownst to me, apparently my aunt and tour guide has obligated and committed herself to dog sit for a high maintenance pooch pretty much the entire time I’m there, which puts the ki-bash on any travel trips and adventures that I had my heart set on. *sigh* Due to some other factors that have changed, I now have lost my connections to stay in Phili and Boston, along with having my wheels and planned mode of transportation yanked. The thought of renting a car and driving solo in an unknown city’s traffic just to cross off items by myself is completely unappealing and makes me scrunch my nose. And if you know anything about my sense of direction and driving skills (or lack thereof), it is not a good idea to turn me loose in any poor unsuspecting city.

Ewwwwww.
Ewwwwww. No thanks.

Look at me. Whining and pouting about something that in the grand scheme of things is not a real problem or worth worrying about. Who wants to hang out with the whiny girl? So I am choosing to make an attitude adjustment. Time to recalculate. Even if this trip is nothing like I originally planned and all I do is sit in a town home with yucka foo foo fido, I will still find a way to enjoy myself and redeem this trip. (Don’t get me wrong, I am a doggie love-ah, but not when one unexpectedly and unnecessarily wrecks my vacation and travel plans.) But I have decided to move past the pity party and am determined to be grateful for the opportunity to wave to our nation’s capitol (even if it is from a distance), and I will be open to whatever twists God has up His sleeve on this one.

When all is said and done, maybe this disappointing turn of events will give me a reason to re-visit someday and try again. Can’t complain about that.

QUOTABLE QUOTES FROM PEOPLE MUCH SMARTER THAN I: 

Bonus Blog #3: At Some Point It’s Time to Put My Big Girl Pants On

At Some Point It’s Time to Put My Big Girl Pants On

When people ask me about what was on my list, the first things I rattle off tend to be some of my travel adventures. Swimming with dolphins, rafting the Grand Canyon, or being a jet setter and flying somewhere and back in one day just because I can. But what doesn’t usually come up in conversation are what I call my “non-sexy” items. The one’s on the list that are like vegetables–they’re good for me and I know they’ll make me stronger, but they don’t always taste good or are as much fun to talk about. So today I’m talking about finances.

On the original 30×30 list were a lot of travel items and adrenaline experiences, and honestly I could’ve decided to whip out a credit card and get almost all of them done in 3 months. That was one option. Not a good one though. Also on the list I had decided to put “be debt free.” Uh oh, now I was really in trouble. How on earth was I going to accomplish my 30×30 list (with some very expensive dreams) and also become debt free at the same time? Honestly, I couldn’t. But God could. I submitted my 30×30 list in prayer and asked for His help and wisdom in this whole process. I figured if He was the one giving me the dreams, He would be the one to give me the tools, wisdom, and resources to be able to do them…in His order and in His timing. And He did!

Boo
Boo

Setting out to pay off my credit cards and school loans was something that I wanted to accomplish but not something I was looking forward to actually doing. I sat down one morning with a spreadsheet and an internet connection and looked up what I owed on each loan and each credit card, and then used online calculators to determine various payments and payoff dates. I did not like staring those big numbers in the face. But if I didn’t know where I was currently at, how would I know how far I had to go? At the time I had a car loan, student loans from my bachelor’s degree, and about $3,500 in credit card debt. I first calculated how much extra it would be each month in order to pay off my car loan a year early. Surprisingly, it was only an extra $55 a month. Then I decided that a percentage of every extra bonus I received from work would go towards my other debt. To keep myself on track, every quarter I labeled the various debts and totaled them into “Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter.”  I would revisit that spreadsheet and update it with the new amounts every 3 months so I could see the progress I was making. The first time I was able to label a column “paid in full” I thought I was going to fly to the moon. There were many more columns to attack, but this kept me motivated to continue with my game plan. Some quarters were better than others, but by the time I was 27 years old I was completely debt free and had opened a 401K to boot. Not bad for a twenty-something little girl.

I remember how liberating and freeing it was to make that final payment. This lined me up to be able to accomplish some of the bigger ticket items on my list. I had a personal party and took myself to the nail salon to celebrate. I was officially debt free! Sadly, I was debt free and got to enjoy it for only 20 days. I decided to go back to school and get my master’s degree and signed the paperwork for my school loans less than three weeks after making my final payment. It wasn’t exactly how I had pictured it, but it was time to put my big girl pants on. By paying off my bachelor’s loan, my car, and all my credit cards I had lined myself up to be able to go back to school and get a master’s degree (one of the hairy scary goals on my 30×30 list.)

So was I surprised that I put “be debt free/pay off car & school loans” back on this next list? No. I don’t believe we’re meant to live in the bondage of debt. It causes stress, can hinder relationships, and can limit you from going and doing other things in your future. Admittedly I felt kind of dumb for getting in debt again and needing to put “pay off loans” on the list one more time.  If I can do it once, I could do it again. But managing money and being financially responsible is an ongoing thing and a constant work in process. Financial balance and freedom is an ongoing battle. But this debt I had now was different than the debt I had in my 20’s. I had taken it on with prayer and a plan in place, had set up healthy habits and started putting into practice things like automatic savings and tithing.

The thing about life lists is that when you get serious about doing something, set your mind and become determined about allocating your resources (time, energy, finances, prayers, etc), it’s amazing how things begin to line up and fall into place. When we give our plans to God He truly is faithful to give us the desires of our hearts and take care of us…He just usually does it in a way we would never expect. More than likely it won’t ever look like or happen how it’s pictured in your head. And that’s ok! Be determined, be flexible, and give God room to work. Do your part and He’ll do His. It’s a partnership–it takes both you and God. You can’t do His part and He won’t do your part.

A reason to smile
A reason to smile

Two weeks ago I made the final payment on my car and received the title in the mail yesterday (the big girl car that was on my 30×30 list). And yesterday I went online and made the final payment on my school loans from my master’s program (MBA–also on my original 30×30 list). Busting out the calculator I added up over $90,000+ in loans for the 3 cars and 3 degrees I bit off and had taken on over the last decade. That’s not including all the travel, rent, and daily expenses of living on my own in southern California for seven years. I may have taken on all that debt on my own, but I certainly didn’t get out on my own. Praise God–yesterday I paid it all off…again! It wasn’t fun. It wasn’t sexy. There have been a lot of bumps and derailments along the way,  but I decided to be debt free and to owe no man anything but love. *smiling* Now THAT is a good feeling. I have not only put my big girl pants on, but for the first time they actually feel like they fit.

Quotable Quotes From People Much Smarter Than I:

Day 28: If I should die before I wake….

Not everything on my list is “fun.” A few items on the 30×30 list actually weren’t enjoyable at all. Like creating a will/living trust and paying off my credit cards and bachelor loans. Yucka yucka. Skydiving and swimming with dolphins are way more exciting, why would I put things on the list that I really didn’t want to do? Because the benefit of doing them far outweighs the yucka feelings that go with them. That’s called growth.

I remember sitting in the lawyer’s office practically in tears as I had to sign paperwork and make decisions having to do with my death. Depressing doesn’t even begin to describe it. Who really wants to think about death, let alone their own death? There I was, a twenty-something planning my own funeral arrangements and last wishes. It felt so unnatural. Why was I doing this? It wasn’t like I had a lot of assets at such a young age. Because I loved my family enough to fight through the hard stuff in order for them not to have to later on. If I didn’t choose to be the big girl now and deal with the ugly, it would hurt those I love later on. This was no one else’s responsibility but my own.  I could choose to tackle it or I could choose to procrastinate and avoid it. By putting those items on the list I forced myself to face them.

My list was a better list because of it. I was better because of it.

There were side effects to the 30×30 list and what I put on it. As the 30×30 list became a bigger and bigger part of my life, I noticed the effects went far beyond just me. When I sent my own documents to my family, it forced them to look at some of the tough stuff they’d been avoiding too. My parents, who hadn’t adjusted their will since my sister and I were toddlers, finally updated their documents too. (It was really funny to be in my mid-twenties and still being willed off to my eighty-something grandma should anything happen.) It’s not the kind of thing you think about on a daily basis. It’s not the kind of thing you want to think about at all. But just like eating veggies, it’s good for you and makes you stronger. You have to train yourself to be able to handle the tough stuff. The consequences of avoidance and not doing so are far more painful than the temporary discomfort of going through it.

These are the type of items I call the “non-sexy” items. Skydiving and dolphins–exiting, fun and sexy. Death and wills–definitely not sexy. Running a marathon and crossing the finish line–sexy. Going to 6:30am Saturday practices and choking down Gu packets, not sexy. At all.  But if there’s going to be balance and there’s going to be growth and health, there’s going to be both. There’s freedom in tackling the tough stuff. Who doesn’t want to feel freedom? Unfortunately, freedom isn’t free. We have to be willing to pay the price to get it.

More than anything, it’s my list and I am in control of it.  At the end of the day I will be better for it if I recognize and face the tough stuff head on. And when I do…it’s okay to celebrate! And who knows? Maybe there will be good side effects and it’ll help someone else out along the way.

QUOTABLE QUOTES FROM PEOPLE MUCH SMARTER THAN I:

Day 27: Blankety blank blank

Not a great day. Not so much. Bad days happen. I’m allowed. Instead of blogging and talking on and on about junk or all the yucky feelings swirling about, I’d rather shut my mouth and leave it at this…this bad day is temporary. I will not feed it with words. It is not welcome and the black cloud must leave. In the words of my mamma, “If you can’t say something nice than don’t say anything at all.” This is me bowing out for the moment and not saying anything at all. Ciao for now. I’m out.

Day 25: The wedding march

When I originally created my 30×30 list several years ago, I almost put “get married” on the list. Almost. A happy, healthy, long-term relationship–sounds like a normal thing for a twenty-something girl to want, right? So why isn’t it on the list? If it’s something I want someday in my future then that seems like a natural thing to put on the list, right? But as I thought about it, I wanted to put things on my list that were within my realm of control and my sphere of influence. I didn’t want to limit something so monumental and life-changing to a number and a check on the to-do list. Why would I want to set a deadline that would put undue and undeserved pressure on something that I was only 50% part of the equation? Getting married is not a “to-do” item. That is a season of life all its own that will come naturally and in its own time. Who am I to put a deadline on that?

There have been two times in my life that I have had to make some tough decisions regarding entering into that commitment and that season of life, and twice I chose not to. If it’s not right, it’s not right. It seems more acceptable to have been married and divorced at this age than to not have married at all. I don’t generally get accolades for choosing to not enter into something that wasn’t right and for not being a divorce statistic…typically no bravos for making good choices up to this point. Sometimes it takes more strength to walk away than to stay. Too many people get married just to get married, forcing something that deep down they know better. They do it because they think that’s what’s expected of them, or because that’s what’s supposed to be next, they don’t think there’s anyone better, or because they’re afraid to be alone. There are a lot of reasons why people get married, not everyone does it for the right reasons. We’ve all seen it. Heartbreaking.

I’m sure there are some people reading this right now that might admit to themselves, “That’s me, I’m in that category.” Refusing to settle for “right now” is not anti-marriage or being too picky…it’s being strong enough to know where you’re at and being stable enough to be selective about who is in the seat next to you throughout life’s journey. Choose poorly and the journey is going to be an extremely rough one.

So I left that little item off my list on purpose, and I am so glad I did. There is a spontaneous streak in me that can be dangerous at times.  I know this about myself. In order to avoid panicking and the temptation to do something rash–like wake up in Vegas or order a mail-order groom—I decided instead to leave that particular life’s desire off the official list and leave my heart up to my Maker and his timing…and not Vegas or the mailman. But just because I purposefully chose to take the pressure off myself and be released from that numerical deadline doesn’t mean everyone else is okay with my decision.

I’ve noticed that my singlehood can make people uncomfortable. They want to “figure it out.” I’ve even had a co-worker sincerely ask “Why hasn’t anyone scooped you up yet?” True story. Try answering that one. The look on his face and his puzzled expression was priceless. There’s this weird and unspoken underlying expectation in society that if I’m to be considered normal, by the time I turn 30 I’m to get a degree, get a career, get a car, get a husband, get kids, get a house and oh, by the way, look and feel the best in my entire life. Is anybody else’s head spinning from the pressure? What happens if all that doesn’t happen in that short ten year time frame? Ten years seems like such a wee amount of time to fit so many momentous things if I have over 80+ years to live. What if I don’t have all those things or do all those things in my twenties, am I a failure? I may want them or desire to someday have them, but if they don’t happen in the allotted time frame of my twenties, is there something wrong with me or did I not do something right? With all the amazing things and blessings I’ve experienced  in my life, why am I judged on that one thing?

Not everyone meets that special someone in college or within the first five years after high school. If you did and that’s your story, congratulations! I love my friends who did and I have had the honor of standing in many a wedding celebrating their next chapter. But if you didn’t find that special someone early on and you’re still waiting, trust me, you’re not the only one. God has an individual plan for each and every one of us and it does not look the same or like any body else’s personalized plan.

Growing up my mom used to smile at me and say, “You certainly break the mold!” I’ve heard this more times than I can count. I don’t know if I break any molds, but I certainly don’t fit into one. My story is not the standard stereotypical story. It never has been. Honestly, I would probably be disappointed if it were. Just because I’m okay and have peace with the twists and turns in my journey does not mean everyone else is.

People can get weird about this. Sometimes I dread the standard introductory questions when first meeting new people because I don’t have a standard introductory answer that’s comfortable. And since I work with the public, it happens a lot. “Are you married?” seems to surface almost every time. My standard answer usually falls somewhere along the lines of, “Not that I know of,” complete with a smile and a giggle to match theirs. Often times I can see it run across their face even if they don’t say the words. “Why not?” I can see them sizing me up, internally asking themselves “I wonder what’s wrong with her. She looks normal. Seems like a good catch. Pity.” This is not in my head. I’ve actually had a gentlman in a coffee shop sit down next to me and say that very thing after less than three minutes of conversation. No joke. I’ve also had a perfect stranger ask me if I’m gay right after asking me if I was married. People need to put me in a box, they need a label. I can’t blame them, they just don’t understand. I’ve become quite excellent at changing subjects.

Leaving that off the 30×30 list was intentional. Putting “a marriage more beautiful than the wedding” on the next list was too. God blessed me with the inspiration of the 30×30 list and then equipped me to accomplish 29 of the 30 items. (For more on the one thing that didn’t happen, see my previous post.) He’s even more involved with this Next List, because I’ve asked Him to be. As I create the Next List, I have a new trust and faith that I didn’t have before.

Will there be items on this Next List that are unanswered prayers? Maybe. But that’s a risk I’m going to need to be willing to take. Timing is everything and I trust that my steps are ordered and that God will keep me moving in the right direction. He’s got this whole thing covered. Eventually that direction will be down an aisle and into a happy, healthy relationship, but until that day comes I have a lot of other fabulous goals and adventures to keep me engaged until then. When it comes to the man in my life, I know he’s worth the wait. Extraordinary takes time. And if somehow he’s reading these words right now, he’s probably smiling. Cheers to the next list and all that comes with it!

Day 22: Make me happy. Your turn.

Happy happy happy. There’s all this talk about being happy. The pursuit of happiness, the happiness project, the happy movie, and on and on and on. And really, who doesn’t want to be happy? Happiness is not a bad thing. We’re wired to want it. We’re built to experience it. But it seems to be so fleeting, so temporary, and sometimes so unattainable.

I had an interesting moment yesterday observing my mom. Little background–she owns and operates a bed & breakfat and the tasks to maintain and keep the place functioning are endless. She has always been a motivated, hard-working, and creative woman who has never been afraid of rolling up her sleeves and tackling a project. These are the characteristics that have lead to the success and transformation of a run-down barn house that had 7 different colors of shag carpeting and 70’s paneling to what is now a beautiful and successful bed & breakfast. I admire her in that respect.

But what I observed yesterday was a woman who fourteen years later has not taken the time to enjoy the very dream she created. Ok, this observation was not just a one-time event that occured yesterday, but a conversation and a confrontation in the laundry room opened my eyes to something that will hang with me for a long time.

I love her with all my heart, but my mom is a “Martha Martyr.” Work for her will never be done. Never. As soon as one project or task is completed, there is no time to enjoy or take it in before the focus is shifted to the next 1,000 tasks. She not only works hard, but she thrives on creating projects and doing them in front of people…and then gets upset and miffed that they aren’t working as hard as she is. No one works as hard as she does. She will not ask for help, will not accept help, but she will be quite upset if help is not offered. This is a woman who will not even take the time to feed herself or feels guilty for stopping to drink a glass of water, which is a rare occurance. She does not sit. Needless to say, my mom is not happy.

But more importantly, she is not at peace. Happiness is a feeling, peace is a state of being and a place where your heart can rest. You can be at peace with something without necessarily being happy with it. Is that really what we’re all seeking after anyways, not happiness but true peace? There is a difference.

Peace comes when we take the time to slow down, take a breath, and listen to what God has for our lives. Both big picture and little details. He’ll be involved with both if we ask Him to. If we are constantly in motion, how on earth are we ever to hear that still small voice that has all the answers? Some of us probably don’t want anything to do with that. And if we don’t slow down, how are we ever going to catch those magic mini-moments that are so special? And then we wonder why we’re not “happy.” I know, I’ve been there. I’ve chased and pursued the things they say are supposed to make us happy. I’ve gotten a lot of them. But the ever elusive happiness factor seems to fade far quicker than it should. Those thoughts of “I’ll be happy when…” or “If I only had XYZ I’d be happy” or “When this happens, then I’ll be happy” are peace killers and joy suckers.

I remember a moment just this past May that has stuck with me in regards to this subject matter of happiness. For one weekend my mom shuts down the B&B and invites friends and family over to work on maintenance projects–think slave labor with lots of good food, sweat and smiles. It must not be all that bad because people keep coming back year after year. It was at this year’s work weekend that my 3-year-old nephew was a part of a secret project to surprise grandma “Lolly” and left his mark and little boy artwork in the newly cemented stone steps. It was precious, she was going to love it. The time came for the big reveal and the entire group was marching across the lawn with 3-year-old Calvin in the lead, chattering away and telling us to “hurry up.” I watched as my mom turned around halfway there and headed back into the house to switch one more load of laundry that just couldn’t wait ten minutes. My heart sank as she later re-emerged and said “Ok, I’m ready. Show me.” But the moment had passed. Everyone had already dispersed and was loading into their cars to go home. She had missed it.

It was that moment that I wondered just how many moments over the years she had missed because something like laundry couldn’t wait. How many moments have I missed? If I dwell on that too long that thought will haunt me. It’s not my job to change her. It’s not my job to judge or criticize her.   Yes, we need to work hard. Yes, we need drive and motivation and focus in order to get things done and accomplished. But we also need balance. We need those little moments. We need to take the time to slow down and take it all in. Because they don’t wait.  Those magical little moments–the ones that make us smile and create the mini moments of happiness–they don’t wait for anyone.

I’m personally asking that as I go throughout my day and do the things and tasks that I need to do that my eyes will be opened and to have a special awareness of those magic mini-moments. I know they’re out there. I don’t want to miss one. Not a single one.

QUOTABLE QUOTES FROM PEOPLE MUCH SMARTER THAN I:

Day 19: Learning to be happy homeless…

It’s party day. Summer’s winding down and before you know it, it won’t be campfire and s’mores weather anymore. So before the chill really settles into the Southern Colorado hills, it’s time to gather the troops and kick back by the river to celebrate what has thus far been an extremely interesting summer. And now that the fire ban has been lifted and things have settled down since the evacuations earlier this summer, we can finally enjoy stories around the fire pit again. (Relax.  We are pit professionals. It’s 10 feet off the river, has a metal cover, and meets all codes and regulations. We even have a permit. All is well.)

Parties and little shin digs like this are right up my alley. Love them. Who doesn’t like getting good friends together over brisket, coconut cream pie, and a beer or two? I have a new appreciation for mini social occasions like this because not too long ago I couldn’t have any. There was a time when I went over a year of not having anyone over. Very unlike me. Not for dinner, not for drinks, not even to watch a movie. I was on social lockdown.

No, this was not out of depression, a friend shortage, or tightening the budget. This was partially out of necessity and partially by choice. The whole point of moving to the little town of South Fork was to help out with an aging grandmother who, bless her heart, was starting to need more care from my mom than she could give her. It happens, that’s life. If blessed to live that long, we’ll all get there someday. I was just glad I was in a position and had the opportunity to be able to do so.

Little backstory–my parents own and operate a bed & breakfast by the river in a little mountain ski town called South Fork in Southern Colorado, roughly four hours from Denver. About seven years ago they built a little house on the property and moved my Ginnymom there in order for her to be closer as she needed more care. Well into her eighties, she had reached that stage in life that she just needed to be closer, and there she lived for the next several years in what we eventually deemed “the cottage.”

When I was home visiting for the holidays one fall, conversations took place on how things were shifting and it was time to look at other options. After just moving back to Colorado, I just happened to be in a place to be able to be the perfect option.  The goal was to keep her out of a nursing home and with us as long as possible. No in-home care tech here…I was the assisted living. And interestingly enough, there just happened to be a position in my field open and advertised in the local paper when I just happened to be in town for Thanksgiving. I just happened to apply two days before the deadline, just happened to make it through an 8 person panel interview and a rather amusing and rowdy voting session by the town board, and I just happened to get the job as the marketing director for the town. (God’s funny in arranging things like that.) So boom, before I knew it I was the newest (and probably youngest) resident of South Fork living in a cute little cottage by the river with an eighty-eight year old for a roommate. Not exactly where I had pictured myself at this stage in my life.

I look back and I find this situation somewhat amusing. See, of the 30 things on my 30×30 list, there was only one of them I was not able to accomplish…owning a home. I so desperately wanted one. Came close several times, but for one reason or another something would shift or change and it just never happened. Living in California during the whole housing bubble boom and bust, it is a huge blessing in disguise and God-wink that this never happened. It’s true, unanswered prayers sometimes are the best answers after all. But that didn’t stop my “homelessness” from being a touchy subject and something that continued to pull on my heartstrings well after the 30×30 list wrapped up.

Over the last 1 1/2 years I stayed tucked away with Ginnymom in the cottage, getting used to small town life. Admittedly, it took some adjusting. I’ve been financially independent since I was eighteen and had been a twenty-something living on my own in L.A. before my adventures took me to South Fork. Learning to live next door to my parents and I had to learn to live and adjust to an elderly grandmother. She’s a wonderful lady, and although quirky, I am the one who was blessed while taking care of her. I had to remind myself of that every now and then when we became two cranks in a cottage. If I ever needed to get out of small town life, Denver and a myriad of friends were just a car ride away and always waiting to play.

It wasn’t until Ginnymom had a series of strokes this last January that forced the decision to invoke nursing home care that I realized exactly what had happened. Besides the obvious, my life in California was very different than my life in South Fork. Trust me, I knew South Fork wasn’t L.A. when I chose to move there. That was not the shocker. I hadn’t thought much about it until she was no longer in the cottage–but it wasn’t my house, so I hadn’t had anyone over to enjoy it in the entire 1 1/2 years I had been living there. I hadn’t really watched much TV because it wasn’t my TV. I hadn’t had people over for dinner because it wasn’t my kitchen. I may have been living there, but it wasn’t my household–it wasn’t my home. Out of respect for her, I went out when I needed to play. The first time I finally did have friends over to make sushi one night, that’s when it finally hit me how long it had been. Funny how you don’t always recognize the strange until after it’s over.

Even though I’ve physically resided there almost two years this winter and it’s been over 6 months since she made her final departure from the cottage, I still have a hard time having people over. Even though I’m the only one living in the cottage now, in my mind I am still a guest and this is temporary–an absolutely wonderful and enjoyable right-on-the-river-temporary, but still temporary. As much as I love it here, it still doesn’t feel like home. I don’t think I want it to. But I know God placed me here on purpose with a purpose and while I am here I intend to enjoy every minute of it.

So it is with excitement and a smile that I continue to help make preparations for the brisket and bonfire endeavor tonight. Who knows how many more of these we’ll have before I am no longer here and can have them in a house of my own? Owning a home…don’t worry, it’s on the next list. *Big smile*

View from Camp Calvin (bonfire basecamp) Arbor House Inn Bed & Breakfast on the RiverView from the backyard...I cannot complain.

Day 14: The days that leave scars…

Today the plan was to tackle the ugly and confront my procrastination. I always have good intentions to do that but always seem to find a reason to postpone it another time. *smiling* But today was the day. For reals this time.

This last April I was sideswiped by an unexpected loss through suicide which shattered my world and broke my heart in too many ways to count. For anyone who has gone through this kind of loss, you’ll understand me when I say that I went numb. Completely and absolutely numb. This of course is a part of the body’s emotional protection–and thank goodness for it, because if we were allowed to feel the depth and the entirety of the loss all at once it would be absolutely crushing beyond repair. In time, different forms of pain come through and emerge in layers later on as the shock starts to wear off, but the initial trauma just made everything freeze and stand still in my world. This particular pain will always leave a mark and a scar, forever leaving you changed.

So what happens in April for everyone else that didn’t happen in my world? Taxes. Thankfully I was able to file for an extension and push that onto the back burner to be dealt with later. But sooner or later, “later” comes and today it came for me. Technically I have until this October to file, but I do not like having stuff like that hang over my head. I am an excellent procrastinator, but even I will only allow certain things to go so far. Things like that are a nagging to-do that tend to hang in the shadows and zap the enjoyment of any type of free time or pleasant activities. I want to be thought of as a good little law abiding tax-paying citizen. (We will not get into a political discussion on taxes, but no matter where you personally lie on the matter, I have chosen to take the perspective to be very grateful to live in this country and enjoy the freedoms that come with calling America home. Freedom isn’t free. Although not enjoyable, I will be grateful. Ok, enough on that.)

I would have tackled this task a wee bit sooner, but while I had everything laid out in my home office as I was getting it all organized, the fire evacuation happened and every bit of paper ended up in one big pile in a gym bag as I rushed to pack my car. (See day 2 blog posting for more on that experience.) So today was “tackle taxes” day. And guess what? I did! That in and of itself was a big win. Although not on the official “next list”, it still was one of the bigger to-do items on my personal daily list that required a bit of celebration.

To celebrate today’s victory over procrastination, I went to Clement’s Park in Littleton, Colorado (where I grew up) for a walk around the lake and to enjoy the fresh air. The 1.4 mile pathway around the lake just called my name and begged me to come play. I haven’t lived in Littleton since I was eighteen and I hadn’t been to visit this area in years. It was fun to see how things had changed and how strangely they seemed the same. What I did not expect was to trade one heartbreak for another.

As I was walking along the path I found myself taking a detour up toward’s familiar territory and old stomping grounds from my past, Columbine High School, and soon found myself at the edge of something I was unprepared to handle today. As my flip flops flopped closer I could already feel the tears welling up under my sunglasses. I was at the edge of the Columbine Memorial commemorating the 13 lives loved and lost during the shooting at the high school on April 20, 1999. Senior year. The memories flooded back–there was no numbness this time.

I stood by the stone memorial that seemed so peaceful and in such stark contrast to the hatred and violence that created it. Knowing this was going to sting, I just stood there, taking deep breaths as I read the quotes and commemorative comments etched in stone under each name. Touching each name, I remembered being shattered then too. Families were torn apart, the quiet community rocked, and innocence was lost that day. Over a dozen of us were crammed in a room glued to the television with a list of names being checked off in the “safe” column as we saw them on the newsfeed or heard word through the teenage grapevine. Not everyone was accounted for. Thankfully, the water feature at the entrance broke the silence, keeping a continual background ambiance that otherwise would have been eerily silent.

http://www.brentpix.com/Colorado/Columbine-Memorial/22659878_FZ2p5x/1815725820_LphtQr8#!i=1815725820&k=LphtQr8

It’s in moments like these that reflection on life and the briefness of it invade reality in the most unexpected and uninvited way. Whether we choose to recognize it or not, life is a gift…and it is short. Very very short. Some are shorter than others and some are cut short in ways that will never ever make sense this side of heaven. I have learned that it is okay to ask our Maker the tough questions and take our heartbreak and tears to Him, but He  lovingly doesn’t always answer those questions in the way we expect. He promises healing, but the pieces very rarely get put back together the way they were before or the way we think they should. And some questions will never have answers to them at all. I believe that sometimes that is part of a protection mechanism too, much like numbness. In time, some answers do come–and in time, some answers don’t need to come anymore. That’s part of the beauty of the healing process. Either way, time seems to be involved.

I think that is partly why I have clung so tightly to the concept of the 30×30 list and the importance of goals and setting plans in place. The time we have here on earth is limited and valuable and I want to be a good steward of that precious resource. Time is one of the most valuable resources we have. Even when tragedy tears through our world, there is a hope that in time there will eventually be healing. And no matter the type of wound or how big and ugly the scar, it is a reminder that we are still alive.

And as long as I am still alive, I have been given the opportunity to cross one more thing off the list…and I’m going to take it.

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ImageImage

Photo by David Keyzer
“Never Forgotten” – Photo by David Keyzer

http://www.brentpix.com/Colorado/Columbine-Memorial/22659878_FZ2p5x/1815725820_LphtQr8#!i=1815725820&k=LphtQr8

Day 6: Getting old is not for the faint of heart

Joyriding
Joyriding

No one wants to be old–there’s a multi-billion dollar industry built around avoiding it. But why all the hoopla and stigma around being or becoming old? If you are blessed to get to the point where you are considered old, congratulations–that means you were given the chance to live life. Maybe we don’t like even the hint of getting old because we don’t want to think about all the things we’ve missed out on, didn’t do, or even about the dumb things we did do. We don’t like to think about the chances missed or come to grips with the fact we may not be able to do the same things we used to. Maybe that’s why we don’t like change either. (That’s a whole other subject to blog about!) Maybe if we admit that we’re getting old we have to face our regrets…or even the possiblity of death. (And really, who wants to do that?)

Why all the talk on becoming old? Maybe because it’s on my brain after today’s events. Today my mom and I went to visit my grandmother for the quarterly “state of the Ginnymom” address from the nursing home. It’s where we meet with the home director and her main nurses to go over her current care and address any future needs or concerns. Nothing about it is fun. Nothing. Actually, not true. Today was one of the first meetings where a positive report was given on the improvement made in physical therapy and weight gain, and that was something to cheer for. Yay Ginnymom! But navigating through the sea of wheelchairs and wrinkles and weird smells is not always the most enjoyable of experiences. I don’t think anyone ever really wants to get to a point where they need a nursing home, no matter how good of a facility it is. But, if we’re blessed enough to live long enough, I’m glad there are places out there that will provide those services…this particular one has an ice cream machine. Makes visiting her twice a week a wee bit yummier.

I have been around the “old” much more than I ever anticipated. I live and work in a little mountain town that is a retirement community and an outdoor playground for active seniors …the average age is over 60, no joke. Don’t get me wrong, this is a very active and lovable community with some of the fanciest RV’s and ATV’s I’ve ever seen, but I definitely cut the average age in half if I go to happy hour at the country club. It’s kinda funny, really. The personalities and experiences that reside in this community definitely make for some entertaining conversations when hanging with the locals! For the last year I had been living with Ginnymom in her home as a type of in-home caretaker to help my mom out with her increasing need for care. (Try explaining that one to a random stranger or a first date–who wants to admit being a 30-something living at home with grandma? *laughing*) At the time I had just moved back to Colorado and had the means and the opportunity to help out in that department, so the plan was to avoid the nursing home situation for as long as possible…meaning I would be the “assisted living” for as long as the opportunity and her health allowed.  (I’ve got some funny stories of catching her washing her dishes with Comet, cleaning out year-old eggs from the fridge, and becoming really creative on throwing out garbage. Little hoarder.)

But when a series of strokes took her out this past January, we were no longer able to care for her in the way she needed.  We actually almost lost her. I will never forget the day I found her half-naked on the floor in her bedroom, shivering and unable to speak. We are very lucky to still have her. But the image of her and how sick and frail she was when we finally had to admit her to the nursing home is part of what made today’s good report that much sweeter–there is always hope and room for improvement even when you’re old. I am so grateful for facilities like the one she’s in and cannot thank the nurses and staff enough for caring for her and those like her. It’s not easy being old–and getting old is not for the faint of heart either. I believe it’s important to respect those that are already there, they’ve earned it.

And maybe that’s why I’m not all that afraid to get old. Don’t get me wrong, I do not want to be the kind of old where I’m mean, crotchety, and full of regrets. On the contrary–I want to be the kind of old where I can rock out in my rocking chair, tell tall tales to my grandkids, and cheers those around me with Ensure. Although it wasn’t easy living with an 89 year-old, I also don’t regret any of the time that I got to spend with such a wonderful kind-hearted family member. I firmly believe that we reap what we sow. Living with her was my way of sowing good seeds into her world so that one day when I’m in that stage of life someone will be kind enough to be there and do the same for me. (And if I don’t live to be that old, I want to go out with a bang!) If I’m going to have wrinkles, I want them to be smile and laugh lines. Each day truly is a gift and I do not want to waste even a single one. That’s part of what the whole 30×30 list is about–putting down on paper and then making efforts to bring to life the kinds of things that will allow me later in life to look back and be able to say, “Bring on the wrinkles…I’ve earned it.” Cheers to that!

QUOTABLE QUOTES FROM PEOPLE MUCH SMARTER THAN I:

Robert Frost
“The afternoon knows what the morning never suspected.” ― Robert Frost

Douglas Coupland

“When you’re young, you always feel that life hasn’t yet begun — that “life” is always scheduled to begin next week, next month, next year, after the holidays — whenever. But then suddenly you’re old and the scheduled life didn’t arrive. You find yourself asking, ‘Well then, exactly what was it I was having — that interlude — the scrambly madness — all that time I had before?”  ― Douglas CouplandLife After God

Sophia Loren

“There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.” ― Sophia Loren
Jarod Kintz

“I’m willing to die for the woman I love. I just want to take 75 years to do it.”― Jarod KintzWho Moved My Choose?: An Amazing Way to Deal With Change by Deciding to Let Indecision Into Your Life
Marilyn Monroe

“I want to grow old without facelifts… I want to have the courage to be loyal to the face I’ve made. Sometimes I think it would be easier to avoid old age, to die young, but then you’d never complete your life, would you? You’d never wholly know you.” ― Marilyn Monroe
Yoko Ono

“Spring passes and one remembers one’s innocence.
Summer passes and one remembers one’s exuberance.
Autumn passes and one remembers one’s reverence.
Winter passes and one remembers one’s perseverance.”
― Yoko Ono

Day 5: Excuse me, that wasn’t on the list…

School of fear...I mean bungee jumping
The post-jump meltdown. Having a moment.

I have been to the school of fear. Some people call it bungee jumping, but I call it the school of fear. And I got schooled. Several friends in my master’s program were able to witness my journey as I crossed several things off my list over the years that we were together, and some of them actually created 30×30 lists of their own. (Side lesson: the 30×30 list can be contagious.)

Bungee jumping was never on my list, but when a friend wanted to cross the activity off of her own list the adrenaline junkie in me just couldn’t say no. As I was standing on the bridge I wish I had. I was more terrified to bungee jump and leap off the bridge than I was to go skydiving.  I know, it doesn’t make sense, but it’s true. I was excited and nervous to go skydiving, but I did not have the paralyzing fear that I experienced during my bungee adventure. I was downright terrified—and this wasn’t even on my list!

Maybe in the back of my mind I thought that if something goes wrong while skydiving, life just ends with a really fantastic view. That, and I will have gone crossing something off my list, making me one happy girl. But if something goes wrong bungee jumping, the survival rate and the probability to receive injuries that can last a lifetime are much greater. These are the thoughts that went through my head. Completely rational, right? But I stared fear right in the face, screamed, and leapt off the ledge like only a crazy person would. And kept on screaming…I think there might have been a few expletives in there as well. Oops.

Jumping off a bridge is not normal.  But as I stared at the group of us that were lined up to do so, I realized there were a lot of us that weren’t normal. This just reaffirmed that although I am not normal in any sense of the word, I am not alone. I may be crazy, but I am not the only one. (I might as well have a good time and enjoy my lunacy, right?)

Actually, I did it twice. I jumped off a bridge of my own volition not just once, but two times. That’s not normal either. But I learned a lesson about myself that I may not have figured out as quickly if it weren’t for this experience. My first jump was a forward leap where I saw what I was doing and where I was heading (which was straight toward the rocks and the river below) and yet chose to make my body do something my brain didn’t want to do.

Crazies in jump school
The crazies in jump school. The pre-jump jump practice.

The second jump was a backwards leap where I had to make a conscious decision to let go of what was safe and fall backwards not knowing or being able to see where I was going, trusting the rope and harness to do its job and protect me. That was so much scarier! It took two countdowns and extra sweet talk from the bungee instructor before I could let go and just fall. This really surprised me. I didn’t think I would have such a hard time, especially after I had already jumped once. But there I stood on the bridge platform, paralyzed with fear. I couldn’t fall backwards.

"I'm sorry, you want me to do whaaaaat?"
“I’m sorry, you want me to do whaaaaat?”

Afterwards when our group of fifteen jumpers went to dinner to celebrate, I was even more surprised to discover that most people had an easier time falling backwards than jumping forward. I couldn’t help but think, “Maybe I’m not as normal as I thought. Oh great, I’m not even normal among crazies!” Then it occurred to me that even in life there’s not only a fear of moving forward into what we perceive as scary, but there’s also a very real fear of letting go and trusting that it will be okay no matter what happens.  Both are very different fears and very different kinds of trust, and both are also very, very real. It’s not that one is any better or worse than the other, but whether it’s moving forward or letting go, letting the fear paralyze us into inaction is never a good thing.

Doing nothing is still a choice. Inaction is still a choice. Even if I chose not to move or to freeze, the fact still remained that I was on the edge and I would continue to be afraid until I either jumped off or moved back over the railing to where I was before. Either way there were consequences. If I chose to jump I had to get over all the fear that entailed, but if I chose not to jump and get back onto the safe side of the bridge I would have to be okay with missing out on the experience and the adventure. I hate missing out on adventure. Ultimately I was not okay with that option and chose to move past my fear and make the leap, and I am so glad I did! Honestly, I don’t ever want to do that again, but I am very thankful that I took the opportunity when I had it and I know that I would have regretted not doing it. That’s the beauty and the power of choice—I can make the choice to do something and take the risk, and also have the power to choose not to experience that again. My personal philosophy is to try it once, and if I don’t like it, I don’t have to do it again!

Zero fun, can you tell?

So thank you bungee jumping, for making me realize that I have more trouble letting go and more fear of moving backwards than I do pushing forward. Good to know. And thank you to the crazies–I’m glad I’m not the only one. And thank you to my friend, for inviting me to be a part of her adventure. I had so many people support me as I was checking things off my list, it was really a treat to be on the other side and be able to do that for someone else. That’s the funny thing about lists, sometimes the best things aren’t even on them.

Post jump smiles
Post jump smiles

QUOTABLE QUOTES FROM PEOPLE MUCH SMARTER THAN I: 

Woody Allen

“I’m not afraid of death; I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”
― Woody Allen
Eleanor Roosevelt

“Do one thing every day that scares you.”
― Eleanor Roosevelt

John Lennon

“There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance. We need to learn to love ourselves first, in all our glory and our imperfections. If we cannot love ourselves, we cannot fully open to our ability to love others or our potential to create. Evolution and all hopes for a better world rest in the fearlessness and open-hearted vision of people who embrace life.”
― John Lennon
Dan Brown

“Men go to far greater lengths to avoid what they fear than to obtain what they desire.”
― Dan BrownThe Da Vinci Code

Day 4: Writing the vision…and how I didn’t.

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Okay, here we are in day 4. I have to be completely honest on why I’m doing this 30 day self-imposed blog challenge. When the last item on my 30×30 list was completed, I entered into a “now what?” mode, and I just put everything on pause and continued on with normal life. As in life, I was tossed some curveballs that kept even the slightest thought of getting back into list-making far far away. (A major break-up, a cross-country move, a new job, taking care of an elderly grandmother, death of a boyfriend…you know, life.)

But the entire time it had been put on my heart to write about my 30×30 experience. And like the good procrastinator I am, I ignored that thought and didn’t do anything for a long time and put that thought on the top shelf. And then people started asking me to write a book. And I did nothing. But after doing a photography shoot for an author’s conference creating bio portraits for author’s books…I got inspired. Over the course of a year I wrote sections and thought bubbles on the experiences and life lessons this 30×30 journey has taken me on–30,000 words worth–and then I did nothing.

I was stuck. The more I tried to get my act together on the final portions of the 30,000 word monster, the more I got frustrated and angry with it. So I set it down and left it there. And there it sat for over a year. Even though I knew the power of what the written word can accomplish–it was a key factor in completing the 30×30 list–I wouldn’t even look at it. The book, the unfinished product, the whole thing just made me feel like a failure. But the publishing siren kept calling and the feeling that I needed to do it just wouldn’t go away.

So here I am. This 30 day blog challenge is set to force me to re-visit the old list, re-open the rough draft, get going on the next steps in publishing, and to hopefully inspire me to begin setting the goals for the next list. What to call it yet, I’m not sure. But I do know that it has been laid on my heart to write, and so write I shall. I know this also means being diligent and disciplined to set aside the time to not only write in this blog challenge, but also to pick up where I left off on the actual book. It also means picking up the phone and making some very embarrassing phone calls to the publishing industry. Oh yeah, and let’s not forget the financial side and costs of birthing a book! But before I get too ahead of myself and get caught up on the details, I will put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and continue to do what I was supposed to do a long time ago. Write write write. Cheers to the power of the pen. Here we go!

QUOTABLE QUOTES FROM PEOPLE MUCH SMARTER THAN I:

  • “Where there is no vision [no redemptive revelation of God], the people perish; but he who keeps the law [of God, which includes that of man] —blessed (happy, fortunate, and enviable) is he.” — Proverbs 29:18
  • And then God answered: Write this. Write what you see. Write it out in big block letters so that it can be read on the run. This vision message is a witness pointing to what’s coming—it can hardly wait! And it doesn’t lie. If it seems slow in coming, wait. It’s on its way. It will come right on time.” – Habakkuk 2:2-3 (Message Bible)
  • “To produce a mighty book, you must choose a mighty theme.” – Herman Melville
  • A blank piece of paper is God’s way of telling us how hard it is to be God.” – Sidney Sheldon
  • Not that the story need be long, but it will take a long while to make it short.” – Henry David Thoreau
  •  “If you have other things in your life—family, friends, good productive day work—these can interact with your writing and the sum will be all the richer.” – David Brin
  •  “My own experience is that once a story has been written, one has to cross out the beginning and the end. It is there that we authors do most of our lying.” – Anton Chekhov

Day 2: When under fire….life of an evacuee.

The view before evacuation…

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Earlier this summer I had the unique experience of going through an emergency evacuation as the West Fork Fire ripped through beetle kill trees in the Rio Grande National Forest in Southern Colorado, heading straight towards the town of South Fork. Straight for home.

The reverse 911 call went out and in just a matter of hours South Fork became a ghost town. Not having been through anything like this before, I learned several things throughout this experience.

First and foremost I learned that I am a bizarre packer. Looking back, and not knowing exactly how much time I had to pack, I pretty much packed my car in three phases. Phase I: basic essentials. This consisted of the typical things one might first pack–like files, pictures, computer, pets, etc. Phase II: things that make you feel more prepared–like dog food and tennis shoes. Phase III: completely ridiculous things that make no sense but somehow make it into the car–like my pillow, and a bunch of new bras I had just ordered from Victoria’s Secret. I call these creature comforts. Things that make no sense whatsoever, but somehow end up in the car anyways. I can’t explain it, but it made it quite entertaining to rediscover what made it into the suitcase over the next 8 days that we were “homeless.” Each day I felt like I’d find one more thing that would make me scratch my head. Things that make you go hmmmmm.

Another thing I learned while being evacuated is that an evacuee has a lot of time to just sit, and wait, and wait…and think. Each day started with an evacuee meeting at the Red Cross shelter, getting updates on containment (or lack thereof), and learning that today was not the day you were going to get to go back home.

Honestly, that put a lot of things in perspective. Thankfully, we were able to evacuate and stay at a relative’s house in the next town just 17 miles away. Three dogs, two cats, and three adults in a charming little house with one bathroom. No one complained. At one point, we just cracked open a bottle of wine and sat on the porch of our temporary home and watched the 30,000 foot smoke plume invade the sky, completely helpless. There was absolutely nothing we could do, and the moment you realize that is very sobering.

When we left South Fork with cars loaded, I drove out of the driveway not expecting to return. At all. We were wheels up at 10:00am, and with the fire burning through beetle kill fuel at over a mile an hour, it was estimated the fire would reach town center by 2:00pm that afternoon. When we left, I said goodbye…and I said goodbye for good. Honestly, if the town was going to go, we did not want to be the only structure left. Lord, save all of it or none of it, but please don’t leave us in-between. God saved us all.

Probably the most important thing I learned is how to say goodbye. When something is completely out of your control, it’s actually quite freeing when you realize it and let it go. It’s amazing when you truly release something and let it go how it somehow finds its way back. After 8 days and 110,000 acres later, we drove back in to find not one thing harmed, not one structure burned, and not one life lost. When walking back into the house for the first time, I was shocked to discover we didn’t even smell like smoke. Now that is a God-wink.

Now that we’ve been back for a bit, the danger has waned, and we’ve been able to settle back into a “normal” routine–things aren’t really that normal. The river sounds better, the grass smells sweeter, and the bugs aren’t very “buggy.” I feel like I’ve been granted a fresh perspective and a new reason to enjoy even the littlest chores and tasks. Because just a few short weeks ago we were very close to losing it all. And for that, I am very grateful. I have no doubt this experience will come into play as I continue to create my next decade list of goals. Things shifted with this experience–and that is more than okay.

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QUOTABLE QUOTES FROM PEOPLE MUCH SMARTER THAN I:

Disappointment to a noble soul is what cold water is to burning metal; it strengthens, tempers, intensifies, but never destroys it.” – Eliza Tabor

We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” – Martin Luther King Jr.