Bloom where you are planted, Shine wherever you are

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I’ve been told I’m just a common weed, a nuisance. But what do they know?

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I’m just an ordinary invisible clover in a field of millions.

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Everyone thinks I am just something to be picked to tickle their friends with. They don’t know the real me.

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And me? I am just a hidden mass of leaves in sea of green…no one ever notices me or even knows what or who I am.

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But what if someone took the time to notice.

To really see us.

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To pay tribute to the queen of clovers in her purple head dress adorned with jewels around her collar and surrounded by her royal court with their own gems and diamonds on display in the glory of the sun?

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To look closely enough to see the amazing display of transparent beauty we wear on a dewy morning.

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To understand the simplicity of quiet, still reflection that we live by every day.

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What if they realized what a privilege it is to be among our pristine beauty?

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I wonder if they would be happier?
More grateful…
Changed somehow…

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But even if we are forever overlooked, we will still be.

We will still bloom.

We will still shine.

Because who we are is not dependent on the validation, or attention of others. And in the end if we are never noticed, it does not change our purpose or calling.

Bloom where you are planted.

Shine where you are.

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Through Their Eyes

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I was driving home and Peter Gabriel’s “In your eyes” came on. I love that song…even after all these years.

But it got me thinking. How many times a day do I REALLY look INTO the eyes of my loved ones? In the busyness and chaos of shuffling to and from school, or summer camps, or work, and the store, and getting chores done, even when playing – when do I really just take the time to look right into their eyes and pause for a moment and just be, and see?

And that got me thinking even further – how many times do I stop, get down on my children’s level and see the world THROUGH their eyes? Between all the to-do lists, meals, clean up, errands and every day life…sometimes I feel like I am racing some god forsaken clock – trying to beat some buzzer to get the kids in bed in time for a few winks myself.

That makes me sad when I think about.

What a waste.

And I am a mom that actually tries to not take a lot for granted…yet I still do.

I felt a renewed desire to rush home to the girls and try to take the time to look into their beautiful brown eyes. To really “see” them. For this moment in time that they are this very age and never will be again.

And yet – it still happened. I enter the house, and a dog needed mega attention and a walk, and the sisters wanted to play a computer game together, and dinner needed to be cooked, and dishes put away, and bills cleared from the counter, and the cat was meowing his head off and…

I didn’t get that magical moment I had been day dreaming about.

Not at the moment.

But.

I did get to watch them eat a healthy dinner (well…relatively healthy…ok…at least not harmful dinner), we chased the puppy around and laughed at his ridiculousness. I asked (nagged) them both to brush their teeth and get on their jammies (and let them win the argument to sleep in their shorts and t-shirts, because you know they are ultra comfie and about the same thing), and got a surprise kiss and hug from my big girl (who recently told me she was done with kisses).

And I got to snuggle with my little one as usual (after she read a story about feelings, built an extensive nest, rearranged it several times, got a drink of water, checked on her American Girl doll, rebuilt her nest and finally settled down). I had broke down earlier in the day and bought her the Frozen CD…(yes…better late than never) so I also got to listen to her sing every single word to about 5 songs before she started actually getting a little tired.

And I got to smell her, and be close, and try very hard not to tickle her because it is one of my favorite things to do, but I was trying to get her to sleep, so I had to be good. So I just laid there – so thankful for the moment. Like I do every night.

But it was a little different. I wasn’t rushing to beat a clock tonight.

And the only difference was my attitude. Plain and simple. All the chaos was still there. I just chose to have a different focus.

I do try to remember life is not a race, and try very hard to not take moments for granted, but I still do sometimes. And I have to remind myself like this now and then to focus on right here and now. Soak in these moments. Look into their eyes…and see life through their eyes.

I love to give my kids the camera and see what pictures they took. To see their perspective. But I need to be more intentional about seeing life through their eyes on a more consistent basis and without a camera to show me.

That’s my goal these next few weeks (again). To start (re)training myself to slow down, look into their sweet eyes, and see life through their amazing brief childlike perspective.

Ordinary Beautiful

At any given moment we are surrounded by beauty. Did you notice it today? Today I took time to notice the flowers.

Here is an ordinary patch of forest.
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Getting a little closer, ordinary itty bitty flowers in that patch of forest. Just a few of thousands.
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Even closer – just a little glimpse of extraordinary detail from just an ordinary field.
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I am thankful for these little things. They keep challenging me to look for and find more of the beauty all around that I pass by everyday.
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The Bald Truth

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Saturday I participated in a St. Baldrick’s fundraiser event. It’s an event where you offer to shave your head for money to raise research funding and spread awareness for Childhood Cancers.

Over the course of 3 years, I have watched 4 sets of parents deal with a dreaded diagnosis. They endured watching their child suffering for months on end and ultimately earn their wings. I had donated to cancer research before, but I felt like I wanted to do more.

Shaving your head as man is one thing. Shaving your head as woman is a very different, personal thing.

As I wrestled with it for a week or so, I finally came to the conclusion that I could live with a temporary bald head for a few months. Living with the regret of not doing something I felt I should do in my heart would have weighed much heavier.

My goal was $2000 and in 2 weeks, friends, family and coworkers donated $2,935!! I was completely amazed, encouraged and thankful by the amount of generosity and compassion by so many!! 

Honestly I set what I thought was a pretty high price thinking there was still a selfish, slight chance I might not have to shave all my hair off!

I lost that bet.

And I am so thankful I did.

As I hinged closer and closer towards my goal, my youngest daughter, age 6, became pretty anxious with the whole idea of mommy being bald – to the point of tears. She was fearful I would look like the bald baby dolls that freak her out…she has never been a fan of the bald baby dolls.  She is a stuffed animal kinda kid.

It was to the point where I almost backed out. I mean, I wanted to do something great for these kids that need help, but I didn’t want to do it at the expense of my own little girls emotional health.

The next few days opened up more discussion between us. She had some hard and very good questions.  Questions that only made my resolve to do this stronger.  Questions like…”Mommy, what if you shave your head but there is still cancer? What if you just did all this for nothing?” And, “What if I get cancer and die?”

Both of these questions hit me hard. I had to decide if my 6 year old could handle the truth. The real truth. The bald ugly truth.

“The truth is…I will not stop cancer by shaving my head on Saturday. But it will still not be in vain. I will raise a small amount of money compared to the enormous need. But more importantly I will be spreading awareness that Childhood Cancers are the least funded of all other cancers combined”.

“The truth is…I cannot promise that you will never get cancer.  And the truth is, that one day you will die. I hope that is 100 years from now.  But by shaving my head, I am taking one step towards helping kids that are less fortunate than you are right now. I pray you never get it, and big sissy never gets it, and I never get it.  The chances are actually very, very small.  But if you did…we will know that we did something towards the cause – and maybe…maybe the seeds we are planting today will help some kid out there in future tomorrow…maybe even you”!

By the time I had passed my goal, she had come to a peaceful place about it. We were driving a few days before the event and she said in a very confident tone…”You know…one day I might even shave my head, mommy.  Probably when I am older”.

So…um…wow.

I did this for a little boy named Sam Bish, and another little girl named Myah Knecht, and another little boy named Gavin Rupp, and another little girl named Isabella Santos. And for their parents. I wanted to show them – people actually care. You are not alone. Your beautiful child is not forgotten. And most of all – I am mad as hell about it. Cancer sucks! Childhood cancer sucks big time! To stand around and do nothing is total bullshit!

Ok. sorry – had to get real there.  Sorry to offend some of you, but that IS the hard, ugly bald truth.

Ironically in the end…I didn’t only do it for those kids. I apparently also did this for my own girls. I am incredibly thankful they are healthy. I don’t take it for granted. But it turns out I may have helped them in other ways too. Be brave little girls! Stand up and dare to be a little crazy to do the right thing! Don’t let pride, appearance, vanity, pride or fear stop you!

And ironically…I did not realize how empowering it would be for me. I had no clue. My vanity thought I would look and feel COMPLETELY ridiculous…possibly scary. I thought I might also feel like a fool or a weirdo – for doing something so extreme for kids that I am not even related to. I am embarrassed to even admit that, but – we are talking about the bald truth here.

Instead and very surprisingly…I feel pretty bold. I am comfortable in my own skin. I thought I might want to hide. I even bought a wig just in case my youngest daughter needed me to look a little more normal. Instead…I look ridiculous in the wig, my daughters LOVE to rub my “tennis ball head” and the littlest one that was so scared says she wishes my hair was always like this! She even removed my hat a few times in public – at her schools Fun Fest…in front of all her friends!

That my friends…is a huge endorsement.

Several friends have even went so far as to say that I should keep this look. I have to question…was my hair style THAT bad before? and…WTH are you all thinking? And lastly…my husband was thankfully incredibly supportive but even he has a limit.

So…no, I will not remain bald. But thank you.

I don’t have to.

The bald truth is that I am forever changed. I will keep that with me always. I did something I wasn’t sure I could do, but knew I had to do. And for the next few months as my stubbly hair grows out I get to continue to spread the important message of why I did it. And well beyond that I will continue to share why Childhood Cancers need funding.

But I don’t need to be bald to do that.

In the beginning I was fearful and doubtful. But once I made the decision – and all I had to do was look at the faces of the beautiful kids that should be having birthdays this year but won’t – I never looked back.

I am so glad I didn’t chicken out. For their sakes…and mine.

And THAT is the whole bald truth.

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The secret of the frosted branches

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I woke up this morning to the beautiful sight of frosted branches. I absolutely love it when all the trees in the woods outside are entirely encapsulated in beautiful whiteness. It creates a whole different look to the woods. And the more branches, tangles and chaos there is – the more beautiful the frosted effect becomes. So I decided to get a closer look.

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I chose a little tree that was in my reach so I could get very close to it.

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I had not realized that the frost was actually fractals of ice crystals clinging to the tree like tiny ice shelves!

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And when I downloaded these pictures to magnify the details – it about took my breath away!!

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How did I miss that in all my years? I have been driving or walking right by all this amazingly detailed beauty and not really even noticing the intricacy of it!

Just another moment when I realize how the ordinary can become extraordinary. We just have to notice.

Now…the feat in the future will be to – keep driving and not pull over like a maniac and take more pictures.

Unsuspecting Beauty

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This is pretty interesting. Do you know what you are looking at?

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How about now?

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Any clue yet? Kind of beautiful, isn’t it?

Wait for it…

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If you guessed that it is salt residue that fell off my car in a puddle and dried up, then you are right!

It helps me to take note of the small things like this. The small beauty that is all around us that is bigger than us, more consistent than us. And found in the most surprising and unsuspecting of places.

These little beautiful reminders are humbling. They remind me that the most insignificant of things can be valuable, beautiful, amazing. We just have to actually take time to notice.

Check your garage floor this winter. See if the salty branch snow fairies visited you too. = )

3 Simple Secrets to a Happy New Year

Embrace the simple things in life. The mundane and ordinary become extraordinary if you just look for it.

Embrace the simple things in life. The mundane and ordinary become extraordinary if you just look for it.

If you are tired of making meaningless New Year’s Resolutions, or worse, making the same old ones every year and never living up to them…try something new this year.

Give yourself the gift of a new perspective.

I did 3 years ago and I am happier, more thankful, and less restless than I have ever been in my entire life.

Here are the 3 simple things that changed my life:

1. Acceptance
Accept that you are who you are, and your life is what it is. Also, accept your friends and family for who they are (hint – you can’t change them anyway).

You are who you are. If you are not happy with that, dig a little deeper to figure out why. There is usually a good reason. Comparing yourself to others is one of the number one reasons people are not happy with who they are. So, you are not the cover girl of a magazine. Do you sit there and compare your friends or family to things like that? Do you pick them apart like you do yourself? Just stop!

Stop comparing yourself to other people – what they look like, what they wear, how they live, what they have, and even what they think of you (or more accurately – what YOU think they think of you – because you are probably wrong anyway). Accept you for you and move on. You are actually pretty freaking great, if only you would stop looking everywhere else for yourself.

Your life is what it is. Get over the fact that your life may be harder than someone else’s, or that you feel you were dealt a losing hand in life. If you can read this, you are not blind, you have technology, and chances are – honestly you are doing pretty ok. So stop comparing your life to that of reality TV shows…because that is NOT reality.

If you are truly unhappy with your lot in life, the great news is that you actually can make some intentional choices to influence and change some of the circumstances if you are truly that unhappy. One of the easiest and biggest changes you can make is accepting your lot in life and learning to be ok with it. Instead of hounding yourself for bad choices, or mistakes or focusing on how your life is not what you thought it would be…just accept it. Then figure out ways to embrace it.

For example. I found myself at a place in life where I had TWO failed marriages! Not just one…TWO! And it got even messier because I had one child with each husband! People…this is a devastating place to be and looks bad on paper…sounds bad when trying to explain it. It is just pretty ugly. How could I ever just accept this and crazier…EMBRACE IT?!?

I had to accept it. Plain and simple. I had to get over the judgment from myself and others. I had to just quietly say…ok. This is what it is. It is not what I had pictured for my life and for my girls, but life happens. It was not easy. It took years and intention to come to a peaceful acceptance, but I can honestly say now that if anyone has an issue with my past or my situation…it is THEIR issue – not MINE! That is incredibly freeing!

Lastly – accept others for who they are. You cannot change other people. I can’t change you by you reading this. You have to make a conscious decision to want to change. So it is with others. You have to accept people at face value for who they are and be very honest about it. Don’t get in relationships thinking you are going to change someone. Don’t think you can change how your relatives live or think. You have to just accept them.

Just because you accept them doesn’t mean you have to like everything they do or who they are or how they treat you or others. It just means – wake up and accept the reality. Don’t feel bad for putting up healthy barriers if needed if their behaviors are unhealthy or a negative influence on you. Once you accept they are who they are – it allows you disengage a little bit and realize their actions are not your responsibility.

They may still drive you nuts – and that in itself just is what it is. You know they drive you crazy, you know their antics…just accept it. This too is very freeing. It makes you kind of just sit back and enjoy the ride a little more instead of erroneously thinking or believing that you can change anyone else.

2 Forgiveness
Forgive yourself and forgive others.

By the way – I put forgiveness after acceptance for a reason. You can’t even get to forgiveness until you honestly master acceptance.

Forgiving myself: I thought that forgiving others would be easier than forgiving myself, but I found out that we are inherently very selfish and ego driven. Even the most humble of us. We have our wounds and we lick them when we are hurt. So what I found, is that I actually had to forgive myself before honestly being able to forgive others.

It’s kind of like that whole airplane analogy. You know – “In case of pressure loss inside of the cabin, put the oxygen mask on yourself first before trying to help others”.

So that’s what I had to do. But strangely enough, I couldn’t forgive myself straight out.

I had to imagine myself as one of my own daughters. Yea…I know, sounds weird, stay with me here. I pictured my own daughters and how much I loved them and how I would never want them to beat themselves up over stuff. I want them to love themselves, thrive, and not be held down by the prison of forgiveness and resentment. So with that mental image, I had to realize I too was a child and that I too deserved forgiveness.

With that simple mental exercise I was not only able to forgive myself, but actually become an advocate for myself over time. Just as I want my own girls to be brave and strong and be able to stand up for themselves…I too had to do that, model that, be that. For me AND them.

Forgiving others: After I took some time to really forgive myself (because this takes work and intentional practice) I started choosing certain people that I would forgive.

And it’s not like I had to sit down with them and have some awkward conversation. In fact – I never even told them. I just forgave them! Because the real truth is that forgiveness is not for the other people…it’s for you! I had some big things to forgive. In my life I have been verbally, mentally, physically and sexually abused. It was a long, ugly list and it took some time. But once I was able to apply actual forgiveness, I felt an incredible burden lift from my shoulders. All the resentment, anger, and bitterness I had been carrying around for YEARS started giving way.

Forgiving someone does not condone what they have done. Let’s be very clear. Forgiveness just releases YOU from the prison of being controlled and handicapped by what they did. It’s your get out of jail free card! And you should keep it handy because this also takes practice. But I promise you will get the hang of it and will start to feel like water rippling down the back of a duck the more you do it.

3. Surrender
Surrender control and expectations.

And yes, I put this last for a reason. You can’t get to this point without mastering the other two.

I was what you could call a control freak. And the crazy thing is that I didn’t even know it! I was the passive aggressive type. I pretended to be humble, meek, a martyr really, and as if I didn’t have any mind of my own, choices of my own or control over anything. But the whole time, I had some hidden agenda of how I thought everything was SUPPOSED to be, and how everyone was supposed to act. It was pure hell.

I had to first accept I was doing this, then forgive myself for acting like that, and then STOP doing it.

Since I have been able to surrender control of everything that happens I have been incredibly peaceful. I guess it was a lot of weight on my shoulders running the world and all.

Life is crazy and unpredictable. People are imperfect. Crazy stuff happens and people are usually the cause of it. But how freeing it is to realize – none of it is really in your control! I was able to sit back and let life happen – and actually enjoy the phenomenal uncertainty of it! Control is a total illusion and I now laugh at people who think they have it.

This is not to say you are an aimless boat on an ocean…you can still have direction and purpose. In fact, you will probably have more after you let go of all the responsibilities of orchestrating every little move and predicting the outcome.

Simplicity:
I could have called this the 4 simple secrets, but Simplicity is the just the BONUS or outcome and result of applying these 3 principles so you can rejoice and embrace the simple things in life.  It’s like the little gift or reward that just happens after you do all the hard work above!!  The mundane and ordinary become extraordinary if you just look for it. Allow yourself to slow down. Now that you are not in a race against time or anyone else, or blinded by anger or depression, you can slow down a little, relax and see the beauty all around!

Life can be a beautiful ride, but it may take some perspective to find it. I can’t guarantee you will be a changed person if you can accomplish all these things because of course – that is up to YOU! However, I can only attest to the fact that these three things were life changers for me.

I am more thankful on a daily basis than ever. And I am still the same twice divorced girl that suffered all kinds of abuse and made some really dumb choices in my life so far, and will probably do more stupid stuff along the way. My life didn’t change as much as I changed how I saw and live my life.

I’m rooting for you in 2014! Take baby steps. This is like working out. You have to start small, and take it day by day. You will slip up and that’s ok. The more you practice these skills, the easier they will become.

Cheers to a new thankful, peaceful, happy you!