No Apologies…

Be yourselfWith motherhood looming, I find myself re-examining myself and this thing called Life. Not that I’ve been unhappy, but I have been in a bit of a rut for what seems like years, coasting through life rather than actually living it.

Sometimes, I think I just feel so much that I become overwhelmed, overstimulated, and over-sensitive to the world around me. So I simply shut down, out of fear I suppose. Fear of failure, fear of disappointment, fear of not living up to expectations, fear of judgment.

I look at all the other amazing and inspirational blogs out there and think, “wow, why can’t I write like that? Or decorate like that? Or cook like that? Or even look like that?” Where  is my sense of style and creativity? Where is my passion? Where is my personality? And how did others get to be so lucky? These are questions I ask myself with a growing sense of dread. I will never be perfect…

But perfection isn’t what we should be striving for. Character is what we should be striving for, with all of its ups and downs, its messiness, its risks, its heartbreaks and failures, its grace, its pride, and above all, its love.

No one is perfect, no matter how hard they make themselves appear so, and I am no exception. But, taking a little inspiration from this post, I am offering no apologies.

I don’t apologize that:

My house isn’t clean 98.8% of the time. I have berated myself for this time and time again because somehow, I got it in my head that my house should be 100% magazine ready 100% of the time. This reach for perfection has led to many a tear, more than one argument, and a crap ton of needless stress. For what? So I can brag that I have a clean house? Ridiculous.

My photography skills are less than amateur. I have no idea how to work my camera most of the time, and Photoshop still requires a huge learning curve. But it is a work in progress and something that I can actually see developing into a passion.

I DO NOT jump out of bed with a smile on my face every morning. In fact, there are some days, even weeks, when just getting out of bed at all is a struggle. More often than I care to admit, I wake up grumpy. Grumpy as hell. Sometimes, I remain grumpy all day. And yeah, this makes me feel pretty damn guilty, which makes me even grumpier. But hey, I wouldn’t be able to appreciate my happiness without a little bit (or a lot…) of grumpiness thrown in there, right?

I cook only because I have to, not because I like to. And by no means do I cook gourmet meals. Or even attempt to. I’m a chicken and rice kind of girl. Like, salt and peppered chicken in a skillet and a box of flavored rice. Sometimes I’ll go out of my way and mash some potatoes instead. To give myself a little credit though, I do try to go fresh and organic as much as possible. And I always have a side of veggies.

My closet is NOT full of brand name clothing. Kohls, Old Navy, and Target have become my staples (actually, I recently discovered Steinmart, which will now be added to the circulation). This isn’t to say that I’m not into fashion – I actually do try to keep up with the trends, but in a casual, comfortable, and frugal kind of way. And honestly, I’m in yoga pants more often than not these days, so…don’t judge.

I snack far too often on cookies rather than carrots. I like my carbs. So what? Particularly in this last trimester of pregnancy. I dream of cookies. But every darn time I have that delicious morsel, that little voice in the back of my head screams at me, “don’t you want to fit back into your post-pregnancy clothes?! What the hell is wrong with you? Carrots, carrots, carrots! Cookies are the devil!” And then, because I feel so damn guilty, I grab another cookie.

I work out spontaneously – at best. I love going for a walk on those beautiful, sunny days. Before I was pregnant, I would even break into a run. And on those not so great days, I will very occasionally motivate myself to go to the gym, but that is only because I ate those extra cookies…otherwise, like most people, I count cleaning the house as exercise.

And I am scared to death of becoming a mother. Sometimes, I can hardly take care of myself, and very soon I will have another human being totally and completely dependent on me. This innocent, tender-hearted being for me to shape and mold and build into a man. Hopefully, a good man. No, a great man. And, dear God, that is a great responsibility that I can only hope to live up to. Where do I even begin?

But that last point there, that is really why I am re-examining my life. Because while I know I will not be perfect, I want to be the best version of me that I can possibly be. And I don’t think I am there yet.

You see, I want to live my life with pure intention and joy, rather than basing it around to-do lists and petty insecurities. I want to find enjoyment in the small things, rather than enduring them with machine-like intensity. And I want to stop hiding behind this façade of perfection, let go of my fears, and embrace this messy, chaotic life…because heck, life is only what you make of it! To me, that is the greatest lesson one can ever share with a child: to live life to its fullest.

So, with ALL of that said, my friends, I am going to take a week or two off in order to give myself and this little blog o’ mine an overhaul. Because I believe that a part of living with intention is writing with intention, and I think I have been failing in that respect.

Of course, there will still be plenty of posts about fashion, home décor, and DIY because frankly, that’s where my passion lies. But I will be writing only about what truly and honestly inspires me – not about what I think you want to hear – with the hopes that it will inspire you too. I also hope to insert a little more of my very imperfect self: my beliefs, my frustrations and heartaches, my fears and insecurities, my progressions and successes, and little tidbits of my daily thoughts. ME.

Because truly, what’s the sense in writing if not from the heart? The very best I can offer you is myself and for that I have no apologies.

XOXO. I will be back soon.

YOU ARE A BADASS! (or so I keep telling myself…)

As you may have noticed, I’m a bit of a blog browsing fiend. I love reading about what’s trending on the West coast, discovering new perspectives, styles, and taking in all the glorious eye-candy the web has to offer. It’s addictive. It gets the blood boiling and the creative juices flowing. But it also awakens that little green monster called envy.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m fairly comfortable with myself – I have a sense of style that fits me and my lifestyle pretty well. It’s lived in. It’s 1 part put together, 1 part messy, with a dash of fabulous and a pinch of crazy for good measure. All in all, it works for me. But sometimes I feel like it’s just a little too cautious; a little too comfortable. Sometimes I wish I was a tad more fabulous or had that extra dose of crazy (although I’m sure there are many out there that think I have more than enough crazy on my plate!). And that’s where the green monster comes in.

via | life is for deep kisses

I touched on this subject many moons ago when I first began writing this blog…

…I actually begin to lose my point of view, and “my voice” begins to sound like someone else’s. I begin writing differently, to fit the mold of what I think other people want to hear or see, just to gain more followers. And so the competition begins…

I’ve stopped writing posts for weeks, even months at a time because I’ve felt that downward spiral of losing myself. I actually become disappointed with how I choose to live my life because heck, there are so many people out there that are doing so many bigger and better things! I’m a pretty competitive person but when I begin feeling overwhelmed by all the greatness surrounding me, I just kind of…quit. No, it’s definitely not my best quality.

comparison

Indeed!

So I then fall into a bit of a despair and think to myself, “I just can’t do it.” Or “I’ll never be good enough. Or simply, “who do I think I am?!” Whaa, whaa, whaa. And then at some point along this journey of despair, I suddenly decide to take the high road. With tail between my legs, I will myself to find some semblance of composure, tell that whiny voice in my head to shut the hell up, find the motivation to start over, and then move on with my day. Just like that.

I recently picked up a book called You are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero and it’s actually been a huge motivation in my most recent journey back to the high road.

It’s quirky, humorous, sometimes a little self-deprecating, and most importantly, real. Basically, it’s a book that slaps you right in the face, shakes you around a little, and tells you to suck it up. Because we all need that confidence boost every now again, right?!

It’s not always an easy process; trusting your inner-voice, convincing yourself that the future holds that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow while still keeping your feet and happiness in the present (dammit, I want that pot of gold NOW!). Particularly when the present isn’t always that techni-colored rainbow.

But, not to sound too sappy or cliché, you can’t enjoy a rainbow without bouts of rain and yes, that’s a metaphor for Life.

You’ve got to appreciate the good with the bad. Remember, it’s all about perspective – you make your own reality and build your own truths. So, you can simply create a positive reality and choose to be happy. It’s that easy!

happy

I have this quote hanging by my bedside – the first thing I see in the morning. A reminder that yes, it really is that easy! (although not always easy to remember when your dog eats your couch, or after your computer crashes and you lose a huge chunk of data, or when you’re so bloated that you have to resort to wearing leggings for a week…)

Oh, and here’s another little reminder:

Words to remember....

I’m just going to cross out “Beautiful” here and replace it with – excuse my language – “fucking awesome!”

Hope that gives you a little confidence and motivational push on this Tuesday morning. You ARE a badass!

PAY IT FORWARD! ACTS OF KINDNESS, ENCOURGEMENT, & RESOLUTIONS: A LINK UP

Can you believe Christmas is only 6 days away?! December seems to have flown by and Christmas will be here and over before you know it.

This is also about the time I realize that the New Year is right around the corner – 2013! – and resolutions are already piling high in my head…

A clock striking midnight, and confetti, for New Year's Eve.

I think for many of us, 2012 has been a year of heartache and tragedy; personally for some, and nationally for most. Indeed, this is a time for reflection. And while I’m sure many of you have found yourselves asking why? how? and perhaps even questioning the virtue of humanity, it is also a time to ask yourself what? What can you do to make life just a little sweeter, for yourself and for those around you? What can you do to seize each and every day? What can you do to live life to the very fullest?

For me, 2013 is The Year to Pay it Forward, and I think it should be for all of us. If we each took a moment out of our very busy and oh-so-important lives to acknowledge and appreciate those around us; a simple smile, a helping hand, or a friendly nod of the head…it’s truly amazing how far camaraderie can carry us, and perhaps save a life in the process.

Because camaraderie is so much more than a simple gesture. It is a feeling of solidarity, of being present and recognizing yourself in those around you. It is about having patience, providing encouragement, and holding your head high and your back straight for those in need of a strong foundation.

So Pay it Forward my friends, by being true to yourself and those around you…

My 13 Resolutions for 2013:

  1. Wake up every morning appreciating the new day, no matter what that day may hold.
  2. Take a deep breath and have a little more patience.
  3. No wallowing! Life is too short to waste on misery.
  4. DO what you SAY.
  5. Stop feeling guilty. Stop making excuses. Stop doubting yourself. Just DO it.
  6. And if you fail, dust yourself off, and try again.
  7. Smile. Even when you don’t want to.
  8. Be there. For friends, for family, for yourself. Never forget to reach out to those you love.
  9. If you need help, ask for it.
  10. Look people in the eye when speaking to them. It’s amazing what you will learn!
  11. Don’t be afraid to express yourself. Remember, “those who throw dirt only lose ground.”
  12. Never take for granted what you have NOW because it very well may not be there later.
  13. There is no day like today. Make the best of it.

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What are your resolutions and how do you plan on paying it forward?

I think one of the greatest joys of blogging is the community and camaraderie it provides. And this is the perfect time to join forces, offer support, and give encouragement to those that may need a little extra sustenance. This is the time to pay it forward, my friends!

If you have written an encouraging, heartfelt, or motivational post, please link up below! And if you have resolutions you would like to share, or ideas to “pay it forward,” feel free to link away. But PLEASE, be considerate and only link to uplifting posts. I think we are all in need of a little joy and inspiration.

These are the rules:

  • DO link to inspirational, positive posts.
  • DO NOT link to political or negative posts.
  • DO link to a relevant post. Now is not the time for a marketing ploy.
  • DO pay it forward: leave positive and encouraging comments for others.
  • Please link back.

I will include a couple of new links in my Sharing the Love post each Friday for the next few weeks. And yes, I will be monitoring links closely for inappropriate content!

Now let’s begin the camaraderie! (click on the frog below to add your link and view others)


LINKED TO:
Cast Party Wednesday

(HAPPY HUMP DAY!) DECEMBER: A TIME FOR REFLECTION…

For me, December is a time not only for good cheer, but also a time to reflect on the year behind you and look forward to the year ahead…

I am incredibly grateful for all the amazing opportunities in my life, for a husband that has allowed me to freely pursue my passions, and for friends and family that have offered shoulders and ears and helping hands. In a single year, I  have learned such a tremendous amount about myself, about business, about sacrifice and heartache, about joy and wonder, about friendship, about failure, and about all the wonderful and terrible things that come with life and living.

I readily admit, however, that this was not an easy year for me. My marriage hit a few bumps in the road, my pregnancy didn’t quite come to fruition, my business venture was failing me, and depression was consistently on the periphery of my vision. I had fallen into a rut and my demons were getting the better of me.

SO VERY TRUE- why do we fight it... Never be afraid to fall apart

I had fallen apart indeed, and now have the labor of picking up the good pieces, tossing out the bad, and rebuilding a better version of myself. And you know what? I’m already feeling happier and healthier and ooh-so hopeful…

That’s one of the of the many wonders of December and the ensuing New Year: the strength it provides and the multitude of possibilities it brings.

Sometimes the bad things that happen in our lives put us directly on the path to the best things that will ever happen to us.

I do feel as though I’m on a better path and while I’m sure there will be more bumps in the road ahead, I am without a doubt that 2013 is going to be a great year!

don't put off your happy

My new philosophy for the New Year: “be present and be happy.” What’s yours?

A SPECIAL THANKS FOR THE LIEBSTER AWARD!

I’ve seen numerous awards floating around in the Blogosphere, but never really expected this little blog o’ mine to get much notice. Well, over a week ago, Patricia Krank over at Old Things New did take notice and nominated me for the Liebster Award. Thank you for thinking of me Patricia – I’m so incredibly flattered!

Now, this lovely little award is given by more seasoned bloggers to blogs with 200 followers or less to show them a little bit of love. Of course, I have to giggle at this a bit because I don’t quite consider myself a “seasoned” blogger by any means – I can still use A LOT of love! With that said, I plan on passing on the torch to smaller blogs that I love, but are no less “seasoned” than me (and many are actually far more seasoned! Sorry to break the rules here…but that’s what I do best!).

Speaking of rules, here are more rules attached to the nomination:

  1. Post 11 random things about yourself
  2. Answer the questions that the nominator sets for you
  3. Create 11 questions for the poeple that you nominate
  4. Choose 11 blogs that you love (also with 200 or less followers). Link them to your post and let them know they’ve been nominated.
  5. No tag backs!

So, in an attempt not to break any more rules, let’s get started…

11 Random Things About Me:

  1. I’m a little bit addicted to Rock Band. I don’t play often, but when I do…I’m hooked for no less than three hours (I’m pretty sure I was a rockstar in my previous life).
  2. I love fresh pineapple but hate pineapple juice. I love raw broccoli but I hate cooked broccoli – unless it’s in cream of broccoli soup. I like ice cream with my pie, but only on the side. Ever seen When Harry Met Sally? Yeah, I’m Sally.
  3. I’m pretty sure I could eat Rolos for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for a week.
  4. I was the events planner for two previous companies I worked for – I LOVE planning events, but I only realize just how much until AFTER the event. During the planning, I’m a bit of a nightmare.
  5. I’m the second worst procrastinator I know. My husband is the first!
  6. I hate wearing socks and only wear them when the forces of nature force me to. Even in the winter – as long as there isn’t snow on the ground – I’m sockless in my cute little ballet flats. Style over comfort, I suppose!
  7. I have naturally curly hair but have NO IDEA how to wear it naturally curly. I either wear it up or I straighten it with a flat iron (which happens maybe three times a year).
  8. I’m not very mathematically inclined, I hate instructions, am terrible with directions, and am pretty sure the left side of my brain is the size of a pea. Maybe a walnut, just to give myself a little extra credit.
  9. I’ve lived in two countries, approximately nine different states and too many cities to count!
  10. I’ve had dreams that I should turn into books. Most of them are science fiction based. I have no idea how my mind conjures these things.
  11. I’m pretty certain my animals (a dog and a cat) are furry little people. And I treat them as such. They are my little loves that I couldn’t do without.

Questions From Patricia:

  1. Do you hit the ground running when you first wake up or are you slow to warm up? Is this a joke? There are people in this world that AREN’T slow to wake up? If only I was one of them… I’m a slug in the morning. Coffee is a must.
  2. What is your favorite movie of all time? Such hard questions! Princess Bride, When Harry Met Sally, Bridget Jones, Zoolander. I like the clever and romantic comedies, not the stupid comedies. Except Zoolander – it’s stupid funny, but so fun to quote!
  3. What is the best vacation you’ve ever taken, and why? Napa, because it was the first vacation I ever took with my now husband, and Croatia, because who doesn’t enjoy their honeymoon?!
  4. Do you have a hero in your life? Who and why? Well, to get a little serious here, I come from a long line of military men. They and all the soldiers out there, separated from their families, risking their lives for our country…they are all my heroes.
  5. Cat person, dog person, or other? Both are hard to resist. And I have both. Remember…furry little people!
  6. Favorite subject in elementary school? Definitely science. I was obsessed with chimpanzees. Still am!
  7. What is your favorite kind of food? Thai is delicious!
  8. If you could ask God for ANYTHING what would it be? Health and happiness for myself and all my loved ones.
  9. What do you like to do in your spare time? Don’t have any? Pretend 🙂 A glass of red wine, a good book, and a comfy blanket = PERFECTION.
  10. What helps you get your creative juices flowing? Magazines are my muse. I’ve got two “mood boards” full of pages ripped out from magazines. A quick browse through Country Living, Real Simple, Martha Stewart, or Southern Living and I’m golden.
  11. What genre of book do you tend to read the most?Historical novels. Right now I’m reading one about Henry VIII’s first wife, Katherine of Aragon. Yet another one of my obsessions – anything about Henry the VIII!

11 Blogs That Are Far More Fabulous Than Mine. (Some with more than 200 followers…)  Please go check them out and give them some blog love!

My Questions to These Wonderful Bloggers:

  1. What enticed you to start blogging?
  2. How would you describe the style of your home?
  3. If you could have any career in the world, what would it be?
  4. Red wine, white wine, or no wine?
  5. What is your greatest guilty pleasure?
  6. If you had your own reality show, what would it be called?
  7. Chocolate or vanilla?
  8. What is your biggest pet peeve?
  9. Introvert or extrovert?
  10. Where is your favorite place to go to relax? (Could be as simple as a room in your home, or a travel destination)
  11. If you could only watch one show on television for the next month, what would it be?

yes

Thanks a bunch and thanks again to Patricia!

HAPPY HUMP DAY! THERE. I SAID IT.

“There. I said it.” As many of you may have recognized, I completely stole this title from a Miss Mustard Seed post written back in early October, but it struck such a cord with me that I’d like to ruminate on it just a bit more.

I think for so many of us, putting ourselves out there in any form can be an enormously daunting prospect. The possibility of embarrassment, of failure, and the ensuing disappointment and heartache…it’s just too much. So instead, we keep our feet solidly on the ground, silent in our pie-in-the-sky dreams, but secretly hoping – if we dare – that one day, perhaps that pie will drop right out of the sky and fall directly into our very ready laps.

Unfortunately for most of us, that’s simply not how life works. To transform dream into reality takes effort, a tremendous amount of trial and error and, I think most importantly, the ability to fall and land softly. What determines success is what you do after the fall – do you pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and move on with timid grin? Or do you loll about, dejected and spent from something you’ve really only just begun?

For me, starting this blog was a huge step forward. But every. single. day. the thought of putting myself out there makes my heart lurch. I’ve spent sleepless nights wondering what people are thinking about me. Are they laughing? Do they think I’m nothing more than a joke? A failure? Or perhaps they’re not thinking anything at all because no one is even reading this itty bitty blog in this big, bad Blogdom.

I need to consistently remind myself that it doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that I have taken that step forward, I have put myself out there, and I have found the courage to dream out loud…

…but with all this said, even I have fallen, and I don’t always land softly. In fact, I’m only just beginning to pick myself back up after a recent hard fall, which is exactly why I felt so inspired to write this post.

there's so much to smile about

I love decorating, I love styling my home and offering inspiration to others; I love antiquing and “picking” and realizing the potential in dilapidated furniture pieces; I love transforming these pieces into something unique and beautiful, and I love having the opportunity to find them a new home.

I have a dream to one day own a studio and showroom space, a little piece of creative heaven, but in the meantime, I have very little storage and work space to build on this endeavor. So while I wait (and wait and wait…) on an appropriately priced opportunity, I find myself losing a little bit of faith. Frankly, my work has stalled and my drive is failing me.

Pinned Image

I need to remember to believe in myself; “pushing through the self-doubt, the fears and anxieties, and the nay-sayers” (per Miss Mustard Seed). And, as she also so wisely advised, I need to put it out there in writing.

So, as much for myself as for all those silent dreamers out there, this is my dream:

I want to find a healthy balance between my love for home styling, furniture refinishing, and events planning, and have a conglomerate of these things within my small business. I want to have my own studio space in which I can showcase my services: provide styling ideas, tablescapes, and vintage and refinished products all available for purchase. I want to be able to articulate my dreams fully, because so often they become lost amidst so many other ideas and aspirations, and I want to create a clear and concise business plan that I can pursue without hesitation

I have no doubt that it will take time, a huge amount of work, and I’m certain that I will fall more than a few times, but I have every intention of getting back up each and every time. All I ask of myself is a little patience and a lot of strength, and all I can ask you, my dear readers, is for an encouraging and supportive community!

Oprah Winfrey quote by Marloes de Vries

There. I said it. And I hope you have the courage to say it too. So tell me, what’s your dream?

HAPPY HUMP DAY! HAPPINESS: FROM HIS PERSPECTIVE…

Well hello my friends and my apologies for the brief radio silence! I decided rather spontaneously to take some time for myself this week, clear my head, and reflect on all that I am thankful for. So, with only a vague destination in mind, I went for a drive and now find myself on the beach…VA BEACH 3

Actually, I write this from my hotel room – the weather isn’t fully cooperating with my intentions! But I have a perfect view of the ocean from my balcony and there’s something so incredibly soothing about the crashing waves and the infiniteness of the ocean that I can hardly complain.

VA Beach 1

I’ll be here for a few days, giving myself the break that I think we all need from time to time. And while I will be writing, it will be sporadic at best, so I hope you will forgive the lack of routine this week! With that said, and to give me a little bit of time offline, my sweet husband decided to step in and write a piece on happiness from his perspective (written last night). Before I hand you over, however, I must warn you – it is a long read! But worth it. So without further ado, my husband….

To be honest, when my wife asked me to write a guest post for her, I was hoping it was for a DIY Thursday. A handyman post seemed somewhat more fitting for a Carpenter. The topic of happiness might seem wasted on someone my wife describes as an emotional “robot”. But alas, I think my wife loves making me uncomfortable and I simply can’t say no to that smile. Challenge accepted!

I find myself with three things going tonight. The first is the distraction of election night in America. The second is the challenge of a writing assignment. Finally, I have a cold North American Lager in arms reach, but I’ll get to that later. So it’s basically me, a laptop, Wolf Blitzer and a beer. All in all, a sound recipe for the subject at hand. Sadly though, it is missing one vital element, my wife, who’s fittingly in Virginia Beach with her feet in the cold sand, relaxing her mind and exploring happiness on her own.

So, happiness … where do I begin? Luckily for me, I wasn’t given much instruction. I was, however, mandated a word count. So in the spirit of making my wife happy I’ll distill my many random thoughts down to five simple points: 1) take advantage of the now; 2) remember your foundation; 3) find juxtaposition opportunity; 4) balance just the right amount of selfish; and finally 5) know where your heading and look up occasionally. Thankfully for me there are no right or wrong answers in happiness. So let’s begin.

Take advantage of the now. Admittedly, telling someone to enjoy the moment is rather cliché, but in my defense happiness doesn’t require an advanced degree. It’s not easy to sustain, but it’s simple to achieve. Of course, as often is in life, things tend to get in the way. We all have responsibility and probably more work, chores and to-do items than any of us really wants. We can’t escape it. Life, at times, seems to require it. Our society, culture and way of life is built on hard work, deadlines and productivity. We all need to provide for our families and ultimately our way of life. At times, I know it distracts me from what’s important and prevents me from focusing attention where I should. Sadly, we can’t avoid life. We can’t avoid responsibility. The key is deriving happiness from what we have in front of us. Try not to delay happiness for some distant time. Start small. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Seek out opportunities to laugh. Find moments in your day to cherish. As you walk from the car to the office in the morning, remember it might be the only time you see the sun all day so make sure you notice and appreciate it for a moment. Think about how you can enjoy the challenges in front of you. Don’t find yourself muttering to yourself, “I can’t wait until this (day/month/year) is over” because you’re missing opportunities to find happiness in the things you can’t avoid. Make a benign moment of your day less ordinary. Every day the best part of my day is driving up and seeing my wife’s car parked out front as I approach and knowing she’s on the other side of the front door. This was particularly stark because today that car wasn’t there. Tragic, I know. Ultimately, it all boils down to approach. It’s amazing how much a slight change in point of view can make such a significant impact. To this day I haven’t fully gotten used to the idea of a paid holiday. What a concept! But the beauty of this illusion I’ve built is that no matter how my wife and I choose to spend it, “we’re getting paid to do it!”. Never fails to deliver a smile.

Remember your foundation. Sometimes we, as a society, have a tendency to devalue something once we have it. Or perhaps to take it for granted. Obviously, we aren’t all there, but for those fortunate enough to have the means to provide, a roof over their heads, sufficient food on the table and family/friends nearby have a rock solid foundation for happiness. These aren’t the only elements of happiness, of course, but from time to time it’s always good to reflect back on these elements. Remind yourself of what’s important. Don’t lose sight of them amid the noise of life. It’s somewhat tragic that the biggest deterrents to happiness are sometimes the things that matter the least. Often it’s not until catastrophe strikes that we realize it. I sometimes need to remind myself that no matter what I’m doing, as long as I’m doing it with my wife, it’s instantly better. That goes for painting the side of the house, cleaning the kitchen or traveling across the world. I can mix the variables but I only need the one constant. With that said, life is short. Life is hard. As much as my wife sometimes wants it to be, life cannot be 100% happiness. Some things are unavoidable and some things are frankly not enjoyable no matter how much you spin it in your mind. And in these times, just remember to keep it in perspective and know that these moments have a purpose as well. This leads directly to my next point.

Find juxtaposition opportunity. At times there are few things greater than doing nothing at all. But usually it is best after a long period of hard work, stress or exertion. If we spent all our days doing nothing, we would be bored and probably unhappy. A juxtaposition, in this context, are those moments of contrast in our lives. These carefully placed juxtapositions are perfect triggers for happiness. I know after a long, painful month at work there is nothing greater than traveling to somewhere with better weather, nicer scenery and sitting out with a beer, a crossword puzzle and momentarily not a care. In fact, this applies to most times where I just take a moment, breathe deeply and appreciate the world around me. It’s amazing how little it takes for me to just look up and marvel. A cold beer sometimes helps too. Our lives are filled with comparisons. It’s likely an evolutionary adaptation to quickly form (mostly) accurate conclusions based on prior experience. It makes sense because that’s how we’re wired. However, we also have a tendency to form habits, some good and some bad. But we often find a comfort zone and nestle into a routine. These routines quickly become boring, predictable and on a long enough timeline suck the life out of us. Some take a different route home today. Drive down a neighborhood block you haven’t before. Make your own now moments and enjoy them. Happiness is not complicated. It can, however, take on many forms and to be frank has varying degrees. It’s important to remember to appreciate it as it comes, regardless of the manner. Extreme elation loses its meaning if it happens every five minutes. I can tell you one of the happiest moments of my life was the day I got married. I’m sure there will be other similar events down the road, such as a child birth but all days can’t be like that. For most of life you just need to take the good with the bad. Appreciate the good and never lose sight of the fact that the bad is good because it makes the good better.

Balance just the right amount of selfish. I suspect I might get some flak for this one. Remember though, in an emergency, when the oxygen masks deploy … secure your own mask before assisting others. This is not meant to be selfish, but rather, if you are only giving and never taking time for yourself you run the risk of losing sight of your own happiness. Luckily for us humans, happiness tends to be contagious. Chances are if you can find a way to improve your own state-of-mind it will pay dividends to those around you. The bottom line is don’t lose focus of your own sanity.

Look up and find direction. We’ve already established we’re busy. We are continually distracted by our instantaneous, digital world. Instant Tweets are in and email is too slow because typing more than 128 characters and thinking about something for more than 12 and a half seconds is inconvenient. We don’t have time to wait for the microwave, much less worry about our next moment. Too often we get caught up in the things directly in front of our nose. That immediate thing somehow becomes elevated in our minds. It needs immediate attention; often at the detriment of something else, more important. In a sense one might wonder if this goes against the thought in the first bullet. Still strive to enjoy each step along the way, but still know where you’re headed. Make sure you’re on a rewarding and fulfilling path. Don’t wander aimlessly from text message to text message, deadline to deadline or bill to bill. The moments of happiness are great, but ultimately lasting happiness is tied to long-term fulfillment. Be that in a marriage, a job or a lifetime journey. Know where you’re headed. Have a purpose, a destination. Don’t be consumed by it, still enjoy those moments. Depending on your goals, sometimes it’s important to break them up into milestones. Challenging goals can be the most rewarding, but even if you fall short, make sure there are achievements along the way. Remember to enjoy the journey and enjoy each step along the way. We’re all headed to the same destination, so make sure the trip is filled with happiness.

So, the polls are closing and my quota has long been eclipsed. As you’ve probably guessed already, I may not be the best at following instructions. But hey, surprisingly, I’m having fun with the journey. The best part of happiness is that it’s individual. My wife has read hundreds of self-help books on happiness or related topics. She’s probably cringing a little right now as she reads my unreferenced stream of consciousness and possibly shaking her head slightly at my drivel. But the source doesn’t matter and that’s sort of the beauty of it. We’re all similar creatures on some level, and the basics are fundamental. I don’t have to tell you about happiness because when it happens you can feel it. And chances are you already have. Simply rinse and repeat. But don’t stop exploring the world around you, reaching outside your comfort zone and seeking new juxtapositions. Where risks are high, rewards are high. Simply stated, happiness is derived from your perception of the world, so choose your temporary state of mind wisely. It’s a fleeting moment we try to recapture as often as possible. The less than 2,000 words of this blog aren’t going to change your life. But if you’re at all like me, and I think you are, then sometimes you need to be reminded of a few simply things. We all know the drill and we’ve probably spouted similar words of wisdom to others. Every once in a while, stop and remember to take your own advice. So, to you and to my lovely wife: look forward, follow your dreams, remember what’s important, enjoy the moment and occasionally pass out a reminder to the rest of us. Some of us need it. I know I do.

SHARING THE LOVE….(and leading a fulfilling life).

Day 4 of head cold and while I am able to function, it comes with a lot of wheezing, sniffling, and a voice that sounds a bit like Kermit the Frog. I have no idea how I’m supposed to run a meager 5K tomorrow, but heck, it’s for a good cause so I’m going to get my wheezing and sniffling butt off of the couch and run dammit…or at least go for a light jog…or perhaps a brisk walk…?

So…onto sharing the love, and truly, I have so much to share!

1. Well, here I am complaining about running a 5K tomorrow, and Lesley Carter over at Bucket List Publications has not only done her share of running, she has gone paragliding, bungee jumping, base jumping, zip lining, dog sledding, and everything in between. She lives her life with one philosophy in mind:

“The purpose of life, after all, is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experiences.”         -Eleanor Roosevelt

Skydiving AdventuresExtreme Adventures

Thank you Lesley, for motivating us all to lead a more fulfilling life! I now feel inspired to create my own Bucket List for 2013 (to be shared in an upcoming post).

2. If you’re now fired up and inspired to lead a more fulfilling life, Lara over at Lara Casey can give you that extra push – her post Get Fired Up: How to Make Things Happen is the perfect place to start! And if you’re feeling anything like me lately, this quick and inspiring post is also a must read.

3. Ok, while I’m now a year over 30….this list is still something to live by!

4. For all you bloggers out there, this one is for you!

5. And if you find your life to be a flurry of meetings, conference calls, and obligatory emails, perhaps you should take a moment out of your oh-so-busy schedule to read this – it’s a breathe of fresh air. (Honey, this one is for you!)

Choose Happiness -- FREE worldwide shipping

If you need a constant and physical reminder to choose happiness, you can purchase this and other inspirational prints here.

Amen. I hope everyone has a fun and fulfilling weekend!

HAPPY HUMP DAY! LOVE YOUR AUTHENTIC SELF.

I was wracking my brain with what to write about this morning when I came across the blog of Kelley Moore. Her post struck me quite like a bolt of lightning because this is something I struggle with on a daily basis: being myself vs. what I think others want me to be. And oftentimes, I lose. More than I’d like to admit, I’ve lived my life based off of the judgments of others and this induces such a fear inside of me that I simply continue to bury myself within myself.

A vicious cycle.

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(via Pinterest)

I once surrounded myself with fake niceties and cosmopolitans, short dresses and high heels and somehow, lots and lots of money, just to get one leg further up the totem pole. I wasn’t successful by any means, but I wanted to seem successful, because that’s what really matters, right…? I mean, I rubbed shoulders with Jennifer Lopez, I laughed with Patch Adams, I shook the hand of Jane Goodall, and I have Ben Stein’s number in my phone. Isn’t that what counts…?

(Yup, that’s me)

When I moved from the city, away from the movers and shakers, and into a domesticated, country lifestyle, I felt….lost. Who do I perform for now? But I also felt a sense of ease that I hadn’t felt for a long, long time. Finally, I could breathe. Finally I could be myself.

But who was I?

This is a question that I continue to juggle. A part of me still longs for the excitement and glamour of the rock star life, but the bigger part of me wants simplicity. I suppose I am simply trying to find myself between the mediocre and melodramatic, who I want to be and who I think I should be.

As Kelley so aptly stated (original source unknown)…

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I will be 31 in less that a month, and at this point I’m not where I thought I’d be. And frankly, this scares the shit out of me. I thought I’d be more successful, I thought I’d be better traveled, I thought I’d be throwing interesting dinner parties for interesting people, and I thought I’d be a mother that could do it all. In my head, it’s all worked out: I should be flourishing, I should be an affluent business owner, and people should notice my success. In reality, my shoulda, woulda, couldas are only bringing me down, down, down.

What I am very, very slowly coming to realize is that life is so much more enjoyable when living it for yourself. Not for who you were, or for what others think you should be, or even for who you think you should be, but for who you are at this very moment. Learn from the past and look forward to the future, but live in the present, be true to yourself, and love yourself for it. Yes, love your authentic self, even if that authentic self is currently a floundering and lost soul!

I think Anne Lamott said it best in her 2003 Berkley graduation commencement address:

…here I am sort of bragging about being a dropout, and unemployable, and secretly making a pitch for you to follow your creative dreams, when what they [your parents] want is for you to do well in your field, make them look good, and maybe also make a tiny fortune.

But that is not your problem. Your problem is how you are going to spend this one odd and precious life you have been issued. Whether you’re going to spend it trying to look good and creating the illusion that you have power over people and circumstances, or whether you are going to taste it, enjoy it and find out the truth about who you are.

So go out and seek my dear readers!

A LITTLE SIDETRACKED: into the mind of Kristen this Friday morning…

Dear lovely readers, I am sorry for the delayed post this morning! I’m having a wee bit of an internet issue (for the umpteenth time) and am actually on the phone with my service provider as we speak. But thanks to Windows Live Writer – I’m at least able to get this post prepared for your enjoyment!

With that said, and since I can’t quite get onto the internet for my usual browsing and research session, I’m going to write about, well…writing. More specifically, writing in this wonderful world of Blogdom. Now, it’s only been two weeks – this is my 16th post, to be exact – but over these two weeks I have learned so much, have found so many amazing blogs to follow, and have even gained a few followers of my own (thankyouthankyouthankyou!). It’s so addicting, in fact, that I get sucked into the interwebs for hours upon hours and often lose a good chunk of my day!

But there is also an underlying tension, a competitive edge, and feelings of envy that arise during these marathon browsing sessions. How can I possibly compete with all the incredibly crafty, comical, and personable blogs out there? Blogs that have been around for years, blogs that have thousands of followers, and blogs that are so well written and so well designed that I just want to scream with a mixture of sheer delight and jealousy. How do they do it?! And where do I fit in…?

This is where I begin to doubt myself. Why in the world (wide web) would anyone want to read my blog? What do I bring to the table that hasn’t already been brought (“It’s already been broughten!”)? I’m sure other bloggers have this very same fear: I often feel like I’m losing my voice amidst the millions of other voices out there. Not only am I getting buried, but I actually begin to lose my point of view, and “my voice” begins to sound like someone else’s. I begin writing differently, to fit the mold of what I think other people want to hear or see, just to gain more followers. And so the competition begins…

Frankly, sometimes I feel like I’m beginning to lose my self – the whole point of starting this blog was to be true to myself and hopefully inspire others along the way!

So, I have to remind myself over and over that this blog is nothing more than a teeny tiny baby in this big, scary world wide web. It has to be coddled, it has to be nurtured, and in time, perhaps…..it will grow. And if it doesn’t – who really cares? This blog is wholly mine; it is a place to collect my thoughts, it is my creative outlet, it is my source of inspiration, and it is an excuse for me to explore the inspiration of others – I get to browse through beautiful images, read amazing content, and consistently learn something new. I’m fortunate enough to simply have this outlet, and to have the time to nurture it. I can only be so lucky to have others that I can share this with, whether it be 5, 500, or 5000.

So, with all that said, I must thank my readers – the few and the many – for inspiring me to be true to myself. Yes, I need to consistently remind myself that I do write for myself, but I can’t help but realize that my inspiration comes from sharing this with you.

xoxo.