My Favorite Things

As Fall approaches here in beautiful north Georgia, it is a time to reflect on the things that we enjoy most. So, I have compiled a list of five items that are just a few of my favorite things.
1- Books- Oh how I love to read a good book. Sadly, as times have changed, I have given in to the bittersweet progress of digital books. However, nothing is more satisfying than to hold an actual paper laden book in hand. The feel of the paper in hand, and the smell, especially when the book is an old classic, it just has the delectable book smell. I have been recently reading more self-growth books than anything, and one of my particular favorites is “The 5 Second Rule” by Mel Robbins.

2- Music- whether I am driving in my car, or going for a nice little walk, or even working out my frustrations in the gym, music is life. I honestly have said over and over, if I could choose which sense I had to lose between sight and sound, I would opt for sight, because I do not think I could live in a world without music. I listen to a wide range of music, depending on my mood and thoughts at the time. Mostly, though, I listen to the genre of music affectionately referred to as “Emo” music. To me, there is just something so relatable in their raw emotion felt through the song that gives me more of a connection to their music than any other type.

3- Planners- I just love planners. Currently, I am obsessing over The Happy Planner. I like that it is so customizable, and I can set it up to suit whatever needs I may have at the time. I have used many different types of planners in the past, but the key is to find a planner that works for you. After all, the objective is not in the brand of planner, but rather the functionality and whether or not you will use it. I like the feeling of being organized and making lists. My therapist once said that with my adult ADD, I need structure in my life, because chaos and clutter are huge triggers. Thus, began my continual need for planner peace. For an example of The Happy Planner: https://amzn.to/2MNB6Ac

4- The Beach- In reality, who doesn’t love the beach? Well, I suppose there are some people out there who do not. None of which I care to know. The beach is calming, and there is just something about sanding on the verge of such an expanse of sky and ocean that really puts you into perspective. You realize what a small portion of this great world is when you are standing on the heels of something so grand. I can imagine many incredible things in the world can give you that sense of humbleness as well. Such as, the California Redwoods, the Grand Canyon, or Old Faithful. However, I have never seen any of those. Therefore, my wonderment is based solely on my personal experience at the beach.

5- Fall- Ah, Fall. It is the epitome of everything that is great about living in the south. Thinking of fall drums up all kinds of nostalgic imagery of things such as farmer’s markets, pumpkin farms, bonfires, and hayrides, and of course, pumpkin flavored everything! Then, there is football. You see, we take our football very seriously in the south. To properly engage in the watching of football, it is required to attend a local (generally your home town) high school football game on Friday night, then you would spend the better part of Saturday watching college football games, and then, finally, Sunday is for the NFL. It is literally a three-day event. Ironically, even though we are mere days away from the first day of fall on the calendar, it is still nearing in the nineties here in North Georgia. But, I know, just the same, I will miss fall this year, as I will be moving to South Florida in one week. I will most definitely miss the frosty chill in the air, and most of all, the changing of the leaves as the north Georgia landscape becomes awash with vibrant hues of red and orange and yellow.

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Meet My Best Friend

Throughout our lives, we tend to have friends who come and go. We even find ourselves often with best friends during a season of our lives. We may find work best friends, or we may have school best friends. When we are in relationships, our romantic partners become our best friends also, and for different reasons. In fact, my own husband is my best friend in so many ways. But when we are truly lucky, we can have that one true constant who remains a best friend through all the seasons of our lives. I am fortunate enough to have such a friend.
My best friend is stunningly beautiful, and that is the cause for many a person to want to meet her. However, when anyone gets to know her, it is her inner beauty that shines the brightest and then they naturally want to keep her in their lives as well. She has a charm and wit about her that is truly a rare treat.
Of all the people who have grown to love her, I am most lucky to have had her by my side for her entire life. Because, you see, it is my beautiful daughter who is my best friend. She can be, at times, both complicated and frustrating. Perhaps, it is the mother in me that can see that part of her, because as well as laughing and sharing with her, I have also had the unique role of disciplining and guiding her along the path of life.
Total strangers have had the opportunity to meet her, and within minutes, feel as though their meeting was not merely by chance. She has the ability to make anyone believe that she had been sent to their life in the right moment by some higher power. She will listen intently to others as they pour out their problems to her. She will cry tears of joy and tears of sorrow alongside anyone in her presence.
Her and I have laughed at others, and at each other. We have also cried over boys together. We have cursed others and threatened outlandish acts of revenge on anyone who has hurt the other. We have been furious at and deeply hurt by each other, but at the core of every day, we love each other unconditionally. That love, and the bond of mother and daughter, always prevail no matter what temporary emotions that we allow to pervade our minds.
In the past year, she has decided to grow up and move out on her own. At times, with her boyfriend, and at times, by herself. For various reasons, that did not always work out for her. And she was crushed by how unfairly life had treated her. She is one of the most loving and caring and deserving people I know, and I too, was crushed every time life has pulled the rug out from underneath her. She made the decision to move back home with me a few months ago. She was not just my little girl who was broken and sad, she was my best friend, and my heart poured as freely as my tears at night to see life not giving her all she deserves. Over the past few months with her being home, we have had the opportunity to spend a lot of time together. It has helped that I currently work from home and am around when she if there before or after work, or on her days off. We have lunch together, and we spend just a few minutes a day just chatting over love, life, and all things girl.
Now, we find ourselves once again at an impasse. For several months, my husband and I have been making preparations and saving money to make the move to Florida to be close to my son and granddaughters. And for much of that time, she has been also making plans to join us. However, as the time grew near to make the move, she has made the tough decision to stay behind in Georgia. She has a job that she does not wish to leave at this time, in hopes of promoting up and advancing with the company. I could never fault her for that, it is always good to stick with something. Far too many people these days are flakey. She has never really dealt easily with change. She lost her dad when she was only three years old, then lost her grandfather, whom she was very close too, at an early age as well, and lost homes to natural disasters. For most of her life, she has had to deal with some pretty radical life changes, without any warning. So, it makes perfect sense that she would need and desire a sense of constant in her life and possess a need to feel a sense of control over some of her own decisions. Being that my husband and I had made the decision to move to Florida just prior to her coming back home to live with us, the choice to move there was never hers, it was simply that all her family had moved, and she felt that it was her only option.
Our days now are a mixed bag of emotions. She is excited about the potential prospects that she has had open up with her job, and I am excited about the opportunity to explore new destinations in a new state and to be spending time with the girls. However, looming over us is a constant sadness. It is hard for me to think about leaving my best friend behind, and it is equally difficult for her to be feeling like she is being left behind. Additionally, as her mother also, I have this sense of heaviness about this situation, in that I want her to succeed and do well in her job and achieve all of the amazing things I know she is capable of, yet as her mother, I worry over her being on her own. I want her to be safe, and fed, and when she is sick, I want her to cuddle on the couch in a warm fuzzy blanket while I make her soup and bring her medicine. I know she is a strong and independent young lady, but she has also had a lot of harsh experiences with life knocking the wind out of her sails, and because she is both my daughter and my best friend, I have an ingrained need to be there to wipe the tears and help pick up the pieces.
So, in case you haven’t figured it out yet, my best friend is amazing, and anyone would be lucky to meet her. Everyone who knows her will attest to the fact that just knowing her will make your life a better place and leave you a better person. I look forward to seeing all of the incredible things that she accomplishes in her future, because I know she is meant for great things, and will, no doubt, live up to the hype.

Going Places

We are always going somewhere. Maybe we are going to the grocery store, or to work, or maybe to pick up the dry cleaning. But, how often are we going places that feed our souls? Getting away on an adventure is often overlooked by so many people because they are too busy to, as the cliche saying goes, stop and smell the roses. Sometimes we need to just get in the car and drive. Maybe to a local park or maybe to a neighboring state. To simply get away and take in the sights, sounds, and smell of the world around us.
I recently went on a trip to southern Florida. It was an exhausting nine hour trip, but that was not how I remember the trip now. I had my husband and daughter with me. We were all able to take turns driving so that no one person had the burden of the drive. But we all pointed out many interesting things on the view along the road. We sang, maybe a hundred or so songs, and even made some video of our “car karaoke'” We saw signs directing to interesting points of interest and even took several of the exits to stop in and see those interesting sights or locales for ourselves. We even went a great deal out of the way to locate a highly favored mom and pop establishment located on the river with outdoor dining and incredible water views. It turned out to be worth the extra time it took us to venture off the path to experience it.
There is a quote by Karl Lagerfield that says, “What I like about photographs is that they capture a moment that’s gone forever, impossible to reproduce.” There is so many levels of truth embedded in that quote. We live our lives in the moment, and when that moment has passed, it is gone forever. We may hold that memory or that feeling inside of us forever, but taking a picture is an additional element of security for that memory. I have seen, many times, people going through things that have been packed and stored away for a long time, come across a picture and smile as they recount the time and fondly recall the feelings from that moment in time that has long passed.
It is important to get out and experience life, and it is vital to take pictures along the way. To capture those memories and look back on them in time with fondness and feelings. So, as they say, take the trip, buy the shoes, eat the cake- but remember to take pictures of it all!
There are many cameras and camera equipment to choose from. To help find the one that best suits your needs, please check out-
Cameras to capture your adventures

“PHOTOGRAPHY IS ABOUT CAPTURING SOULS NOT SMILES”
– Dragan Tapshanov

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5 Things That I Absolutely Love About Myself, Without A Doubt.

If I were asked to name five things that I absolutely love about myself, without a doubt, I would struggle quite a bit, as I am sure many others would. We tend to see the good and the best in people around us. Yet, we most often tend to be blind to our own good qualities. We easily see that we may be overweight, or that we have thin hair or short hair, or that we have freckles, or that we have not completed college and gotten that degree that we started out to work on several years ago, or that we are in a job that we are not in love with, or maybe that we are in a relationship that only benefits one partner. Regardless, we should do better by ourselves and realize the qualities that we each possess that make us great. And now, I will attempt to embark on such a task.
One- compassion. I do love that I possess a true sense of compassion for others. I once was told by my director when I worked as an Emergency Medical Technician that I would make a great paramedic one day because I had something that many of his current paramedics in the county lacked- compassion and a true love for others. Even though I do not work in public safety any longer, I still keep those words with me. It really meant a lot to me then, and it means a lot to me now that someone saw me in that respect. Often times, I believe that it goes a step beyond mere compassion and that I have been granted both the blessing and the curse of being an Empath. Everything I have ever read about Empaths sounds exactly word for word like I am reading something written specifically for me. I suppose I don’t hate being an Empath, but there are times when I wish I could be a little tougher.
Two- tenacity. I do not give up on things easily. Even in relationships, although I know in my head and my heart that the relationship is toxic for me or the relationship has reached its ending point, I have a hard time walking away. For some reason, I feel like a failure when things end, whether it be relationships or jobs, so I tend to persist in them, despite my need for closure and the limiting it puts on my self-growth.
Three- simplicity. I have never been a materialistic person, and do not foresee that changing anytime in my future. I love the simplicity of life. I enjoy quite time by the lake, a hike in the woods, and sitting on the shore listening to nothing more than the sound of the waves crashing against the sand and the occasional call of the Gull. At the risk of being cliché, life if made up of all the small moments that fill in the dash between the two dates on our death stones. But, that is true. It is truly the simple things like holding hands under the night sky bursting with fireworks, the laughter of a child, or the smell of fresh cut grass that make life worth living
Four- good listener. It seems that for most of my life, I have had family, friends, and coworkers alike come to me to talk about their problems. I went into college to get my degree in Human Services and learned a lot about active listening. But, the funny thing is, I think in some way I have always engaged in active listening, long before I even knew what it was. I was always that friend that people went to when they wanted to say, “don’t tell anyone.” I have long since been out of school and lost touch with almost one-hundred percent of my former classmates, yet, I still today hold secrets that were told to me in the strictest of confidence within the halls of my high school, that I have not dared to share with another soul. I have always had the tendency to be very accepting of other, and have never considered myself, nor have been considered by others as a judgmental person. Although, I think as I get older, I am losing that sweet innocent acceptance of everyone, and do notice a hint of cynicism showing its ugly head on the occasion.
Five- Pisces. It may seem a bit crazy or childish, but I truly love being a Pisces. They say that Pisces are so different because they have characteristics of all the other eleven Zodiac signs. I do believe that. A true Pisces can be quite a challenge, it is like riding a roller coaster, at times. We can be hot one minute, then cold the next. Yet, Pisces, are the dreamers and the believers. We see the good in people and we would move mountains to help others see the good in themselves. Pisces are creative and artistic. I would never say that I was good at anything but being far from perfect does not limit my attempt. I love to paint, and I love to sing. While I cannot do either of those well, I still continue to do them. That is why I love being a Pisces, it is kind of like that Steve Jobs quote- “Those who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

If I Could Go Back In Time, What Would I Tell My Younger Self?

If I could go back in time, I would probably tell myself to slow down. Life goes by far too fast, and I have allowed myself to rush through far too many things. As a child, I had a bit of a rocky start in life. I had a father, who was, some would say strict, based on the bruises and marks often left on my body, others would say, abusive. Regardless, I was a very withdrawn and insecure person from a very early place in life. After a “situation” that left my legs covered in bruises, I ran away from home at the ripe old age of seventeen. I moved in with my cousin’s friend, who was much older than me, and I found out quite quickly, that I was no where near ready for adulthood. But as they say, you can’t go back home, thus, I began my life of rash decisions followed by an almost emergent series of adjusting my life and myself to make those decisions fit as though they were what was meant to be for my life. There have been many times when I suffered as a consequence, there have been times that it was my children who suffered as a consequence. As a parent, you never intentionally do things that will end up being hurtful to your children, you try to make choices that you believe, at the time, will be in their best interest. But often times, those choices do not play out so.
I find myself now, facing the latter part of my life, and often get down because I feel as though I do not have anything to show for my life, thus far. I do not have my own home, I do not have my own car, and I still have far too much student loan debt. Following a nasty divorce, I wound up having to go through bankruptcy, and am at this point in my life, still trying to rebuild good credit. I do not even have a comfy nest egg saved away for retirement, even though that will be quite a few years away. Many times, I find it far too easy to get down on myself pretty hard about the things that I have failed to accomplish at this point in my life, mainly due to rash choices I have made since I was younger. But, I think, sometimes it is far too easy to play the victim and toss around tickets to the pity party like confetti. I can say with most certainty that most of those snap decisions I have made have came from the influence or as a direct reaction to the actions of someone else. Therefore, there is an entire laundry list of people for whom I can blame for the little that I have accomplished in my life. But, throwing blame rarely ever improves one’s circumstances. I rather choose to put my energy into what I have gained from life. I have two wonderful and amazing children who happen to be incredible adults and have accomplished so much in their own perspective lives. I have an incredible daughter in law, who is such a wonderful addition to our family, that I could not imagine life without her. I have two of the most perfect granddaughters that have ever graced the earth. They are my whole world. I have found the love of a good and decent man. I challenges me and lifts me both, at times when I need to be challenged or lifted up. I may not have a home, but I have found that not owning a home allows me a degree of freedom and mobility. My husband and I travel, often, and now have decided to tempt fate, and move to Florida. One of my biggest dreams in life has been to live on the Gulf of Mexico, and he has made it his mission to make my dream a reality.
So, at the end of the day, I believe the one thing I would say to myself, had I the opportunity to go back is to slow down. Life has a way of getting away from you and it is important to stop from time to time, and truly smell the roses. Perhaps many of the choices I have made in my life have been hasty and have not all been the most sensible of the most beneficial ones to me. However, each and every choice I have made has brought me to the place I am in life right now. While I may have some regrets about some of the decisions I have made, overall, I am in a really good place now, and I cannot possibly imagine the path of my life taking me in any other direction than where I am now. But, I only wish I could go back and have just a little more time to enjoy and appreciate the value of certain aspects of my life, things that I will never have an opportunity to get back. Such as, getting to enjoy the simplicity and freedom of childhood, or getting to enjoy the idea that the teenage years are so much a part of what shapes us as adults. It would be nice to get the time back to appreciate my youth and have the knowing that teenage years are only temporary and nothing that happens in high school actually lasts forever. I would truly love the opportunity to go back in time and hold my children just a little longer and play with them just a little more when they were young. I truly believe one of the harshest regrets of getting older, is the reality of just how fast our children grow up.
So, I am going to move to the Gulf of Mexico and enjoy the beauty and simplicity in watching a sunset across the ocean. I am going to enjoy slow, uninterrupted time with my granddaughters. And, I am going to take time to sit with my husband and take in all the love and laughter we share, and I will spend the latter part of my life, having no regrets, because I plan to make every decision a thoughtful and purposeful step in my journey.

STONE WALL

Once in everyone’s life there comes a time to do some construction. We build walls, and we tear walls down. We build walls to keep out the enemy, and we build walls to keep in what we value most. Whatever the reason, it is time to start the process to tear down these walls. Good or bad, old or new, they have to go. Some say it is about the journey, I say it is about the destination. Let’s get to a good place.
In the bible there is a story that I love to think of when I am pondering over a stone wall. The story of Nehemiah is once of my favorite stories of determination and faith. I cannot quote word for word his story, but I know enough about him to know that when he was mocked and ridiculed and expected to fail, he made quite a triumph for his people. The rebuilding of the walls surrounding Jerusalem was going to be a mammoth project that no one was willing to commit to But Nehemiah knew the security of his people depended on getting those walls put back up. Somehow he managed to convince everyone to just do a little part and put up the stones around the fronts of their own homes. The enemy ridiculed him and put no faith into those walls ever going up again, but lo and behold, his endurance and faith prevailed. Alas, one day they were standing tall and stronger than ever before, and the enemy had no chance of breaching those walls.
I truly love that story and encourage anyone who will to read it. I have seen once, someone use the example of Nehemiah to make a great thing happen again. It was actually in the movie, “Facing the Giants,” and if  you have not seen that movie, please give it a watch! To make a long story short, it is a bout a high school football team who beat all the odds. Okay, so maybe you have seen that story line more than once, it never gets old, though. They are in the championship game, after coming from year after year of losing streaks and finally getting that once in a lifetime chance to make something happen. The coach had taught the boys the story of Nehemiah and how he made the walls to hold so strong the enemy could not prevail. So, when the game was on the line, the coach said one thing to the leader of the defensive line: “Stone Wall.” The young tackle got it, he encouraged his line to form a human wall that the opponents could not breach. You can probably guess the team won the championship and the story had a wonderfully happy ending.

But sometimes, we do not put up those kinds of walls, the kind of physical walls that help us be victorious against our enemies. Sometimes we put up emotional walls, walls around our hearts, and the kind of walls that help us keep others out. Most of the time we justify what we are doing by saying things to ourselves like, “I’ve been hurt before and I’m just protecting myself.” It is all too easy to do; after all, self preservation is as natural a human instinct as is breathing.

I know in my own personal story, I have built so many walls that I should have an architect license by now. From early on in my childhood, I felt let down by people in my life. Then, as I grew older and began to develop relationships with other people, once I started feeling close to someone, up went the wall. So, that happened again and again, until I finally ran out of room to put up any more walls. Then it came time to start tearing down a few.

I spent most of my life refusing to let anyone see me, the real me. I was convinced that I could not be hurt by anyone if they did not know my weaknesses, my fears, or  my concerns. So, I pretty much made a lifetime hobby of helping other people deal with their problems. I wanted to be the one everyone came to when they needed someone to talk to, after all if we were always busy talking about your problems, we never had time to talk about mine, right?

And, then one day I finally realized that hiding behind all those walls was not hurting anyone as much as it was hurting me. So, the thing I had put in place to protect myself from getting hurt was the very thing that was hurting me. This inability to fully open up and reveal myself to people was hurting me in my relationships, my friendships, and even with my co-workers. Who knew? I learned so much about so many people from allowing them to open themselves up and reveal to me, yet, no one ever really knew me. Not one person could tell you my dreams or my desires, or even the thing that scared me most in life. I used to go to church, and most people knew that about me, but no one knew that I lost my faith and renounced Christianity. I always figured, no ever ever asked, so it was unlikely that anyone really cared any way. Hence, more walls.

So, then I found myself at a place and time in my life where some demolition was certainly in order. Life is hard, sure is, but what good does it actually do when we just hide from it in out feeble attempt to avoid it? When we peep out, guess what? It is still there. So, join along on this journey to face life head-on, and wall by wall, peel away all the layers that are keeping us form the life we deserve and desire. I have personally come a long way from where I was when I began the process, but I still have a ways to go to be fully where I long to be. I am in a continual process of, as I like to say, winging it. The first part of the process is easy enough, although it may not seem like that on day one. Take a notebook and number the first two pages from one to ten. On page one, title it “positive” and the second page will be titled “negative.” Take some time to reflect and really think about this, and on page one, list the ten most positive things you can find in your life. Guess what you will do with the second page? If you said the same, right on! Only on page two, you will be listing, you guessed it, the ten most negative things in your life. On page three you will list five people who you have in your life that you trust and believe you can share the things that you need to talk about. Okay, so the next two pages are where you will have to really humor me, make a list of ten positive and ten negative words. Then search out and write down one affirmation relating to each word. That is only twenty affirmations, and that will not be hard to find. After that, you will be equipped with the tools that you need to start the process. You have the top ten key things that both lift you up and bring you down. You have a minimum of five pairs of ears to chew on, five pairs of shoulders to lean on, and five pairs of  hands to hold, and you have twenty affirmations to refer to. Starting with the first blank page in your notebook, journal. Just write down your thoughts and feelings, fully open up, no one will ever read this book, unless you allow them to. Every day, as you are jotting down your thoughts to ponder, you can have security in knowing that if something is particularly tough for that day, you have an emergency list of friends to call on. As you start making progress with your journaling, and bring to light things that h ave been haunting you for so long, you will hopefully become more comfortable with allowing someone else in, and maybe want to start sharing some of the things that you have taught yourself about yourself.

At the same time, remember this is a process, a journey, so, baby steps. As  you work on this process, really give some true thought into what you are journaling about. Why are the walls there in the first place? Is there someone who hurt you in the past and you do not want to feel that way again? Has life made you feel like you cannot trust anyone? Or, maybe, are you trying to protect the world from yourself, are you afraid of what you are capable of? Whatever the reason, just take the time to reflect on why this began. What happened to make you feel the need to take such measures? Dr. Martin Luther King Jr once said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” For certain, in the darkness things can unravel quickly. One of my “go-to” tricks, and it may help you, is to sit in the sunlight; let its warmth bathe you, and bring the things of your mind out into the light. We cannot fight what we cannot see.

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