Finding One’s Self

            The quest to find one’s identity is the heartbeat of humanity. The quest for identity can be attributed to many things that lay the foundation to one’s identity, such as race, culture, sex, or even personal history. Daniel Keys’ writing of “Flowers for Algernon” is an example of one man’s journey to find himself. Everyone lives their life as a journey to simply find their one true self.

            Everyone deserves to be treated as though their life has meaning and value. Incidentally, Charlie Gordon defends his right to be seen as somebody. “” But I’m not an inanimate object” I argued, “I’m a person.”” (Keys p 89). This argument of his has the haunting element of the many peoples who have been trapped in the bonds of slavery over the years, proclaiming their right to be seen as equals, also that statement can be ingrained in a society of oppressed people such as the Jews who were horrifically persecuted and maimed simply because of being Jewish and their desperate cries to be seen as a real people, who deserved a place and a right in society as much as any other nation of people.

            Another standard by which some choose to use as a form of personal identity is one’s status. For some people, the more they have, whether it is friends or possessions, the more popular or revered they will be. Charlie Gordon believed that if he gained more intelligence, was smarter, everyone would like him more and he would have more friends. He recorded this theory as he was writing in his progress reports before he had the surgery to make him smarter. “If your smart you can have lots of friends to talk to and you never get lonely by yourself all the time.” (Keys p 15). This is much the same way of thinking by people who believe that the more nicer things they have, such as, expensive sports cars, boats, or expensive material things the more status they will have and therefore people will look up to them and admire them. It also correlates to the idea that others have, in that, if they “go with the flow” and do what the “in crowd” does, they will have more friends and not be lonely; such as, if they go clubbing or to bars and drink and party like everyone does, they will always have lots of friends around and never worry about being lonely. However, sadly enough, this way of thinking is shallow and generally lends itself to reckless actions that leads on to finding themselves in a much worse place than they were before they tried to use their status to forge friendships.

            Charlie learned after his operation that intelligence is also an identifying factor in one’s identity. People become categorized by the level of their education or intelligence and others react to them accordingly. Often times people of higher intelligence tend to look down or dismiss the validity of someone else because they are of lesser intelligence. In a conversation between Charlie and Alice, this idea was addressed as she pointed out to him that he, in fact, made her feel awkward following the operation because she could not keep up with him intellectually and stated that next to Charlie, she felt dull-witted. She went on to say to him that now, most days that they see each other, after she leaves him, she goes home with a miserable feeling that she is now slow and dense about everything. She explains that she reviews things that they have said to each other and thinks of things that she should have said and thinks of all the bright and witty things that she should have said, then feels like kicking herself because she did not think to say them when they were together. This kind of intelligence segregation begins early in life. One can see it in schools where the smart, or more commonly referred to as, “preppy” kids demean or simply ignore the lesser aptitude students. It is also prevalent in the workplace as higher up the management chain. The more educated and higher salaried employees do not really do any kind of socializing wither the lower educated and lesser salaried employees. In many cases, it falls back to the status ideology, but mostly in these situations, it simply rests on the principle that at different intelligence levels, they do not have very much in common and do not have the ability to communicate on the same intellectual levels.

            From birth, one’s family, culture, heritage, and ethnicity begin laying the groundwork to their identity. As one progresses through life, factors such as education, work experiences, status, friends, and relationships mold the clay and help to define their one true identity. Each individual lives out their lives in a way so as to find that quest on one’s true self. Charlie Gordon gained just enough intelligence to realize that no matter how much one can alter their life, deep down, there is no changing who a person truly is. The core value of the idea is that all men are created equal, but society sets the standards by which all men are perceived.

Resources

Keys, Daniel. Flowers for Algernon. Orlando: Harcourt, 2004. Print.  

5 Things to do in Fort Myers, Florida

Whether you decide to pay a visit to beautiful Fort Myers Florida during the summer or winter, it makes no difference. It is summer all year long down in sunny Southwest Florida. There will not be any shortage of sand, sun and sparkling beverages, regardless of what time of year you make the trek south to Fort Myers. No matter if you make the trip for a family vacation, a lovely couples’ get-away, or decide to be a regular snowbird and make The City of Palms your part time home, there are many things for everyone to do. However, there are a few things that everyone should move to the top of their bucket list for their visit to Fort Myers. It only takes on visit to Fort Myers, Florida to easily understand why so many people choose to call this place their favorite vacation locale, their winter retreat from the bitter winters up north, and, for many, home. Here are a few of the many things to do in Fort Myers that will guaranteed make it a memorable and exciting visit, and, quite possibly, have you returning again and again!

1 It goes without saying, that the first thing you should do when visiting Fort Myers, Florida is to see the beach. Florida is most notably known for its beaches, and Fort Myers Beach does not disappoint. While visiting the beaches at Fort Myers, you need to make a point to stop by Times Square. If at all possible, be sure to take in one of the Sunset Celebrations located at Times Square on Friday and Saturday nights. You will be entertained by some of Fort Myers’ local musical talents, and get to enjoy an infamous sunset, along with dozens of your “fans of Fort Myers Sunsets” friends, eben if you do not know them when you arrive. You sure do not want to miss out on any opportunity to drive across the causeway and see the historic and stunning islands of Sanibel and Captiva. If shelling is your thing, you will definitely want to take in the shell-lined beaches at Sanibel and Captiva. You may even get the opportunity to swim with dolphins or manatees while visiting the beaches around Fort Myers. It is no surprise that most people visit Fort Myers for its beaches. After all, they are among some of the most beautiful in all of Florida.

Sunset at Fort Myers Beach

2 Ideally, you will want to find some local favorite places to grab a bite while visiting Fort Myers. One of the places that should be on your to-do list, is 3 Peppers Burrito. While 3 Peppers is only one of the many dining options around the Fort Myers area, they are definitely worth putting on the top of your must do list. You can get a little history about how the brothers started up the restaurant, which is native to this area. However, whether your dining palette craves fresh seafood, beach-side burgers, or just a casual family dinner, there are ample choices around the Fort Myers area to satisfy every taste from traditional to a true cultural experience.

3 Peppers Burrito

3 Of course, no trip to Fort Myers would be complete without a visit to the Downtown River District. While visiting downtown, you will find many local eateries filled with folklore and history galore. One such place to stop in for a nice casual dining experience as well as some very conversational decor is Capone’s Coal Fired Pizza. For a fun-filled family outing downtown, you want to also stop off to see Centennial Park and take the family to the Imag Museum for an interactive science discovery center that the whole family will enjoy.

Cannoli from Capone’s Coal Fired Pizza

4 If parks and recreation are what you are seeking on your visit to Fort Myers, be sure to stop by many of the great parks that Fort Myers has to offer. These include Lakes Park, Six Mile Cypress Slough, and Manatee Park.  In addition, Fort Myers is home to both the Minnesota Twins and Boston Red Sox major league baseball training camps, so you can catch a game while they are in town, or maybe stop in for a minor league game and enjoy watching the Fort Myers Miracle at Hammond Stadium.

Lakes Park

5 Perhaps, a little souvenir shopping is on the agenda. Or, you just simply want to browse local shops. Fort Myers has plenty of options to get your retail therapy. Close to downtown, you will find the Edison Mall with plenty of space to take a break from the fun and sun to browse and shop. For a little more relaxed atmosphere, you will want to stop by the Shops at Bell Tower. There you will find more of an open-air type shopping, with plenty of options for a bite to eat or enjoy a tasty craft beer at the World of Beer, and a very spacious stand alone movie theater. Be sure to take the scenic route to your shopping destination, and drive down McGregor Boulevard

Driving down McGregor Boulevard

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When the Water Recedes

Life throws a lot of things our way. Life will send the storms; the flood, the fire, and the rain. But I believe the most important thing to consider is, when the water recedes, what does your character say about you? I have literally been through some of life’s storms. My son and I were trapped in our severely damaged home after the Palm Sunday tornadoes in 1994, and most recently my family survived a devastating flood. Having to jump from a window because we were in danger and getting to higher ground to watch our life literally floating away before our very eyes. They say, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” but I like to take that a step further and say that I believe what doesn’t kill you can make you kinder.

One who learns to value how fragile life is can in turn learn to appreciate even the smallest gestures of kindness. Since the flood, I have seen my sixteen year old daughter really grow in her maturity. She has ministered to friends at school, and even to those in school whom she does not consider very friendly. She makes posts on Facebook and Twitter that get hundreds of likes and retweets. She has become quite the inspiration to many, and she is without doubt the most uplifting person I know. Her character speaks volumes of the wonderful person she is, and people are naturally drawn to her because they feel better just being around her.

 Since the flood, I have become more aware of people, as in their actions and reactions. I recently took my car in for service at the dealership, and while I was there I planned to catch up on some of my reading. I found myself getting sidelined by people watching instead. Mostly I was watching and listening to the employees of the service department. Many of the “grunt” workers of the department were coming into the main area and mingling a bit. As I watched them and caught bits and pieces of their side conversations, I gathered it was lunch time and the service department manager had lunch catered in to them every day. I was highly impressed by this. Not by the fact they were enjoying BBQ sandwiches as much, but rather in how they responded to him and him with them. He was more than a boss to the men in his employ, he was a leader. Many places would think nothing of the employees clocking out, fighting traffic to get to a place of choice, and waiting to get their meal before finally eating only to fight traffic getting back. But there was no “every man for himself” attitude in that service department. I could easily see the employees not only respected him, but admired him, and they followed his example. I was so impressed by witnessing of the service manager’s character, that I called my daughter right there in the lounge and bragged emphatically over the place.

I’ve also taken notice of people’s reactions to you in checkout lines. Of course employees are taught to say the generic “have a nice day” as part of their customer service training. But how many people going through those lines, actually appreciate or take time to reciprocate their “have a nice day?” I have started a habit, sadly I do not remember to do it every time while in checkout lines- I’m far from perfect, but when the cashier says for me to have a nice day, I reply with “thank you, and you have a blessed day as well.”  I have had quite a response to this. I’ve had many people take a double take, light up, and say, “Thank you so much!” with gleaming smiles.

am I being Kind

We all have bad days, bad weeks, and bad years, but the trick is, not to let the storm make you bitter. Besides, we never know when someone else’s day is worse. Are they still in their time of flood season? Maybe just a simple gesture of kindness can make a difference in someone’s storm. So when life throws her perils your way, and the waters recede from the flood, what will your character say about you? Anyone can learn the mundane task of repeating “have a nice day” as part of your routine. But I believe people should be sincere in their delivering and receiving of even the simplest acts of kindness. I believe that once the dust settles and when the water recedes, people have the ability to learn valuable lessons from the story, and even greater, the ability to grow from the experience. Just like glass is put into the fire to refine it and make it something beautiful, I believe we can use our trials by fire to refine us and build the kind of character that legacies are made of.

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Stella Got Her Groove Back, Why Can’t I?

Being a strong, independent woman is not necessarily a bad thing. Yet, it does not always serve one well in the grand scheme of life. Never, will I ever, say that being strong or independent are characteristics that are not admirable or desired. However, there are times in life where we find ourselves at a crossroads in which it is best to just sit back and allow fate to control our paths. It has been said that some of the best things in life are either free or unplanned. The greatest things in life are both.

I was doing pretty well for myself. I had a good job and made a decent living. I had a cute little “hipster” house for myself and my then eighteen-year-old daughter. I was taking college courses to complete my next-level degree. And, I had a pretty rad car, a brand new 2013 Camaro, that I felt like a total bad ass driving around. I belonged to a Camaro car club and went to car shows and races when I wanted to and did not go when I did not want to. I had a friend who had introduced me to gold prospecting, and when I was not off on some car club event or writing six page essays, I was knee deep in some North Georgia creek shoveling out pans of pay dirt to sift through and add to my vial of shimmering flakes of promise and prosperity. Ah, there was something very intoxicating indeed about holding up that glass container full of nuggets and flakes that had not been before touched by human hands. I had a good life. I had it all together. My life was utterly perfect, right?

Enter, stage right. It seemed simple enough, a friend request from a Facebook car group was not an uncommon occurrence. Then, he showed up in my direct message inbox. Also, not altogether an unheard-of occurrence. I checked out his profile. I mean, we can all say we are not, and we can try to pretend and even convince ourselves we are not in the least bit materialistic and reactive to people based on their physical appearance. But all of the pretending in the world does not change the fact that we are human, and we are reactive to people based on their physical appearance and how they can be perceived by the world. He was surely cute, and very small-town country, which lent an air of charming about him that made him all the more appealing. But then there it was. His birthdate. How could this be? I had a child of my very own that was older than him. I mean, sure, it was very flattering to be flirted with by a younger man. But, was this too far? Was he too young? I let reason and logic get the better of me and fought back his flirtatious advances by calling him “small fry” continually reminding him that I had “given birth to people older than him.” It seemed the more I resisted, the harder he pursued. That boy definitely had no quit in him. Eventually, I had given in and gave him my cell phone number so that we could chat with each other on just more than the Facebook app. His voice was so deeply rich in southern twang. I am, myself, from North Georgia and have for the better part of my life been made fun of for my southern accent. But this small-town North Carolina boy even impressed me with how country is twang was. He was charming and opinionated. Over time, getting to talk to him and listen to his infectious laughter became one of my most anticipated highlights of my day. Eventually, we reached that critical point in every online relationship, he wanted to meet offline. Deep down, I wanted to meet him too. Just to be near him both excited me and scared the hell out of me simultaneously. I mean, there was still that giant elephant in the room, and I was not sure how that would play out if we did meet and discovered that we did, in fact, have a real romantic connection. My daughter and her best friend, who, after reading every single text between us and convincing me to put him on speaker for some of our conversations to listen in on us, encouraged us to meet. My daughter’s friend struck the final blow when she told me that, “if he is willing to make that much of an effort, he deserves a chance.” To this day, I still give Lauren full credit for everything that has happened since then.

So, with nervous anticipation, I packed a small weekend bag, and headed out after work for the longest and most nerve-wrecking five-hour drive of my life. What was I doing? Was I really driving two states away to meet a boy half my junior, and for what? What did I really expect to come of this? Did I really think this was going to be some romantic fairy tale? I experienced every emotion imaginable during that drive. When I arrived and I saw him in person for the first time, my hands were shaking. He immediately calmed me as he wrapped his arms around me in a tight embrace. The kind of hug that says, I have waited for this for such a long time. Suddenly, all of the playful banter and flirting became very real. We spent the next two days barely out of each other’s sight. It was magical, and surreal all at once. We went out in public, and I was aware of the questioning and condescending stares from strangers. He did not care, or he was completely oblivious; either way, he had no reaction to anyone and their judgments. He was enthralled in our spending time together. That Sunday morning as I drove him back to his house, it was the most somber and sad drive. He all but begged me not to leave, and admittedly, there was a part of me that never wanted to leave his side. But my life and my job and my family were back in Georgia, and Georgia was where I had to be. I left the radio turned off in the car and just reflected about the weekend and what it meant as I drove south. Once I crossed the South Carolina state line, I was overcome with such sadness, already missing him. I cried.

A week later, there was a huge car show event in Atlanta, and then a big race that every car enthusiast around planned to attend. We had talked about it several times. I had already made plans to go, and we had hoped for him to get to go with me. He decided to. Since he lived a solid five and a half hours away, the plan was for him to stay with me for two weeks and we would enjoy the two car events. I was excited during that week to get to see him again. I had confided in a few of my coworkers about our meeting, and there was, as expected, mixed reactions, given the great white elephant. But, at the end of the day, they loved me and wanted me to be happy, they just also wanted me to be smart about what I chose to pursue that happiness. The week passed and we were back together. It was glorious! We enjoyed both car events, and just spending the evenings after I got home from work being together. I showed him some of my favorite and most special places around town. We talked, and laughed, and held hands, and fell in love during those two weeks. The weeks passed and he continued to stay at my place. At first, I did not mention it, because I was really enjoying having him there with me. One night, we drove to the mountain overlook, one of the most sacred and special places for me. I brought up the subject, given that he had came to stay with me for an intended two weeks with nothing more than a duffle bag full of clothes. As we sat overlooking the city down below us and the stars above, shining incredibly bright against the black sky backdrop, we talked, and we cried. We talked of what we wanted out of life, what made sense, what seemed irrational, and what felt right. We both cried a little as he talked about how torn he was between going back home and staying with me forever. I said little, because deep down, I had come to love him, and I wanted him to stay. But I could not be selfish, so I simply said that it had to be his choice. As if on cue, the Perseid meteor shower began all around the sky overhead. He pulled me in close to him, pressed his face to mine, and I could feel his tears as they washed down my cheek. A great silence filled the air, and I knew no matter what he decided, I had to accept it and simply be grateful for the moment we shared. He pulled back and looked at me. The light from the stars and the meteor shower reflecting in those big beautiful eyes of his as he smiled down at me. He did not have to tell me that he had made his choice, or what he had decided, I felt it in every fiber of my being. We sat for several hours under the spectacular light show the universe had put on for us that night and we talked about our future. Being in a real relationship would not be an easy feat, given the white elephant. There would be many people, even family and friends, who would not accept it or support it. We talked out every scenario and defeated any doubt lingering. Everyone would not agree with it, but we had reached a point where that no longer mattered. We were in love, and we were going to do this.

As expected, a lot of people were not very excited about our relationship. Many questioned it, others doubted it would last past being more than a summer fling. But, over time, everyone changed their opinions of us. My daughter has always been very supportive of our relationship, as she had said once that she has never seen me this happy. It is not about me being unhappy prior to meeting him; remember I had a good life going and had my shit together. I had a good family support system, I had friends both at and outside of work, and I had hobbies and did things that I enjoyed. But she knew, as human beings, it is in our nature to desire being in relationships. Whether they are platonic, family, or romantic, we are ingrained to have relationships. I was not looking to find someone to date when I met him, yet our relationship has provided me so much in ways that I had never imagined. She saw that and has always been our biggest cheerleader. I always said that I never wanted someone to complete me; that I wanted to be complete and whole as a person on my own, then to find someone who would simply add to the quality of my life. I have stuck by that idea. He did not bring anything material to the table, as I had a good job, a nice car, and already lived on my own fully self-sustaining. But what he has added to my life has been companionship, friendship, romance, love, and joy. Things that I would not have otherwise. Our life was shaping up to be something great. One night, over a half a bottle of Everclear and Orange Juice, we talked about making this permanent. We joked about it after the fact, but I believe mainly that was because each of us thought the alcohol was talking for the other and we were nervous to ask each other if we really meant everything, we said that night. Yet, with Brianna’s help, he set up the most incredible scene at the million-dollar view on Christmas Eve, and slipped a ring on my finger. A promise of forever was made under an overcast rain-drizzled night.

Since that night, we have made things official and were married on a sunny September afternoon. We also made another huge leap of faith when we decided to follow my son and daughter in law to Southwest Florida to live. Ironically, my dream for the past ten years has been to live in a condo in the Gulf of Mexico, and the first trip we had taken together for our birthday was to St Augustine Florida, not exactly the Gulf, I know, but it somehow made Florida special for us. Sadly, Ryan and Teresa decided not to stay, and they elected to move the babies back to north Georgia. It was very hard for us, but at the end of the day, we had to respect their choice. For various reasons, we have stayed in Florida. There are days when we hate it and days when we love it. He is more than my best friend; he is my rock. He holds me and lets my cry when I miss my family or want an ice cream date with my granddaughter. He risks an almost guaranteed sunburn to brave the beach with me, because he knows, “that’s what you move to Florida for.” Our relationship has not been without it share of storms, but we have managed to weather them, thus far. Will our age difference defy the odds and our relationship stand the test of time and last forever? Who is to say, really? Only time can tell. But I am not planning to waste any precious time right now trying to worry over whether it will last or for how long. Right now, it is, and that is all that matters. I told him once that regardless of whether we make it or not, and there will always be a chance that we will not, no matter what happens, I will always be grateful for the time that we have had, for the things that we have shared, and for the love created, and for the life that we have enjoyed. I have also told him that we are going to have a great life, and we do have a great life. No matter how long it lasts, if it lasts forever or if it only lasts a few years, I have a great life with Henry, and a life that I will always be grateful for.

5 Books You Should Read to Have a More Productive Day!

First on the list is Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis. While Girl, Wash Your Face is not specifically a productivity book, per say, I felt it deserved to make the top of the list. Rachel Hollis explains in this book we can tend to allow the lies and limitations thrust upon us by society to prevent us from having the courage to pursue our own dreams, ambitions, and goals. And, that is counterproductive. Rachel is so charming, and adorable. She is so raw and authentic in telling her own story as she progresses through the book, that she immediately becomes your friend. In fact, she is the one friend you want there when you suffer a bad break up or you do not get into nursing school. She will comfort you, much like a half-melted pint of Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia and she will cry tears with you, real tears. Then she will wipe your messy misty hair away from your face and bring you back into the reality that those people and those things do not get to define who you are. It is impossible to be productive in the pursuit of your dreams and ambitions and the achievement of your goals, let alone just getting through your daily to-do lists when you are weighted down with the ideology that you are not good enough, or pretty enough, or smart enough, or even, lucky enough to accomplish them. Let Rachel hold your hand through the journey of peeling off the layers of self-doubt, insecurity, and blaming and shaming yourself, so that you can have a clean slate to being the foundation of gaining confidence to productively build the life you want- the life you deserve.

Second on the list is Get Your Sh*t Together by Sarah Knight . Sarah is witty and funny in her straight-forward approach to becoming more productive. She uses the concept of mental decluttering. Whereby, you will purge from your mind all the unnecessary things that take up too much of your time and energy and hinder you from getting the real important stuff done. Unlike “Girl, Wash Your Face,” which focuses on a form of mental decluttering the negative thoughts that pervade our beliefs and our faith in ourselves, this book is more about a mental decluttering of the things that can rob us of our productivity by sucking up so much of our time. Things like constantly checking emails, or stopping whatever you are doing far too many times throughout the day to scroll on social media, or with a nervous half-smile reluctantly agreeing to volunteer to help with the company bake sale this Saturday, even though you know you have a paper to write for school or you had planned to go THIS Saturday to get those tires changed that are wearing thin. The focus of this book emphasizes the need to learn how to prioritize. By taking an accurate inventory of everything you have on your plate, aka schedule, and weeding out the things that are not a high priority and concentrating on the ones that have the highest priority, you set yourself up to be more productive throughout the day and week. Her principle is based on the notion that if you have something come up that you feel obligated to do, but you have to give up something that you really wanted to do or something you really need to do, then this new thing is a low priority and you should not feel obligated. Just because you are asked by a dear friend, coworker, or family member, does not mean that yes should always be the answer.

Next, we find The 5 Second Rule written by Mel Robbins. Mel uses wit and logic to delve into the story of how the 5 Second Rule came to be. It started out as a tool to help “launch” her out of bed in the mornings and stop hitting the snooze button until she had wasted the better part of every morning avoiding getting up and facing her life. The principle of this book is how we can reset our thoughts and actions by triggering our prefrontal cortex simply by counting down from 5. The key to the rule is that you have to count down from 5, 5. 4. 3. 2. 1. Liftoff! Mel uses the science backed idea that if you count forward from 1, your brain will, by nature keep counting with no stopping point. The 5 Second Rule is based on the idea that within as little as five seconds, we can allow fear and doubt to take over our thoughts and prevent us from taking action to do the things we very much want to do. Some of the examples used in the book include a man sitting at a bar and wanting to speak to a woman he sees across the room or a woman who decides to take her sister’s children to raise following her untimely death, or anyone sitting in a work meeting with a great idea but afraid to speak up for fear of no one else in the meeting agreeing that it is a good idea. Within as little as five crucial seconds, either of them could have made the decision to act on their choices, or have allowed fear and doubt hinder their judgement and cause them to miss out on some pretty incredible opportunities. Opportunities can be lost forever, in as little as five seconds. This book is about switching those negative thoughts of fear and doubt before they have a chance to take a hold and change the outcome from what you initially intended. This book is about restructuring the way you think in a way to give you more confidence and courage to act on the things you want to. To become fearless and believe in yourself. The book also has an accompanying journal and workbook, although neither are necessary to read the book or gain an invaluable plan from it, they are, in essence, additional tools to help reinforce the concept of the 5 Second Rule.

Once we break the habit of hitting our snooze button, we then find The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod. The importance of a good morning routine is paramount to having a productive day. You can pick up any of one dozen or more books about productivity or success and they will all tell you that the most productive and successful people all practice the ritual of a regular morning routine. The size of the Miracle Morning community is phenomenal; all you have to do is search miracle morning on YouTube and you will find hundreds of videos by people who have adopted this morning ritual and swear by the positive impact that is has had on their lives. The Miracle Morning is about building an enriching morning routine around what Hal has termed the Life S.A.V.E.R.S. Each of the letters of the savers acronym represents a specific area for self growth and life enrichment. S- represents silence. Whether it is meditation, prayer, reflection, or just simply sitting in silence, Hal stresses the importance of beginning your morning ritual by clearing out the lingering thoughts. To get your head clear and focused to tackle the day without a myriad of things running around through your mind all day. A- represents affirmations. Hal points out that chanting in the mirror, “I am pretty.” “I am smart.” will not really have any lasting benefit if you are just mindlessly repeating words for the sake of repeating words. He emphasizes getting real and personal with the affirmations. Speaking to yourself positively about something personal and important to you will stand a greater chance of having lasting effects. V- represents visualization. Creating a vision board is the top suggestion. By placing the things you want to achieve onto something tangible that you can physically look at will help you gain the needed momentum for working toward those goals. Hal suggest sitting and actually visioning yourself not only once achieving the goal, but also, to visualize yourself working toward that goal, such as driving yourself to the gym every morning. E- represents exercise. It is no guarded secret of the benefits exercise has on us, both physically and mentally. One would be hard pressed to be productive throughout their day if they are suffering from ailments or just generally in physical pain from simply moving. Whether it is ten minutes or an hour, exercise is one part of morning routine that is bound to have the most immediate effects on how you feel. R- represents reading. Hal encourages daily reading, but puts more emphasis on reading for personal development. There are countless online options for courses or classes in personal growth and development. S- represents scribing. Journaling is suggested as one of the best means for your daily scribe. After meditating to purge all those thoughts out of your head and then reading for personal development, journaling would be a great way to write down how you feel about the things your learned that morning. Also, taking notes and writing out a plan for the things that your read about in your personal development reading would be a great means for daily scribing. Hal encourages his reader to begin with a 30-day challenge for trying the Miracle Morning, and then decide for yourself if you see a noticeable difference or not.

And, finally, last but certainly not least on the list is How To Make Sh*t Happen written by Sean Whalen. Sean takes a no-nonsense in-your-face approach to keeping yourself on track with the things that are most important in life. This book is not for the faint of heart. However, the reality is often times we need a gentle nudge and sometimes we need a swift kick in the rear to snap us back in line. Sean delivers on that swift kick of justice for us when we need it. He uses his principle of the “Core 4” to guide a plan for structuring every day around doing one thing, purposefully, to work on the four core areas of our lives that should be regarded in the highest. The core four areas are: Passion (relationships), Power (body), Purpose (mind), and Production (business). The idea is that every day you set one timed task to work on each of these four areas, and that by working on each of these each and every day, it will move you closer toward your end goal of relationship, health, financial and personal development success. The action steps planned are to be daily, they are better executed when they are timed and scheduled, and they are non-negotiable. Being that almost everyone nowadays has a smart phone within arms reach at any given moment, he stresses that the phone is the perfect planner to set about planning your Core 4 tasks. Some examples he gives is setting a timer on your phone to text a flirty message to your significant other, or find a trainer or workout partner to keep you accountable in your fitness goals. He also stresses the importance of having a morning routine. All too often, we tend to pick up self-help or personal development books and get all fired up over them because they are saturated with great ideas, and resources, and in our hearts, we know they are filled up with truth. Yet, somehow, when we finish reading the book, we put it down and move on to another book without ever looking back. Sean knows this, and he is continually giving commands throughout the book to “do this now.” As he is going through each of the four principles, he asks you to put the book down and take purposeful and deliberate action to work on the things that are important enough to work on every. Single. Day.

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You Grew Up, Now What?

Butterflies. Or, gas bubbles. That is how everyone explains it. That first faint awareness of feeling your baby moving inside of you. That wonderfully delicate and precious life you co-created, is not becoming an active organism inside your very own body. It is random; almost undetectable and fleeting, at first. Once you realize what the feeling is, you spend hours on end in stillness just waiting to the chance to feel it once again. Eventually, the fluttering gives way to more forceful kicks and then it is like an army of circus elephants have taken refuge inside your womb. Regardless of the shortness of breath, the swollen ankles, and the all too often tear drawing kicks to the rib cage, you savor every single movement that beautiful infant makes. You have just entered a new and exciting, and sometimes terrifying, chapter of your life- you are now, a mother.

Your life is now forever changed, and you will never be the same. No day in your life will ever be the same, either. You feel a sense of elation. I mean, after all, babies are precious; they are adorable, and sweet, and fun. Right? Well, they are, that is, when they are not cranky, or crying for hours on end and there is nothing you can do to make them happy. They tend to get sick, too. Suddenly, horror sets in alongside elation in a perfect marriage of hot and cold emotions. You come to realize that you are now responsible for keeping this precious and innocent human life safe. It is your job to care for them when they are sick, when they get hurt- which you will try with your most valiant efforts, yet fail time and time again to prevent, and when they wake in the middle of the night from the nightmare that torment their peaceful sleep. You think about the future, it is your job to raise them to be decent and responsible adults, and when if they turn out to be less than positive and productive members of society, you feel as though you have failed at your job.

First days of school are times when we believe as moms that are the hardest. From irrational fear that your child will spill his lunch tray as the class makes the, what seems to you, far too long trek from the cafeteria back to their classroom, where they must carry their trays to eat lunch in class, rather than getting to sit in the lunchroom. You worry all day while he is at school about him spilling his lunch and then having to wear wet cloths, and will they provide him another tray? But what if his classmates laugh at him for dropping his tray? It turns out, that his first year in school was much harder for you than it was for him. While he was busy making new friends and learning new games, you were beating yourself up with fear of not being there to watch over him for every minute of the day. He was, after all, your child. Your responsibility.

After that delicate first year of school, they seem to get a little easier with time and practice. You eventually get excited for those memorable first days of a new school year and forever capture them in pictures taken of them in their new outfit with new shoes and those new backpacks. It is, as they say, a Kodak moment. However, it feels as though the school years fly by all to quickly and then one day you are staring down the fact that this new first day of school, is far different than any before it. You are now sending that precious child off to high school. And suddenly, the fears of spilling lunch trays in the hall or scraping knees on the playground or wearing we shoes all day because he cannot resist splashing in mud puddles or if he sits close enough to read the board give way to much greater fears. Now, you are faced with a whole new set of fears- what if someone tempts them with smoking, or drugs? What if he falls in with the wrong crowd and becomes defiant in class? And, what about, girls?

Ah, the teenage years. The time when you realize that up to this point, you only thought you knew what fear was. There are few fears for a mother greater than the first time she watches her child pull out of the driveway for their very first driving experience on their own. It had been somewhat fun, albeit terrifying at times, riding around with them as they learn to drive. But now the learner period is over, and they think they are ready to take the car out all by themselves. Legally, now they can do that. But you are full of fear and a sense of what ifs that you will try anything to convince them they need more time with you in the car with them. It seldom works. Incredibly, following what seems like a never ending few years, you look up one day and come to the stark realization that you have survived. You no longer have the typical drama entailing such things as who will be their good influences, who will be their bad influences, and just how much trouble can they get into. Alas, your child is now an adult.

For a solid twenty or so years your entire being has been centered around your identity a mom. The fact is, being a mom has been your sole identity. And, then one day those children grow up and become adults, and they go out and they begin lives of their own. They now possess the ability to pull from the ideas in their own minds and develop a desire to pursue their own dreams. They morph into their own identities as adults, and you do not get a choice as to where they can or cannot become adults or when that change happens. When it happens, we are not always ready for this change, and we can find ourselves in a place where we simply do not know how to not be a mom. Initially, the first reaction to this new and even more terrifying chapter in life is a gut reaction. We panic because we want to cling on to them as children because being their mom has been our entire identity for the better part of half our lives. You are terrified because you do not know  how to not be a mom and you do not know how to be anything else, so it is terrifying and it entails a deep sense of loss because it sis not as much about control and turning over control to allow them to live their own lives as it is that you can feel as though you are losing your own identity. When your identity is attached to being a mom, you do not know how to let that go easily, because you can feel that you are losing the core of who you are – you identity; your purpose in life.

While is our job, as parents, to nurture them and to protect them and to try and teach them morals and manners, it is only our jobs, for a time. One day, they will grow up, and we are expected to allow them to go out into the world and make their own dreams their own reality. They grow up, then what? That is when we trust that we did the best that we could, even though we made our share of mistakes along the way. And, we trust that we have given the world amazing people. It will be hard to remember what life was like before we were moms. Life without wiping more runny noses than our own or grocery shopping without having Capri Suns and Lunchables in our carts. Now we find ourselves in a place where we trade the Capri Suns for bottles of wine and the Lunchables for frozen bags of vegetables to steam. The house is quieter now and we get to watch programs without ducks or mice or crime fighting turtles, or catchy hero names like T-Bone and Razor. Although I am not thoroughly convinced Hallmark and Lifetime are better substitutes for cartoons. Just my humble opinion. Family game night has given way to date night and movie night for two. Road trips are now much easier, and to some degree, a little less exciting. Sometimes, we reach back into the recesses of our minds and pull out tiny fragments of ourselves before we became mothers. There was a time, when we were ourselves teenagers, when we had dreams and ideas and aspirations. Perhaps, this is the time to go back to college to finish that degree or buy that shiny sports car with only two doors. Maybe, you move down to Florida and spend a year on the Gulf of Mexico trying to rediscover yourself and what you want out of life. Perhaps, what you discover is that what you want is to be close enough to enjoy a relationship with your grandkids, and decide to move back home, after enjoying that year-long vacation on the coast. Regardless of whatever choices you make, they are now yours to make. Find a hobby, or join a new social group, or binge watch Criminal Minds on Netflix. Either way, we cannot hold on to them forever, but we do still have ourselves after they grow up. Always cherish every minute as a mom, it really is a life long commitment. However, never lose sight of your own identity and the person you were before, because, while there may be some of those crazy dreams and ideas that it may be too late for, such as being a drummer in a rock and roll band, there is still a chance to write that book.

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