Turn around

wp-1477057896733.jpgAs I was walking to work the other day a lot of things were floating through my head — how much I had to do, my task list, my next paper due in classes, my novel I need to get finished, etc. And then I realized, I was allowing myself to drown in that moment of “I have so much to do.” Immediately, what came to mind was the “Turn Around Don’t Drown” phrase. Which, by the way, is a great marketing campaign — never drive into water. I’ve linked the campaign above. It’s important information and I want to give proper credit.

With that said, as my mind was swirling and planning out my day, I was missing out on some precious unplug time. I didn’t even look up at the beautiful trees on campus or stop to smile at a stranger — things I love to do. And in that moment, I told myself to “turn around.” I put my phone back into my pocket (which was open to my overused calendar app) and I just walked. I breathed in the air. I took the long way to my office and I got to enjoy the campus fountain and chat with a couple of faculty members. I took a photo and put it on my blog page. By the time I got to my office my mind was clear. My day didn’t seem so busy and the task list didn’t seem to daunting. I was ready to tackle my busy day at a job I love and yearned for some many years to obtain.

In that instant I was able to turn my mind to gratitude. I gave thanks for the wonderful universe which provided me with this incredible day and the ability to get to my incredible job.

So, take some time to turn around today. Take a deep breath and give thanks. Gratitude helps and it truly matters.

 

 

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Grateful for knowledge

 

Last night I turFullSizeRender 6ned in my final assignment for the semester, my first semester as a grad student in creative writing. There was quite a bit of celebrating as I hit the submit button, I admit, but also a bit of sadness.

This semester has been a mixture of emotions. I have been out of school for several years, since having earned my MBA. Working at an educational institution, I caught the thirst for knowledge again and decided to pursue another degree — creative writing — while working my full-time job in marketing. I took two classes this semester — one online and one in person. I remember my first class and a wave of gratitude came over me for the knowledge I had the privilege of acquiring. And, believe me, I know what a privilege it is to be able to learn.

Then, reality set in. Assignments started to pile up and I evenings and weekends were consumed with reading, writing and researching. I admit the gratitude waned a bit and I started to have a love-hate relationship with my classes (as most students do). I even dubbed my homework spot in my house “the cave.”

But, as the semester wrapped up, I started to feel sad. I’ll never get a “first semester back” with these classes and my fellow students again. Yes, there will be another semester, but none will ever be quite the same.

I’m so grateful.

To my cheerleaders who had to listen to me groan as I spent hours in my cave, thank you.

I’m so grateful for the gift of knowledge and so grateful for the semesters to come.

Day 800 of thankfuls, 800 days of change

wpid-20150525_140935.jpgI cannot believe my thankful project reached day 800 a few days ago. Day. 800. That’s a lot of living!

My journey with posting thankfuls on my personal Facebook account began in November 2013 — almost three years ago. I started it, like many of my Facebook friends, during the month of Thanksgiving and I only intended to do it for those 30 days.

Halfway through that month, my mother had a house fire and we lost our dad in that fire. I decided to keep going — to not only find something good about those terrible days, but to also honor him. Eight hundred-plus posts later, here I am.

This journey, more than anything, has been unexpected. I didn’t expect to keep the posts going so long (but I’m glad I have) and I didn’t expect many of the life changes/surprises along the day.

During the past few years I’ve loved and lost. I’ve had my amazing days, my so-so days and my downright painful days. I had major surgery. I am changing careers in a week. So many changes, so much growth.

What I’ve learned about this life is that one thing is certain: it is ever-changing. And most of the time you don’t see those changes coming. Sometimes they show up wrapped up in a pretty bow in a box full of joy. Other times they blindside you and cut you to your knees.

I can say, with honesty, that I’m grateful for every change. I’ve learned something from every one. I’m learning to enjoy life in the moment. I’m learning to embrace change no matter what the change is.

Here’s to the next 800 days!

 

Slow down

wpid-20150525_140935.jpgI was having a conversation with someone this week about slowing down and noticing the world around us…she’ll know who she is if she reads this. As I’m listening to her talk and tell her story she used as an example, I realized something about myself — how often I don’t slow down and enjoy the moment.

I have to laugh at myself as I type this and it’s confession time — even as I type this I’m going back and forth between conversations on Facebook. I’ll type a sentence or two over here and go back to join a conversation on Facebook.

I see a problem here.

I pretty much live my entire life this way. My job requires multi-tasking, which isn’t a bad thing for the newspaper business, but I’ve let it bleed into the rest of my life. Tonight, I cooked dinner, did laundry, partially cleaned a room and chatted with several people via text — at the same time. I wasn’t giving any of those tasks my full attention. I bounced from one task to another — only partially finishing a task before I moved to another one. Somehow, the dinner was cooked (and not burned), the laundry was folded (and no wrinkles) and I managed to wrap up my conversations while adding another task — trying to figure out why the sound on the television quit working. So, at one point I was behind the TV trying to reconnect wires that had some loose and trying to calculate how much time I had before I burned my dinner. But, dinner got done, the sound now works and here I am typing a blog while keeping up with now three Facebook conversations.

See a problem here? I’m sure you’re tired just reading that. It made me tired to write it.

One of my goals this year is to slow down. Look around. Enjoy the moment. Do ONE task at a time when I’m able. While I’m proud of my ability to multi-task I don’t really ever see the moment — the small picture. It’s great to see the big picture, but the small picture is beautiful too. That’s where the birds live. The moments live. In the SMALL picture.

The saying “one thing at a time” is something I’m going to work very hard to put into practice.

Missouri State Pen

wpid-20150815_215557.jpgThis weekend I had the opportunity to live a dream — an overnight paranormal investigation of a decommissioned prison.wpid-20150815_230151.jpg

I went with a group to Missouri State Penitentiary, in Jefferson City, Mo., which was originally opened in 1836 and decommissioned in 2004. It was once the largest prison in the United States and held 5,200 inmates at its peak, according to their website. Known as the “bloodiest 47 acres in America,” this trip was a trip of a lifetime.wpid-20150816_033615.jpg

The prison held men and women, criminally insane and general population. It carried out executions through a gas chamber, which we had the opportunity to tour, and also one person was executed via lethal injection.

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Death row cells included a slab bed.

“A former Union General, the first train robber, 1930s gangsters, world champion athletes and the assassin that killed Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. all came through the gates of the Missouri State Penitentiary (MSP) as inmates,” according to the website. To read more about infamous inmates go here.

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Rows and rows of cells. Imagine the noise when this was in operation.

Being in those halls, in those cells, at night, was an incredible experience. I was struck by how much echo carries through the halls and imagined how loud it must have been in “A Hall” with several floors of inmates, two (or more) to a cell.

The feeling from cell to cell varied. In one cell I’d feel nothing. The next, sadness and anger. It’s amazing how energy sticks around long after the physical being is gone.

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Gas chamber

The entire experience was incredible and I hope to go back soon!

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Some inmates got to paint their cells in “A Hall.”

600 days of gratitude

wpid-20150805_065052.jpgA couple of days ago I hit day 600 in my personal Facebook gratitude posts. SIX HUNDRED. Six hundred days of posting what I’m grateful for. Six hundred days. That’s a lot of days and it blows me away that I’ve kept it up this long. Call it dedicated, compulsive, whatever, but I’ve never been sorry I’ve kept it going this long.

The only break I’ve taken since I started these some 600 days ago is when I had surgery last month and once I was back online, I simply started where I left off.

Every 100 days or so, I try to explain how I got started and why I do this. I started this nearly two years ago as part of a 30-day Thanksgiving challenge. I had attempted it before but it never stuck — it never became a habit to me. A couple weeks into the challenge, my father was killed in a house fire. Those were dark days for our family and throughout the days of aftermath, I found things to be thankful for — even in the darkness.

December rolled around and I wasn’t ready to stop. So I kept going. Thirty days turned into 60. Sixty turned int0 100 and now I’m past 600. For me it’s a daily time to reflect on one thing I’m thankful for. Sure there are days I put more effort into it than others. And sure, some days I post just to get my daily thankful in. After 600 days, you’re going to have days where you do it just to get it done. But, it’s a part of my daily life now and I have no intention of stopping anytime soon.

Continuing these thankfuls have kept me centered on gratitude. You can find gratitude in the darkest of situations — and yes, sometimes you have to really flipping work for it. For me, gratitude doesn’t just happen. Just this morning I was driving to work with a lot on my mind and feeling very ungrateful and disgruntled. Between surgery recovery and some other challenges, I’ve been exhausted and overwhelmed, especially this week. These words from another blog came to mind: “Fulfillment and happiness in everyday life doesn’t just happen.  We have to work for it.  We have to make choices.  Part of that is choosing to be positive and not feed the fear and anger.”

Pretty much sums it up. Credit for blog above: I Got A Dumpster Family. I’ve been a reader of this blog for years. You should too, you won’t be sorry. You can find the complete post from her blog here.

A man and his dog

wpid-20150731_202640.jpgI haven’t been able to do nearly as much as I used to in these few weeks since surgery…major surgery will do that to you. But last night I was able to get out and see the world. I was thrilled to see a road we usually take was open after floods. Finally! They hadn’t done any work to it, but it was dry and passable.

An amazing, wonderful, post-flood world awaited. The views were stunning and the photos were incredible.

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This is algae under the trees.

The highlight of the evening was running into an equally-enthusiastic man on a fishing mission. We’d seen him before on these rides. He drives an old truck and always has his old black lab with him. While standing outside marveling at the incredible views that we haven’t been able to see for months, the man parked, let his dog out, caught a few minnows in hopes of a really big fish in return and then joined us further down the road.

wpid-20150731_203203.jpgIn listening to this man we learned he is a Vietnam veteran, with Agent Orange. He’s had a tough life dealing with broken relationships, nightmares from the war and fighting for his disability rights that took him over 40 years to obtain.

“I  just had two nightmares last night,” he said. “Man, I hope they don’t come true.”

We listened to his war stories, the government’s denial of his benefits and his stories of joy, hope and happiness. Last night it was just him and his dog. The previous night he had been fishing with family members and they had caught several fish — many were gar — which was much to his dismay. He loves to fish, hunt and enjoy his life. These are his stomping grounds too.

“If you know a woman who likes to fish, look me up,” were some of his parting words.

This man was a generous man, offering to let us fish with him, offering us beverages and plenty of stories. On that lone dirt road, we met a true gem — and I imagine a legend of sorts in the area. The next time I run into this man, I hope to do a photo shoot of sorts with him — a photo essay capturing the essence of his life, his struggles and his perseverance over it all. There’s a story in everyone, I promise. It’s just that some people are more open and willing to share than others.

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Baby armadillos were spotted!

wpid-20150731_200034.jpgIt’s those moments in life that makes the rest of the stresses melt away — in those moments listening to him tell stories about his life the rest of the world felt so far away. It was an important lesson — if we live in the moment — and allow that moment to consume us — the rest will fall away. Even if it’s just for a bit. Truthfully, the stresses of the world will be there waiting for us when we’re ready to return.

The evening was capped off with a stunning sunset over the marshes, many critters and a great feeling of joy.