Ask More Questions

my Starbucks experience

I have a favorite drink at Starbucks, and I get it a couple times a month. For some reason it has inconsistent results, so early on I started ordering it with modifications. Sometimes I loved it and other times I was disappointed.

One early morning I ordered my coffee with all the special requests I’d invented, and the sweet girl helping me asked what I was hoping to accomplish with the changes: stronger coffee flavor, less sugar, or something else? I wanted a less sweet, bolder coffee flavor. She suggested that I order it without water, and shared with me how the drink is made. The outcome was perfection!

I drove away so thankful that this woman took the time to ASK me questions and educate me!

This experience got me thinking… I wonder how many other things in my life are “modified” because of assumption, or would be handled differently if I was asking more questions? Also, in my friendships and work relationships, do I ask enough questions of others to truly understand where they’re coming from, what they need, and how I can best serve them?

I’ve challenged myself to ASK MORE QUESTIONS, and I invite you to join me. Let’s live to learn, and in anything where assumptions are made, be more self aware.

Project Life | Week Three

I live in a small pocket of a large city, and often move between destinations by car. I’m more motivated to slow down and pay closer attention to my surroundings because of this photography assignment, and look for the special, unusual, and unique around me. This collection of images reflects everything wonderful about my life: reading, being a mother, goal setting & journaling, little treasures (macro photography and very shallow depth-of-field), accomplishments, and the beautiful world around me.

This week’s biggest achievement is reflected in the final photo… I ran my second race with dramatic improvement in both time and experience. My first 5k was this past December. I barely survived, after a couple months of training. I looked like death when I crossed the finish line, and it was really hard! My inner voice wasn’t friendly. I questioned my sanity for coming up with such a ridiculous goal. What crazy version of myself thought it was a good idea to put a run on my “bucket list”? I’m not even a runner!

I am stubborn, competitive, and goal oriented – all things that I like about my personality, in the event you were wondering. So I received the results from my first race, and the same day committed to run another race within a couple of months. I became a runner the moment I chose to do a second race; not when I was training for the first race, or even when I completed the first race, but when I made the choice to include running in my everyday life long-term. I’d achieved my goal of running a 5k “someday” and could have quit… I’m so glad I kept pushing forward! I crossed the finish line of my second 5k with a smile on my face. I felt powerful and accomplished. I felt so validated, knowing that every little effort is valuable, and loving the journey is necessary. My inner voice is now my biggest cheerleader. I’m friends with myself, and believe I will continue to get stronger and more capable with time and consistent effort. I am worth the effort, consistency, and self love!

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The Little Moments

I love being a mom, am fascinated by the uniqueness of my three children, believe that I can learn as much from them as they can learn from me, and sometimes I think all my hair will fall out before it even has a chance to turn gray. Parenting is a beautiful, challenging, and ever-changing journey!

My youngest is three. He’s more affectionate and emotionally volatile than his older brother and sister, definitely wears his heart on his sleeve, and is by far the hardest to parent (right now). I believe his determination for what he wants and passionate personality will serve him well as an adult, but navigating his fits is really hard.

The other day I needed a break, and to reset the evening after a major meltdown during dinner. Play-time in the bath was my best idea, and it worked like magic! I walked away to clean-up the food that covered my table and floor, take some deep breaths, and re-center myself (with my daughter watching him, because his safety matter more than any mess). I made it halfway down the stairs when my heart stopped my feet. He was playing so sweetly, creating an epic adventure with his monster-truck and the bath bubbles, and laughing. I instantly melted, grabbed my camera to capture the sweet moment, and reminded myself that children aren’t restricted by the social rules that force adults to hide their true feelings. While I can’t imagine an adult stomping their feet, throwing their food on the floor, and wailing through an entire meal, the emotional recovery rate of children is remarkable. To go from utterly angry, sad, and frustrated to truly happy and having fun in 5 minutes is amazing!


We Are All Survivors

Oftentimes I get to the end of a day and wish I had more time. The house isn’t as clean as I’d like, there is always something left to be done, and no matter how much I’ve accomplished, I feel like I’m falling short. I have to remind myself that what my children care about is making memories and having quality time together, like our dance parties, cuddling on the couch, reading books, going on little adventures, and singing at bed-time. They don’t care if our dinner is fancy, if the kitchen is sparkling, or if I’m behind on laundry. Additionally, I need time to take care of myself. When I’m rested, achieving my goals, exercising, and connecting with family and friends, my cup is full and I have more energy, love and happiness for those around me.

I expect myself to be super-human, and often set myself up for unnecessary disappointment by believing I can achieve perfection.

My life changed dramatically a year ago, with the ending a very broken and emotionally damaging marriage. I found myself excited to heal yet lost in the darkness of pain, and overwhelmed with the process of coming back to life. There is judgement in divorce, and I cared way too much about what others assumed about my life. Becoming a single mother of three felt embarrassing, and I was afraid of becoming jaded, but walking away felt like saving my life. I didn’t fail, I removed myself from an abusive situation so my children could have a happy home, and I could stop living as a shell of myself.

It takes so much strength and courage to change everything, even when it’s the right thing to do!

My healing journey has been transformative. While I don’t believe that everything happens for a reason, I do believe that we can grow from our trials and learn from our mistakes. We can become wiser. More than anything else, I had to learn how to forgive myself, and I’ve discovered happiness and enjoyment in life that I didn’t know existed – there’s something about starting over after losing yourself that’s like seeing and experiencing the world with child-like enthusiasm. I appreciate so much the person I’ve become because of the brokenness I’ve experienced. My ability to live one day at a time, focus on the little things instead of worrying about tomorrow, love those around me with more patience and understanding, and pursue my dreams with faith and enthusiasm are all the beautiful result of blooming out of the ashes that were meant to destroy me.

We are all facing something hard, living with demons from our past, trying to heal, and wishing things were easier. I found comfort during my darkest days knowing that I wasn’t alone in my suffering, and now I live with the happiness that comes from knowing we can all reinvent ourselves. We are all survivors, and each day is a new beginning.

Project Life | Week Two

I love the idea that life is an adventure! I also think it’s important to seize-the-moment, laugh at ourselves, and be challenged. This week’s Project Life comes with some fun experiences: I embarrassed my daughter with a ridiculous outfit to stay warm while capturing water-drops of leaves … I walked out of work with my camera to photograph early morning clouds, and was momentarily mesmerized by how truly small we are while watching a private plane overhead, as tiny as an ant compared to the massive sky … also, I’m training for a 10k and ran my longest distance this week (4 miles), hence the picture of my running shoes (which was my daughter’s idea). Everywhere I’m walking and driving I now see things I’d love to photograph, and often pause to appreciate beauty where I wouldn’t have previously noticed it.

I started this project so I would fall in love with photography again, and it’s quickly transforming how I see the world around me!

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Becoming More Authentic

A couple years ago I challenged myself to stop describing my life as “busy”; an answer I felt was superficial and rarely turned into a conversation. We are all pulled in multiple directions at once. We are all stressed and tired at times. I wanted to answer the question “how are you?” or “what’s new?” with more truth: “I’m really happy” or “I’m feeling overwhelmed” or “I’m lonely” or “I’m excited” or “I’m so proud” or “I’m struggling” or “I’d love to talk more”. I discovered that this prompted more honest conversations and connections, first with family and friends where it was easier to be more open, and then professionally and even with strangers. Being transparent invites transparency. It’s so refreshing to discover commonality with others, and to interact in more meaningful ways.

When I started this practice, I was only considering myself. I needed to be more truthful with others about how I was doing during a difficult time in my life, because my default “I’m fine” had become part of my coping mechanism (maybe if I said it enough times it would become true). I thought it would burden others to know the truth, and I wasn’t looking for sympathy. I’m strong. I’m a fighter. I’m a survivor. I can get through anything and come out the other side better because of it. Pretending I was okay when I wasn’t left me feeling lonely and wishing those around me understood what I was going through and what I needed.

I quickly discovered that opening-up my heart and being more authentic greatly improved the nature of my relationships and social interactions. I’ve learned wonderful things about myself and others on this self-discovery journey. I’ve given more time and care to those around me, been more present, and in the process I learned to love myself. We all have light and darkness. We all have happiness and sadness. We are all going through something and could use a hug. We all need more compliments, acceptance, understanding and love. We are all strange and beautiful and wonderful as we were created.

So I have a question for you: what do we gain by guarding our real thoughts and feelings?

I know it seems risky (or maybe downright scary), but I’m confident that if you try this for yourself, it will bless your life and those around you in immeasurable ways. Be authentic, embrace how special you are, and give others a chance to know the real you!

Project Life | Week One

Last fall I started reading The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin (which I highly recommend). Motivated to try it for myself, I created “twelve commandments” and a goal to journal my experiences. #10 on my list is to take a “real camera” picture daily, with the idea that each commandment is focused on for a month. I took this challenge a step further when defining my goals for 2019, and committed to myself that I would take and share a photo everyday for an entire year. This project is special to me — I’ve been a photographer for nearly 20 years (portraits and weddings), and have lost some of my youthful enthusiasm for seeing life through the eye of the lens. I hope to rediscover my love for photography by doing something that’s truly for myself.

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A New Start

There is so much excitement, anticipation, and adventure in new beginnings. The other side of these wonderful emotions can be fear and worry. I’m a dreamer, and with that comes big ideas and a wild spirit. My younger self would jump-in head first with little consideration, and problem solve along the way. Being slightly wiser, I like to have a plan; a vision and purpose before taking the leap and adding something new to my already busy life.

I’ve had a passion for writing and photography all my life, and a dream to be a published author since college. Without action, a dream is just like wishing on stars. I’m on a purpose driven journey (inspired by dozens of creatives who are living their dreams), and I have faith that small actions added together creates greatness. This is where I’ll share my thoughts, to give hope to those who are struggling, to inspire those with dreams lacking action, and to have a voice that changes lives by honestly acknowledging the highs and lows of life in a way that helps us love ourselves more.

Welcome, and thank you for being here with me.