2023_BlogPrompt #37 – Breathe

Breath is something we often take for granted. If we don’t breathe, we don’t survive. But sometimes, our breath can become tight or labored or uncomfortable simply from our reaction to the stresses of life. So today, I am focusing on breath and breathing. Feel free to share your thoughts. If you choose to take up the challenge, please add a pingback to this prompt.

In my current position, I have learned that I sigh a lot. Students who are studying quietly in the vicinity of my office will tell me that I am sighing. From my inside vantage point, I’m not sure if I am sighing or just remembering to breathe and center. It often happens when I am focused on a project, and I finish up one part or section and move on to the next. I exhale. Apparently loudly.

Life is crazy sometimes, and we need to breathe. Crazy can be a good thing, but sometimes crazy can be felt as way too heavy, busy, chaotic. Crazy can bring undue stress that pulls us up all tight in our core. When I’m feeling stressed, I take a deep, intentional breath. A cleansing breath.

But I don’t just breathe intentionally when I am working. I do so when I am walking or thinking or cleaning. When I am scrolling through social media, and I am stopped by comments that seem out of line, unnecessary, or jarring, I remind myself to breathe, and I keep scrolling. Or I put the phone away.

When I am working on a task that is frustrating and everything I do seems to go wrong, I pause and take a deep breath. I ask myself if I need a break to help me rethink my approach. Sometimes that brief pause is enough, but sometimes, I step away for a few minutes (or a few days) until I can come at the task with more patience and a better mindset.

Breathing is a way to remain centered. It’s a way to remind ourselves that we are human and sometimes need to step away. And it’s a reminder that without breath, there is no life.

Remember to breathe. Practice taking in deep, cleansing breaths. Make it intentional.

Breathe out the chaos and stress as you breathe in healing oxygen.

Breathe out the tension and frustration; breathe in the rest and the peace.

Breathe out impatience and breathe in grace.

Breathe a momentary pause in your day.


2023_BlogPrompt #25 – Adjustment

The word of the day is adjustment. We all have things in our lives or ourselves that need to be adjusted. Or maybe we have had to adjust to something we didn’t anticipate. What adjustments are you making or have you had to make? As always, if you choose to take up the challenge, please add a pingback to this prompt.

Photo by Laura Ockel on Unsplash

I’m working on an attitude adjustment.

Seriously, sometimes we begin to realize things have gone sideways—in fact, they might have been going that way for a while. It is then that we realize we must focus on re-direction, a process that always starts from within. It has to.

Now, I know I’m not so far off track that major adjustments are needed. No, as I evaluate the issue, I see that some gears have become misaligned. I may be moving sideways, but I am doing so in a forward direction. Therefore, I’m not moving forward as quickly and smoothly as I might be.

So I’ve gathered some tools and rolled up my sleeves. I’ve stepped into the “machine room”—where the workings of my brain can be examined—and I’m digging in. If you’ve ever seen those movies or scenes of movies that take place inside the clock face of a clock tower, this is what I’m faced with. Mechanical pieces that are large and cumbersome. Massive gears constantly (albeit slowly) moving. But in here, I have a chance to walk around and inspect the parts to find those that might need adjustment.

Here, I see some rust has built up on some of the cogs, and I carefully scrape it off, adding a bit of oil for good measure. I make an adjustment to two pieces that don’t seem to be seated quite right, and I straighten out some parts that have bowed and bent a bit from the stressors of everyday life. Then I go through and clean and polish everything, so it looks nearly as good as new. Finishing touches are often the detail that brings clarity and confidence to the process. Not only did I do the work, but the work looks good because of all that I’ve put into it—the sweat, the frustration, the love, and the tears.

One thing I’ve learned, if nothing else, is that the good and the bad, the easy and the hard, the happy and the sad… they are all inextricably intertwined in all tasks that are worth completing. Re-adjustments are not always fun, but sometimes they are necessary.

And the learning that comes through the examination and evaluation process? That will be the key to a more efficient adjustment the next time!

2023_BlogPrompt #19 – Passion

It’s so important to discover your passion in life. Your passion may not be something you do to earn a living, but it is something you feel you cannot live without. A passion is something that makes you feel alive, that brings meaning to your life, and allows you to express yourself as nothing else does. Do you know what your passion is? As always, if you choose to take up the challenge, please add a pingback to this prompt.

Paintings by my friend, Jodee, shared with her permission

On my way home from work the other day, I stopped by the library art gallery. In fact, I didn’t know the library has an art gallery, so there’s that. A friend of mine is having an art show, and I had timed my commute home to correspond with the opening. I love this woman’s work, and I wanted to see it hung up and displayed, museum-like.

I have watched her journey back into art after getting lost in the intensity and chaos that is parenthood. In a first step, she committed to completing one post-it note sketch per day for a year, and from there she has jumped all in. Because reclaiming your passion takes a single step. That single step can re-ignite the spark for whatever it is that feeds your soul—art, writing, exercise, communing with Nature.

The art show did not disappoint. Beautiful bright colors, painting after painting, all hanging in one place. Before I left, we had a brief conversation about exactly these things. We talked about how easy it is to lose yourself in the daily tasks of motherhood. We agreed that is so important to take care of yourself and to reclaim whatever it is that speaks to the essence of your being, that feeds your soul. For me, that passion is writing. When I’m not writing, I feel like something is missing in my life.

I hope that you will take some time this weekend to connect with (or reconnect with) your passion.

Old Friends

There’s something about an old friend that can provide connection to the past to keep you grounded.

Sometimes, you just need to spend a little time with an old friend. Sometimes, being with someone you haven’t seen in years can do wonders for your soul. For your well-being.

On Friday, I had an opportunity to spend some time with just such a friend. We hadn’t seen each other in years since we live on opposite coasts, and the opportunities to get together are minimal. But we picked up as if we had just seen each other the previous day.

What I realized is that spending time with an old friend can bring life into sharper focus. It can remind you who you are, how far you have come, and where you are going. Your old friends, they knew you back when life was new and fresh, and opportunities lurked around every corner. You were still figuring out where you fit and how you could contribute to the bigger picture of life. These friends… they helped you to form your identity as you struggled through challenging times, navigated new environments, and started to settle into your adult life, forming new perspectives that were truly yours (and not your parents’).

Old friends are the best friends. You can go years without seeing them—or even communicating much at all—and yet, you always find yourselves right where you left off. Conversation is comfortable and casual as you move from one topic to the next, sometimes circling back in that weird way in which conversations flow. And yet, it never seems weird.

Sometimes, you just need an evening with an old friend. An evening to re-examine who you are and who you’ve become. An evening to reminisce and remember that change is not always a bad thing. An evening to look ahead as life changes from one phase to the next and you continue to evolve… even through midlife and beyond.

Sometimes, you just need an old friend to help you reconnect to all that once was, and still is, and will be important in life.

The Box

Photo by Kelli McClintock on Unsplash 

Sometimes in life, we get stuck.

We do the same thing every day. We see the same people. We eat the same foods. We go to the same places. One day, we look up and realize we haven’t been venturing out of our box. Not in a long time. And we think, Maybe, just maybe, it’s time.

Admittedly, my box has gotten a bit smaller in these past two years. My home is my haven, and I have purposely tried to stay away from people and public events as much as possible. After all, I am with student-people every day, working shoulder to shoulder as we share a document or a computer screen.

But my box is small, and it’s getting too tight around the edges. I have to curl myself up and squish myself in to fit, and to be honest, the air has grown stuffy and stale. The scenery is bleak and unchanging. It’s time to stretch… up and out.

Outside my box, I know grand adventure awaits. Plans have been forming, evolving, coming together, to move beyond the confines of my box. My plans are full of light and energy. They will pose challenge and choice and adventure. But these plans are carefully laid and well-timed. These plans are mine and mine alone, though I might bring others along with me. And perhaps, others will bring me along—maybe willingly and maybe kicking and screaming. There is no doubt adventure awaits. I must simply muster the courage to step outside my box and break free.

Empty Space

On New Year’s Eve, as the final light of 2021 faded into an eerie dusk, I walked through my neighborhood listening to my footsteps, a dog barking in the distance, and the sound of tires on wet pavement as the occasional car passed by on the street. I breathed in the damp winter air as I watched the fog rise from the melting snow. I noted how the snow cover brightened my path and softened the darkness. I took in the world around me in my quiet walk to end the year.

These walks have been important to me over the past two years (since the start of lockdown back in March of 2020). These walks have kept me grounded. They have offered me fifteen minutes each morning to reflect on my day, and they have given me space to breathe, reflect, pray, and allow creativity to flow.

Too often, we tend to fill every minute of our lives with “stuff” that likely doesn’t really need doing. We keep a hectic schedule, running from commitment to appointment to activity. In between times, we cram in as much social media and web-surfing as we can in attempt to prevent downtime and keep our minds from being idle. And so as we enter the new year, I want to urge you to leave yourself some empty space.

Despite all we have been told about idleness, an idle mind is necessary to live a healthy and balanced life. Empty space allows us to recognize and process what is going on in our lives, in our heart, in our heads, and with our emotions. When we have a moment to process the heaviness of the world—and the laughter, as well—it opens up space for new ideas to flow. It opens space for new feelings, for grounded thinking, and for a more objective view of ourselves.

More importantly, it is in the empty space that ideas take shape, dreams become reality, creative ideas form, and inspiration happens. It is in the empty space that new thinking can take hold, leading you to move down an entirely new path in your life. Or maybe it allows you to come up with a plan to change the things that need changing in your life. Regardless, empty space is a vital part of a healthy life. As you fill the days, hours, and moments of 2022, leave some empty space for yourself. Leave some space that won’t be filled with the hustle and bustle of everyday life and social media interactions on your devices. Whatever your empty space brings, may it bring you joy and happiness or at least a more defined direction and self-confidence as you face all that the new year may bring!

Comfort Zone

It has been cold here in New England recently. Earlier this week, it was bone-chilling, teeth-crackling cold. So cold, in fact, that even the thought of going for a walk made me shiver. But after a week in quarantine, working from home, and barely going out, I was stir-crazy, and I forced myself to go for a walk.

I bundled up and stepped out the door and into the cold. The air was still and no one else was out as I walked down the path past the pond. The bare trees of mid-winter reveal the landscape in new ways, and I could see the stream through the twigs and branches that line the path. In warmer months, these twigs would be dense underbrush. I could see where the stream split in two then rejoined as one before emptying into the pond. Far above me, the trees whined and groaned in the slight breeze.

The normal acoustics of the outside world seemed muffled by the cold, the snow on the ground, and my hat on my ears. An airplane flew low overhead preparing to land, and the sound was much quieter than at other times of year when the volume can be deafening.

When you are willing to step outside and brave the elements, you are often rewarded with peace and fresh air and sights not seen indoors. As I walked up the hill, I spotted a sundog gracing the clouds up ahead—a wink from my dad, the spotter of rainbows and shooting stars, letting me know he’s here even though I cannot see him. And at the end of my walk, as I approached home, the wispy strokes of an angel-like cloud danced in the sky, beckoning me forward.

Here’s what I know. When you are willing to step out of the warm comfort of your home and pay attention to the world around you, it feeds your soul. When I stepped outside, I opened myself up to the sights and sounds that awaited me. The smell of snow, the clouds against the blue sky, the shape of a snow heart set off by the dark pavement.

But here’s what I want to know. If these are the possibilities with a simple walk outside, what are the possibilities if you step out of your comfort zone? What kind of growth is possible if you take the step you’ve been putting off? How will you change if you take the risks that you know you want to take, but you can’t quite muster the courage?

True growth happens when we make ourselves vulnerable. When we do the thing we have been putting off. It might be to leave a comfortable job for a new opportunity. It might be to reach across the void of years to reconnect with an old friend. Or to leave a relationship that isn’t healthy. It might be venturing out on your own to create the life you desire and deserve.

Yes, it may be scary. Yes, you will be able to come up with a million and one excuses for not doing the thing. But what do you have to lose if you take the risk? More importantly, what regrets will you have if you don’t take the risk and do whatever it is that is calling your heart?

No doubt, the first few steps will be cold and uncomfortable. No doubt the journey will be bumpy and at times unsettling or even downright discouraging. But when you find your footing, when you take a look around, you will notice the beauty. You will realize your strength. And you will begin to find your confidence.

Take the step, whatever that may be for you. Venture beyond your comfort zone and discover the joy and wonder that lie just beyond your current reach. You just might be surprised by what life has in store for you!


2020 Lesson Number One: Waiting is an important part of life.

Over the years, our culture has evolved into a society that rejects waiting as undesirable and something to be avoided.  We have found ways to remove the need to wait from our lives. We are able to find out the gender of an unborn child so we don’t have to wait nine long months and wonder about the child we will meet. When we have an idea we want to explore or research we want to do, we have a wealth of information at our fingertips—no more waiting for the library to open and then waiting to obtain a physical copy of a book or magazine that might have to come from another town or state. Nope… information is now available (from the comfort of your couch) at any time of the day or night. Need something that you don’t have in your house? Place an order, and if you are willing to pay a little extra, you can have the item by tomorrow. Not feeling well? No need to wait to see the doctor. Just take to the internet and diagnose yourself! That way, you can decide if you really need to bother the doctor, and when you finally get an appointment, you can tell the doctor what is wrong with you. (Note: I do not support self-diagnosis via the internet and nether do most doctors).

When all is said and done, we don’t get used to waiting anymore. We expect instant gratification. We have forgotten that there are things we cannot control, regardless of the time that passes. We have lost the benefits of waiting—of delaying gratification and anticipating what will come… in time. And most importantly, we have forgotten the art of using waiting time to benefit our lives and ourselves.

This year, we had to wait, and we had to figure out how to deal with long stretches of time spent waiting. On March 13, when so many of us were told to go home and stay there for two weeks, we thought it would be just that—two weeks. But two weeks stretched to a month, then two, and before we knew it, we had been at home for four months. Or six months. Or more.

People took up new hobbies. They worked on developing cooking and baking skills. They learned to knit. They took up yoga and meditation. They made home improvements and became master gardeners. People began taking walks in nature, playing outside with their children, and connecting with family members. People connected with each other as they reflected on what was to come and how our society—and their lives—might be different on the other side of COVID.

Waiting is not a waste of time, as society has programmed us to believe. Waiting is one of those in-between-spaces where we think nothing is happening. And yet, waiting is a valid and valued part of life. Waiting is where the pieces of life come together. Waiting—and working through problems and ideas in our heads and lives—is where meaning is found.

This year, we learned to wait, and hopefully this new skill will help us to create a more meaningful life when we finally settle into our new normal.

Blooming – 2020 style

My Christmas cactus is having a difficult time this year. It has always been a late bloomer, but this year, it is really struggling. It has been pushing out teeny little buds that show great promise. Like many things this past year, these buds give me a brief hint of excitement and hope. But after a few days, they wither up and fall off. This cactus… it’s not even close to blooming, and I am wondering if it will bloom at all this year.

Truth be told, I have been having trouble blooming this year, as well. This year has been tough, and some days I feel like I just don’t have it in me to be my best. Some days I lack the patience necessary to think about tomorrow. The days blend together, and Monday becomes Tuesday and blends with WednesdayThursdayFriday until the weekend, and then the week starts over again. On and on and on it goes.

It’s been a tough year, but it has also been an important year. In its break from reality, its focus on silence, its fear of crowded spaces, this year has given us some much-needed room for reflection. I tried hard to take advantage of what this year offered, so I might be in a better space going forward. I refrained from railing against authority and complaining about not living life as “normal.” I embarked on a lengthy journey to reconnect with my self—the essential core of who I really am.

I’m not going to lie. This year was filled with tough lessons that weren’t fun but were very much necessary. It took a great deal of patience and tenacity to sit through these long months, especially when we began to see hints of how far we have strayed from where we need to be. Our goals and our focus have drifted away from being good people to amassing as many possessions and as much power as we can, no matter the cost. We have grown to focus not on who we are as people, but on what and how much we have. I have to believe this is not why we are here.

So I took this year as a correction. I am taking its lessons, and I am coming back to center. I am re-grounding and rediscovering myself and my mission for my life. The lessons I learned emerged—as many do—from loss, boredom, anxiety, and resolve. They came in the form of traits such as patience, resilience, tenacity, discipline, and a habit of self-reflection. They involve listening to myself in order to continuously rediscover and recreate who I am. And they involve looking carefully and paying attention to the little things so I will know better how to fill the spaces where need is great.

Stay with me for a few days. I’m going to take you on a journey through this past year and share with you some of the lessons that I have learned—lessons that I will take with me as I venture into 2021.