Dear Younger Me

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Have you heard the song Dear Younger Me be Mercy Me? You can listen here.

I do realize that Mercy Me did not come up with this concept. I have read letters to the “younger me” on various sites and blogs. It’s a good concept because if we knew then what we knew now, we would do a lot of things differently. Or so we think.

But would we?

I’m not so sure, because life is a journey. All the things that we have experienced, no matter how horribly wrong things might have gone, or even how incredibly awesome they may have been, well, those things make us the people we are today. All of those experiences.

That song, Dear Younger Me, gets me every time.

So I decided to write a letter to the younger me. I may or may not use things that directly happened to me personally.

Dear Younger Me,

I stand in amazement as I write this letter to you. I am amazed that you are still here, standing strong, but not alone, getting out of the bed everyday, doing it all again.

Dear 10 year old me. It’s not your fault. You were never meant to carry that alone. Friends are fallible people. It’s a lesson you learned early on, or maybe you didn’t, because you kept expecting your best friend to treat you how you wanted to be treated, how you treated her. I’m sorry it didn’t turn out that way, but it’s okay now. You are exactly where God wants you to be and those experiences as a 10 year old little girl, well they helped shape you into the person you are today.

Dear 12 year old me. It’s not your fault. You did nothing to deserve to be bullied or sexually harnessed and abused. You were innocent. You neither asked to be touched inappropriately by those who should have known better, nor wanted it. And while I’m at it, drop the guilt about the no talk rule you were abiding by. You were just trying to survive, doing the best you could do with the knowledge you had.  Forgive yourself, and forgive the perpetrators, as hard as that may seem. It’s for your peace of mind, not theirs.

Dear 14 year old me. Wow, your first boyfriend! It’s not your fault. Nobody taught you how to have a healthy relationship with the opposite sex. Things like that weren’t discussed in your day. If truth be told, they’re not always discussed in this day either. It’s just the way things are. We expect our kids to intuitively know these things. They can’t and they don’t. You couldn’t have known your first boyfriend had another girlfriend the whole time he was with you. He went to a different school. So did she. You’re worthy of loyalty and love. You were then. You are now.

Dear 16 year old me. You did good, all things considering. You couldn’t have known that the things that were going on in your life at the time, and the lives of those you loved, would cause you to make decisions you would one day regret. You couldn’t know what you didn’t know. It will make life easier in the long run if you let it go now.

Dear 20 year old me. You’re in love! It’s for real this time. It’s the commitment-for-life kind of love. You look back now and think: “If only I had known”, but that’s the whole point of this letter. You didn’t. You weren’t designed to do life alone. You were created to be a part of a team, many teams in fact, because we need each other. And there’s no more intimate team than that of a spouse.

Unless it isn’t.

And if you find yourself in that lonely marriage, the one where you and your spouse just don’t connect, the fighting, the dysfunction, the money issues, the abuse, the infidelity, the alcoholism, the drug addiction, the sex addiction, the gambling addiction and on and on and on. It’s not your fault. Those things that affected you greatly, actually had nothing to do with you. It’s true that you had a part to play and true too, that it’s so very important to own your part, but for here, for this purpose, please know that you are worthy.

You ARE enough.

You didn’t deserve the treatment you received.

You aren’t stupid.

You aren’t ugly.

You aren’t a loser.

You aren’t any of these things.

You aren’t defined by life’s experiences or the actions of others.

You are valuable.

You are unique.

You are infinitely beautiful.

You are amazing, a one of a kind, unique creation.

You are loved.

Dear younger me, You have a lifetime of experience you carry with you. Some are good, many are not. But from where I sit, all things considering, it’s amazing that you are where you are today. Those things that have hurt you the most, are the things that you have been gifted with to help other people.

The messes of your life can become the messages you have to reach out to those who find themselves in those familiar places you have visited. What an amazing opportunity you have been given.

It’s the 12th step in AA’s 12 Step Program: Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics (and all those with issues), and to practice these principles in all of our affairs.

Dear younger me, you were never meant to do life alone. You made mistakes along the way, but you haven’t let them stop you from living and being engaged in life.

And that…that’s a very good thing indeed.

 

 

It Was Enough

Funny how some days just get emotional, like out of the blue, for no apparent reason. Sunday was like that for me, but something small happened that was enough to fill my heart.

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The day started in a good way, a connection with a loved one of my dear friend Jan, who left this world last year.

The church service was good as Kyle continued to talk about the Gift of Desperation.

I wrapped up a fun 24 hours with my dog nephew, Moby.

And I attended the shower of a young woman I’ve known since she was in elementary school, a good friend of my daughter. My how time flies. It was good seeing the faces of those I haven’t seen in a while, hugging them and exchanging news of families and growing kids.

I’m not going to lie, I left the shower with a feeling of sadness that I didn’t quite get. I know enough about sadness (or any emotion for that matter) to know that feelings are just feelings. They don’t have to make sense, they don’t have to have anything to do with intellect and they definitely won’t last forever. I know too, that experiencing feelings and staying with them usually leads to self-awareness and promotes personal growth, and oftentimes spills over to other relationships.

Sunday, one tiny thing was enough.

I returned home from the bridal shower to sit and ponder the events of the day; happy times, good food and meaningful re-connections. My daughter was sitting outside as well and asked me if I had read the latest Facebook post from my son, the one in Slovakia. I asked her to read it aloud.

It was filled with events of the past week and some upcoming plans. I always enjoy his updates.

A little later I re-read his post on my phone and happened to see a few comments. I read an exchange that was enough to cause a tear to run down my cheek…okay, maybe a few tears and both cheeks were definitely involved. Someone had complimented his writing and he replied: “I think I get that from my mom”.

That was it. That was enough.

It was enough to help me realize that I was missing my boys, him and his brother who moved away six weeks ago.

It was enough to help me grieve a little bit more of those rapid-fire days of childhood now gone. Wasn’t it just yesterday when this bride-to-be was hanging at my house, spending time playing games, baking cookies, doing hair and watching movies all night with my daughter?

It was enough to help me know that no matter the distance, hearts can still connect.

It was enough to make me grateful for time spent with family and friends even when they are gone, whether it be to a far away country or from this world altogether.

It was enough to remind me that time stands still for no one, and living in the present, fully engaged is the only way to do life.

It was enough for that day.

Because this feeling too shall pass and there will be more to come.

The happy.

The sad.

The missing.

The excitement.

The connections.

But today?

Today it was enough.

Life is a Curious Thing

Life is a curious thing as Amy Grant wrote in one of her songs. It really is.

I have been dealing with back issues for the past week and a half. I don’t have back issues…

I twisted it getting out of bed and that was that. I’ve been living on ibuprofen for awhile now, trying to minimize the use of my back, which is hard to do considering I have a small cleaning business which requires manual labor. Not often, mind you, but enough to make it a must to have a healthy…everything!

I was talking with a customer today. I don’t usually run into her, although I do a few jobs for her on a weekly basis. She was running late so we chatted a bit while she got her things together to leave.

She has tons of framed photos sitting around in several of the rooms I attend to, and I asked her if she had any grand kids. I was really just making conversation but her reply surprised me. She has two adult children, both married, however, she said she didn’t have any grandchildren and probably never would.

She said her son was scared to death to have kids because his younger sister, her daughter, has a rare disease which has caused kidney problems. She said her daughter has one of her kidneys and one of her husband’s, the daughter’s dad.

Wow!

Life is a curious thing because from the outside looking in, you would think that this couple has it all together. They live a pretty good life in comparison to others I know. They enjoy each other. They own their own business. They own real estate. They travel. They have friends. They are very social and do a lot of fun things with family and friends.

Yet their daughter is on dialysis. She spends a lot of her time in doctors’ offices, yet more time still helping those who are “less fortunate” than she is.

Life is a curious thing.

“Never compare your inside with the outside of others”, is a saying in the rooms of recovery. I’ve heard it before. I get it too. Yet not as much as I got it today.

This beautiful, “lucky” woman that I admire greatly has a daughter with a serious illness and has had it most of her life.

It gave me pause to reflect on the things I have to be grateful for in a whole new way, because today, I am once again reminded that life is a curious thing.

You don’t know what you don’t know.

I’ve had my share of troubles. Let me count the ways.

But today, at this precise moment, I am grateful for the good health of my kids. I am grateful that they are safe and enjoying fulfilling, albeit sometimes mundane, lives.

I am grateful for my family and friends.

I am grateful for life’s experiences even though things haven’t always turned out exactly like I planned.

I am grateful because…

Life is a curious thing.

What If?

I watch, I listen and I read the text messages; not as an innocent bystander to the issues being discussed, but as a fellow sojourner. Me too, I think as I hear the pain and depths of despair. Me too.

But what if?

I know the importance of having a tribe; a group of people to talk with, to be vulnerable with, to be able to share openly and honestly with, knowing that you won’t be judged or rejected. To just be…

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This group of women who share their hearts, experiences and fears support each other in a way that is both special and loving, though I can’t help but to think they are missing a piece of the puzzle that could make all the difference in the world.

The woman who had to live through the hell of her husband’s infidelity and watch as the family they had created together being dismantled, piece by piece, turning a once loving family into a battleground of legalese. Then standing by while he married the “new love” he had found. The pain of betrayal alone is sometimes too great to bare on so many levels, and yet, she had to, all the while trying to be strong and do the right thing for the kids. Doesn’t matter if they are adults or on the threshold of  becoming so.

As I read the exchange of texts, encouragement offered, prayers said, instilling support with the message that you are not alone, my mind wandered back to what if?

What if you could accept that the loving God that you put your trust in, has brought this into your life for a purpose? Not as a punishment or judgement of some wrong done, but because He loves you so much and He wants the best for you.

What if you could let go of all that you think you know about God and the Bible, and allow Him to show you what it is He wants to do?

I know things went horribly wrong. I know it hurts beyond words to describe, but what if, when the unthinkable happens, God shows up in the devastation to bring sweet, healing change?

Change will mean pain and wading through your junk, the junk you’ve long since buried, or so you thought. Change means unpacking the baggage that you’ve been lugging around for…well…most of your life. It means unpacking and putting away for good, which means that you’re letting go of those hurts for a healthier, more peaceful and joyful life.

But you can’t get there until you do the very hard work of letting go and letting God.

It means letting go of your spiritual facade that all is well if you just trust God, say the right things, pray the right prayers, read the right scriptures, attend the correct amount of church services…

It means getting real (with yourself first) and accepting that the way you’ve always done things hasn’t worked, because you’re still where you were twenty years ago.

It means embracing the pain, acknowledging that you don’t really know what you think you know.

It means letting God be who He is and letting Him do what He want to do in your life.

He’s looking to help you but He can’t do so until you are ready to see the situation you find yourself in to be the avenue He can use to bring about healing.

It means owning your part when it sometimes looks like you have no part to own.

It takes courage, my friend, a huge amount of courage but only the smallest of desires to change.

It takes a willingness to allow Him to do what He wants to do in your life.

What if?

What if you let Him?

Second Half of 48 Hours in Chicago

Sunday dawned and the second half of 48 hours in Chicago had begun. The first part is here: 48 Hours in Chicago. The morning was designated for sessions at the conference, however, we had learned that the conference hosts had provided the attendees with three tours of Chicago to choose from for Sunday afternoon pleasure, on a double-decker tour bus.

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The tour guide in the red shirt wasn’t our first guide. Minutes after the bus pulled out of the station (so to speak) our original guide went down the spiral staircase with an “I’ll be back in a minute” announcement. When she returned, she picked up the microphone to begin the tour. She was in the front of the bus with her back to the goings-on ahead, when suddenly someone yelled “Duck” to our guide. She ducked briefly, raised up and hit her head on the bottom of an overhead we were riding under. She went down as a passenger rushed to her side. The driver was informed and we pulled to the side of the road to await an ambulance.

The tour got off to a rough, traumatic start. The woman was given a good prognosis and taken to a hospital to be checked out. Thoughts and prayers are with her.

Greg, the stand-in tour guide, was informative and a well-versed Chicago native who regaled us with many tales of the city.

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This is the Aqua building, an amazing condominium building designed by a woman! No two balconies, are alike which totally rocks.

things to do in Chicago, boat tours, places to stay in Chicago, things to do in Chicago, Hyatt Regency, travel, travel blogger, Chicago, Illinois,And the famous clock, though I must admit, I didn’t know there was a famous “Meet me under the clock” clock in Chicago. Apparently there is. Who knew?

We drove by Solider Field and Navy Pier, which was wall-to-wall people, once you got passed the curb-to-curb parking lot called a road. I would have loved to have walked around, finding a nice table beside Lake Michigan by which to dine. Didn’t happen because our tour was still in progress.

The tour guide showed us the building where Alice Cooper resides, and where Oprah and Sammy Sosa once lived, though not together, I’m guessing.

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The tour ended at the John Hancock Center, an upscale part of the city near Mag Mile where there is dining, shopping and attraction opportunities galore!

We found an alfresco Italian cafe, Bella Bacino’s, to grab a bite before hailing our last taxi back to the hotel to attend the evening event at the conference.

The weather was perfect and the food was delicious. The bruschetta  was a great appetizer and the cheese pizza was delish.

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The beauty that surrounded us as we ate is unparalleled to anything I have seen because I don’t live in a big city nor do I frequent one as big as Chicago on a regular basis.

I loved the Trump building which reflected the other side of the street. It was a perfect time of day for that.

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The final day in Chicago was short but sweet. I awoke to the sun glistening on Lake Michigan, a special time of day. The view out the window of the Hyatt Regency was stunning.

The morning ended with a walk along Lake Michigan before we hit the road.

48 hours in Chicago was a full and fun weekend.

 

 

48 Hours in Chicago

I spent 48 hours in Chicago Memorial Day weekend with my husband. I never thought that Chicago was my kind of town, but I am now enamored.

We went to a conference that was held in Hyatt Regency McCormick Place. We attended meetings on Sunday but since we arrived Saturday morning, there was plenty of time to explore, so that’s exactly what we did!

I’ve been through Chicago more times than I can count, mostly on my way to other vacation destinations. This was the first time that I actually stayed in Chicago to explore it up close and personal.

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We stayed on the thirtieth floor of the hotel with a spectacular view of Lake Michigan. We didn’t close the curtains once, day or night because of the amazing view!

While we were waiting to check-in, however, we decided to find a place to eat. After walking a few blocks in the wrong direction (I am map-reading challenged) we found Burger Point (I’m sort of a burger junkie), a place in a up and coming trendy part of town. The place was cheerfully decorated and the food was good, with large portions.

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We received the text that our room was ready while dining on burgers and fries, so we walked back, with no extra blocks this time, to the hotel. The staff at The Hyatt Regency was helpful, friendly and efficient, and the rooms were well decorated, comfy and clean.

places to stay in Chicago, things to do in Chicago, Hyatt Regency, travel, travel blogger, Chicago, Illinois,places to stay in Chicago, things to do in Chicago, Hyatt Regency, travel, travel blogger, Chicago, Illinois,We took a driving tour after we had lugged our stuff to the 30th floor, my husband driving and me navigating gawking at the sights on Mag Mile, the skyscrapers, and of course, people watching.

The best part was yet to come for this day, a sunset cruise on Lake Michigan with the Wendella Boat Company.

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We boarded the boat that was docked in the heart of downtown Chicago, after a lively taxi ride with a colorful  driver full of conversation and stories. Taxi drivers use their horns as much as their breaks, weaving in and out of traffic (A LOT) while navigating the streets of Chicago, especially Michigan Avenue, which runs through the hub of the city.

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There just so happened to be a Beyonce concert at Solider Field and traffic was a nightmare. It was a good thing we allowed plenty of time to get to our destination on a Saturday, a holiday weekend evening.

There are 7,000 taxi drivers in Chicago. That sounds like a lot but it seriously looks like one out of every three cars is a taxi so I totally get it. And, because of the numerous events going on over the 3-day weekend, parking was non-existent and at a premium, so it was a good thing taxis were plentiful.

But back to the boat tour…

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There is an architecture cruise offered by Wendella . We opted for the sunset cruise against Chicago’s skyline, however, there is also a fireworks cruise every Saturday and the barge went through the locks right before we boarded. This meant that we actually went upstream on the Chicago River for about thirty minutes worth of Chicago architecture and history. That was a bonus for sure and our tour guide, a Chicago native was great!

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This cannon water shooter blasts water from one side of the Chicago River to the other. We got really close but the captain stopped just short of getting his passengers soaked!

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We actually missed the sunset due to lock issues, however, the skyline was stunning. The man who proposed to his girlfriend added to the ambiance of the night as did the couple with amazing dance moves, and the group of drunk college girls singing loudly along with the tunes being played for our enjoyment.

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It was a memorable night for sure, that we didn’t want to end, so we found a quaint cafe and sat outside for a bit longer before we hailed a cab to take us back to the hotel.

 

St. Augustine

I have a tradition that started when I turned 50. Every year since then, around my birthday, I drive to Jacksonville, Florida to visit my friend Mary. This year, on my birthday, Mary and I took a day trip to St. Augustine.

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Here’s the thing, my birthday is in January. Always has been. It’s cold where I live in January. Not so much in Florida. Typically, I don’t visit my friend on my actual birthday, but this year there were some circumstances that led me to visit just a wee bit earlier, and I was there on my birthday. The weather was great in St. Augustine!

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We walked along the picturesque streets of St. Augustine once we arrived, popping in and out of the quaint shops that line the streets. living well, authentic living, life coach, true intimacy, women's mentor, warrior and advocate for women, emotionally healthy living, recovery, it's what matters most, gratitude, nurturing, there for you, home

The day was crisp and gorgeous, a perfect way to spend my birthday, and yet it wasn’t.

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And this particular birthday, due to circumstances I neither wanted or ever expected, I needed just that. Visiting her was what I needed on this birthday, this year.

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We had lunch on the balcony of this historic building overlooking a body of water near the historic part of town. That’s the thing about this trip; it was good, but I don’t remember much about it. I didn’t take notice of much that we did. I just enjoyed the light breeze on my skin as we strolled down the cobblestone streets, and the warmth of the sun, because I knew I was going back to cold in just two days and it would be awhile before I would feel that sensation again.

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And I was right. This was what I went home to. It felt fitting somehow, because this year, this set of circumstances felt very much like Winter in my soul, which is another story for another time.

This trip that I took reminded me of the vacation my family and I took to Disney World in September 2001. We were at EPCOT on 9/11 (see Remembering 9/11) when our country was attacked by terrorists. In fact, we were evacuated from the park, although at the time we didn’t know why. It seemed odd and unfitting to be on vacation while the rest of the country was forever changed and so many people had lost so much.

This was a similar trip for me but on a very minor scale in comparison.

St. Augustine is a wonderful city full of history and attractions. I want to visit again one day when I know I will appreciate the oldest city in our nation more than the trip on my birthday.

But at that time in January, St. Augustine and my friend provided a warmth and distraction that was balm to my soul.

He’s Gone

May 24th has been a tough day for me and my family for 36 years now, with meaning and emotion. This is the anniversary of my younger brother’s death. You can read A Tale of Two Brothers for more of the story.

May is an eventful month, never more than this year. Mother’s Day, of course, which coincided this year with an awards ceremony for my oldest son.

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What better way to spend Mother’s Day than celebrating the achievements of one of your children? The celebrated child just moved out the first of May, my first baby chick to leave the nest.

And then his graduation, with High Distinction (I’m a proud mama!).

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My baby brother has a birthday in May which was always a big deal. I can still recall the day he came home from the hospital, but that’s another story for another day.

My celebrated graduate has a birthday too…

And now, May 24, 2016, my youngest son, my “baby” Luke, is leaving for Slovakia. Luke was driven by his father and me to the airport where we waited until we could no longer wait, to see him off and say good-bye.

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The day has new meaning.

My younger brother is gone, and has been for 36 long, but quickly-passed-by  years, and now, my youngest child is moving to Slovakia. He is gone, too.

These are two totally different scenarios, I get that. My son will return in August where he will be state-side until March 2017. Then he will join the staff at Josiah Venture for a 2 (ish) year period, where he will be doing what he loves…playing music and sharing his faith with the young folks in various parts of Europe. What mother could ask more for one of her children?

I am excited for him! What an amazing opportunity that has be given him. Without the trip to Czech Republic that he took 2 years ago with Southeast Christian Church he would have never been afforded this opportunity (see The Boy’s Back in Town).

And now here we are, May 24, the day that has held such meaning and emotion for 36 years, now has new meaning and emotions.

I am sad as I remember my brother and the short life he lived.

I am grateful for the time he spent on earth.

I am excited for the adventure Luke has embarked on.

I am missing him already.

His brother I miss as well.

I am hopeful that this time of newness for my family, my kids, and for what God is bringing to pass in each of our lives and as a family.

But for now, he is gone.

 

Only So Many Tomorrows

I recently read a quote by the late Michael Landon:

“Somebody should tell us, right at the start of our lives, that we are dying. Then we might live life to the limit, every minute of every day. Do it! I say. Whatever you want to do, do it now! There are only so many tomorrows.”

Only so many tomorrows?

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I know many people who would testify to this. There are only so many tomorrows, it’s true. But I can’t help but to think that we truly weren’t meant to live our lives with the end in sight. Or were we? We all know that our days are numbered but most of us just take it for granted that our days will be many before they end.

According to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, the life expectancy for the average female (it varies a bit by state) is 78-82 years of age. That is 27,456 to 28,864 days. That seems like a lot of time to live. But days have a way of turning into weeks, weeks into years, and then a lifetime.

Another quote comes to mind by Gretchen Rubin  “The days are long, but the years are short.”

Just ask my friend who is retiring from her career in the school system.

Or the woman who lost her dear friend to cancer.

Or another woman who lost her husband of many years so suddenly and without warning.

There are really only so many tomorrows and what we do today, each day, matters. Sometimes it just seems like we’re clicking off hours while awaiting the next big event: a birthday, a wedding, the next 3 day weekend, or Christmas. Don’t get me wrong, those things are important, those things matter, but when it’s all said and done, we each only have so many tomorrows, and if tomorrow never comes, well…then today counts.

I remember the years when my kids were small and it seemed like the days would last forever. Sometimes they did! But the years…the years have a way of sneaking by, catching you unaware when the child is no longer a child. The child is a young adult driving, dating, going off to college or moving to Slovakia, just to pull one out of the air.

There are only so many tomorrows and none of us know how many we have been granted. Living life fully present adds value to the time, not just to you but to those you care about.

Knowing there are only so many tomorrows might be the thing to keep in mind as we live out our lives one day at a time.

Is It Time For You?

As you may already know, I am a certified life coach. Certified twice actually, by two different programs. I am also a trained women’s mentor and trained group facilitator for women in crisis. I’ve worked with, sat with, journeyed with many different women in difficult situations, ranging from mild to severe. It doesn’t matter. They all have one thing in common; they have lost hope and when that happens, life becomes unmanageable.

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Several months ago, due to circumstances that I was dealing with, I decided I liked the term Hope Coach better. To me it sums up the one thing we all have in common. We need hope for a better future, a better day and hope to finally accept our pasts and move on.

There’s something amazing that happens when women get real with each other. There. Just. Is.

If you are fortunate enough to have a group of friends, (no matter how big or small), who you can call your tribe, those women who are there for you, encourage you, show you the beauty of who you really are and not the mistakes you may have made in the past, well you are a blessed woman indeed.

Some of us need a little help in uncovering the awesome that lies just beneath the surface of who we think we are, instead of who we really are.

Maybe it’s time to get real, make some changes and connect with the real you, the authentic you. The woman God created you to be.

It’s never to late.

You can start your day (or your life) over anytime.

You don’t have to do it alone.

You may feel stuck in your life, your career, your relationships. Well here’s the good news, your past doesn’t have to define your future.

You’re not stuck forever.

Things can change for you.

Let me pose a few questions to you that I was recently asked:

What if you were able to pursue those long forgotten God inspired dreams and start taking steps toward making those realty, even while you are fulfilling your current responsibilities?

What if you accept the way you’ve been uniquely made and embrace the life you are living today, knowing that God has a plan and where you are now and where you’ve been, while not perfect or what YOU planned, was the exact path He wanted you to take.

I will end this post to allow you to take some time to ponder these questions, but first I have one more…

Perhaps it’s time to make some changes?