Tag Archive: influence


Hard to Say I’m Sorry

For as long as I can remember I’ve had a hard time apologizing to people and I know exactly why. I’ve mentioned before that I grew up in an abusive home after my parents divorced and my mom and I moved in with my grandparents. Though she did not have a job, my mom kept herself quite busy out and about which meant I spent a lot of time with my grandmother. I don’t know the details, but it seems my grandfather essentially rescued her from a bad family situation when he married her. Translation…she had a lot of issues. And it seems she took those issues out on me. I was not the perfect child. I’m sure I had my moments that would drive any parent crazy. But I did not deserve the treatment I got. No child should ever feel afraid in their own home because of their own family.

More often than not, those times when my mom was gone and my grandfather was either gone or in the basement working on his inventions turned into episodes of violence and intimidation. It was like she had two completely different personalities, like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. One minute she’d be out of control, screaming and hitting and pulling my hair, and then the phone would ring and she would answer in the sweetest voice as if everything was just fine. No one outside our home had a clue…and neither did my mom. Every time she came home my grandmother would make sure to get to her first so she could tell her version of the day’s events. That always resulted in me having to apologize to her and tell her I loved her. Even as I’m sitting here typing this my heart is racing as those memories I normally choose not to dwell on are still vivid, like it just happened yesterday.

So I hope you can understand why I have a hard time apologizing. Over time it’s gotten easier, but it’s most difficult with the people I’m closest to, my family. My early experiences definitely created a roadblock or wall which, to others, probably looks a lot like a stubborn streak. It’s just not always easy to separate those times when I was forced to say I was sorry when I really, really wasn’t from the times when I want to say I’m sorry because I really, really am.

Now that I’m a parent and trying with all my might to make sure my kids have a better childhood than I did, I’ve started to try to see our life through their eyes. What is it like to wake up in their beds with me standing in the doorway telling them they need to get up? How do they truly see me as I’m pushing them through their morning routines? I know they’re not afraid which is truly a wonderful thing, but do they mostly see me smiling or frowning? Do they really know how much I love them and appreciate how great they are even if getting them to do their chores is like pulling teeth?

Thinking about all these things has made me realize that I have to consider the possibility that my grandmother never, ever asked herself how she looked in my eyes. She was always so concerned with how everyone else saw her and our family. She made it very clear that I was never to tell anyone what went on in our home. Obviously on some level she knew it wasn’t ok, but I think it’s possible that she really didn’t understand how bad it actually was and how much damage she was doing. Maybe because of her past it all seemed fairly normal, just nobody else‘s business. Or maybe she so identified with the person everyone else thought she was, she just assumed no one would ever see her differently no matter what she did.

I’m in no way saying it was ok, but now I’m seeing how easy it is to behave in certain ways without realizing how we’re coming across to those around us. And let’s face it, our family sees us at our worst. There are days when I’m grumpy and irritable and make very little effort to think before I speak, but somehow when I’m around other people I manage to control myself. Sometimes I can be impatient with my boys because I know they’re smart and capable of so much. Yet I would never speak to someone else’s child in the same tone of voice.

So I ask myself again, what does life look like from their perspective? Do they see a mom who is loving and happy and cheerful most of the time? I actually am very happy with my life now, but I wonder if that’s what they see or if most of their interactions with me have a negative tone. When I talk to them about life and how to navigate through it with goals and a positive attitude do they see how passionate I am about making sure they understand because I want what’s best for them or do they just see it as nagging? Other people say I inspire them (which is extremely humbling considering how I’ve lived most of my life), but do I inspire my kids or do I make them feel like I’m not happy with them the way they are?

You may be reading this thinking I’m beating up on myself, but I’m really not. I’m just trying to ask some hard questions because the last thing I want is to be one person to everyone else and another, completely different person to my family. When I really concentrate and imagine that I’m each of my boys I see a picture of me that I’m not entirely happy with. And that’s great! Not because I haven’t always been perfect, not one of us has, but because I can see clearly where I need to improve and what I need to apologize for. Not once when I was growing up in my grandparents’ house did my grandmother ever apologize to me. And it didn’t happen after I grew up and she mellowed out a bit, either. What a difference a simple “I’m sorry” would’ve made. Not a meaningless one, like all those I said to her over the years, but one from the heart knowing she needed to do better.

I guess part of me has always felt like apologizing is a sign of weakness, but now I know I couldn’t be more wrong. It takes courage to be willing to look at ourselves and come to terms with the fact that we have things to be sorry for, especially with our families. They see us at our worst and love us anyway. That doesn’t mean we should take advantage of the situation and continue on as we have been. It means that they deserve to know that we “get” how much we’ve hurt them even if we didn’t realize it at the time. They deserve to know how much we appreciate them for always being there through the good and the bad. And I can’t think of a better way to show our love and appreciation than by saying I’m sorry…and meaning it, no matter how hard it is.

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One of the most interesting and exciting things about being human is that we have the power to change our circumstances by changing the way we think. Once we catch a bit of inspiration and turn our new thoughts into new behaviors incredible things happen. Since it is so easy to fall back into our old ways of thinking, it’s critical to protect our new, fragile, positive attitudes. Sadly, the people closest to us can be the ones who present the greatest danger.

In the past week, I’ve seen several instances where a friend was talked out of something that would’ve been so good for them by a friend or family member who probably thought they were protecting them from failure or disappointment. The problem with that is that if we don’t push ourselves to try new things or try something again after we’ve failed we will never change anything!

People think they know us and want us to feel good about ourselves. Unfortunately, the way they go about it isn’t always helpful. If I’m saying negative things about myself because I feel like I’m failing, I don’t need someone to baby me and say it’s ok to think that way. I need someone to tell me to stop it because they know I can do it! We need to encourage each other to be better, do more, and make positive changes; not to feel that it’s ok to beat ourselves up and stay where we are in life. I saw a perfect example of this on facebook the other day and I know the person meant well, but the situation made me want to scream.

If you’re trying to make positive changes DO NOT listen to people when they try to hold you back even when they think they’re being supportive. They probably don’t even realize they’re doing it. Just be aware of what they’re really saying and move on. If what they’re saying is reinforcing your negative self-talk, push those thoughts away and replace them with positive ones. Like Chalene Johnson says, “be your own biggest cheerleader”. You can do amazing things, but not if you continue to think about yourself and your life the same way.

If you’re one of those well-meaning friends or family members who feels like you’re protecting someone from disappointment please reconsider the way in which you show support. Instead of encouraging them not to try and to keep thinking the same way, show support by telling them you believe they can succeed. You have no idea how much that means to someone who’s decided to face a challenge and push forward. Not to sound cliché, but be part of the solution, not part of the problem. They will have moments when they want to quit because nothing worthwhile is easy. They way you show your support can be the difference between their success or failure. If deep down you’re afraid that their change will take them away from you, by being there and encouraging them through the tough times you’ll earn their appreciation, love and respect bringing you closer together. If you make every step they take that much harder you’ll drive a wedge between you which may result in the thing you fear the most.

I am very passionate about this topic because I’ve struggled with my weight my whole life and I’ve let friends and family hold me back because I listened to them when they said things that made me feel like I could never change. I’ve also cultivated a habit of not finishing what I’ve started and no one has ever held me accountable. They didn’t realize it, but what they were really saying to me was that they didn’t believe in me. We think and do based on our habits so it’s time to start paying attention and to form new ones. We need to stop being afraid to take on challenges and follow through. Sure we may fail, but then we pick ourselves up and try again and again and again. If we quit or never even start we guarantee failure, but when we keep going no matter what we will succeed!

One of the main purposes I have for writing this blog is to get people to do something different, to make positive changes. Since my facebook page is closely related to my blog I thought it would be fun to have daily challenges, “assignments” that are designed to get people to see life from a new perspective and improve their world. The categories are Family, Fitness, Food, Finances and Fun. The first challenge was posted this past weekend and it involved letting your family know how much you appreciate them. Today’s challenge was to find an organization or charity that means something to you and donate your time or money. I believe one of the most responsible things you can do with your money is to use it to help others. And even if you don’t have as much money as you would like, you have time. It’s just a matter of priorities.

I hope you’ll join us. Just go to my facebook page and click “like” at the top to receive the posts for each new challenge in your facebook news feed. If you have a suggestion for a challenge, please leave a comment below! I’m always open to suggestions.

This morning I asked my facebook friends what the weather is like where they are and most answered that it’s cold and snowy. That’s not the case here! Today started out bright and sunny with a cool breeze and has stayed that way…for now. So even though I only got 5 hours of sleep last night I just HAD to get outside for a walk, especially since the forecast is calling for more rain this weekend. At first I thought I’d just make it a quick one, but once I got out in the sunshine and fresh air I felt energized and did my usual loop down by the river and over to Alton Baker Park. Everything looked so vibrant and I was reminded why I love yellow or green and blue together. Well, actually I love pretty much any color against a bright blue sky.  It makes my heart happy. 🙂

Of course, I took a photo of “the tree”. It’s just hiding.

See the tiny black dot at the top of the middle tree? I would’ve totally missed it if it hadn’t been chirping. Yes, it’s a bird. A tiny, tiny bird that couldn’t have been more than 2in tall.

Here’s a shot of the bridge similar to one I took before, but this time there were gorgeous magenta flowers blooming. I love Spring!

The lack of water across the low part of the path allowed me to shoot the underside of the bridge. Interesting combo of metal plates and wood.

The beautiful day was bringing everyone together with one purpose…enjoy the sunshine while it lasts! I can honestly say I’ve never seen skaters on the path before (though I did see two people on giant unicycles once). It was a nice change from the usual cyclists and runners.

More trees…and ferns.

Pretty big cedar. I love how you can see the streaks of purplish wood through the bark.

This has to be one of my favorites. I took it looking straight up at the branch.Looking back at the same tree.I started noticing more interesting people on the path. I’ve never seen anyone carrying a purse before…or walking so close to the left side. I was a little concerned she’d get knocked over by someone on a bike coming around a turn.

Then I was passed up by a jogger. Pretty typical I guess, but I was happy to have some people in the photos.

Hey look! More trees! Seriously, though. How can this not make you smile? It’s as if it’s exploding with green.

This is the same tree that a few weeks ago only had leaves on the bottom branches. It reminds me of my first son who, when he was a baby, went a long time with hair only around the bottom and sides of his head and nothing on top. He kind of looked like a little old man. Fortunately, it all grew in. 😉

Oh, look! More people! I started getting a bit pickier about who I photographed. I only turned around and took their picture after they passed by if they smiled when we met on the path.

He was my favorite. Seemed to be quite a character. He was under the tree with the ferns.

There was no way to get a good shot of the most interesting couple I encountered without being too obvious. It’s not the two who are walking on the path, but the two looking at the map in the background. She was wearing a yellow and black dress that looked like it was designed for line dancing on Broadway and he was wearing a black and silver shirt with black pants. I wasn’t sure where they were going, but I don’t think they were anywhere near their destination. Pretty much anything goes in Eugene so not much shocks me, but yet they still seemed out of place. Gotta love it!

And back to the trees.

If swarms of ants make you uncomfortable, scroll past this next one quickly.

I had a few thoughts along the way, though I was mainly just enthralled by the beautiful weather. Since it wasn’t raining I was able to look up without being pelted in the face and some of my favorite photos were taken from that angle. I think it’s good to always remember to look up and see things from a different perspective. Too often we get caught up in ourselves, looking inward, and we miss the bigger picture. And even if we think we’ve seen something before, a second look can reveal a change in the situation. Spring is the time for new beginnings so why not try something new or decide to look at life from a different angle. You might be pleasantly surprised by what you find.

 And one last observation…people are curious and we all have influence because of it. Every time I stopped to take a picture, the people near me on the path looked in the direction I was pointing the camera even though they had no idea who I was or what I was doing. Those around us will naturally be drawn to the things we focus on. If we want to draw attention to negative things we simply have to make that our focus, but if we want to show people the good things in life that’s what we need to be paying the most attention to ourselves. And since our families see us all the time, it’s even more important to focus on the right things.

What is “normal”?

I’ve spent some time recently thinking about why it’s so easy to fall back into old habits even though I know that not working out and not eating healthy food just makes me feel like crap. Some people just seem to naturally do the “right” things and make the “right” choices without having to give it much, if any, thought while some people (hand raised) have to think about every decision or they automatically end up doing the things that aren’t good for them.

I think it has a LOT to do with how we were raised. I’m not trying to blame anyone because I believe most parents do the best they can with the knowledge and means available. It’s just that we are so impressionable when we’re children and the things around us, no matter how “wrong”, were normal because that’s all we knew. After my parents got divorced when I was 4 (I think), my mom and I moved in with her parents. My grandmother (I later found out) had been the victim of some kind of abuse (didn’t get any details…it was amazing I even got that bit of info) and continued the cycle with me.

Because no one outside our home knew about it, no one did anything to stop it so in my mind it was normal. For a long time my mom didn’t even have a clue because it all happened when she was gone and my grandmother would always be sure to tell her version of the story as soon as my mom walked in the door which always led to me having to apologize to her for my bad behavior. I’m not saying I was perfect, but now I know I didn’t deserve the “punishment” I got. It wasn’t until I got a little older, maybe 9 or 10, that I realized what was happening was wrong and didn’t go on in most homes, but by that time it was such a part of who I was that the long-term damage was done.

Then on top of all that craziness, we almost never ate at home. We went out to eat every night, usually at restaurants that served mainly unhealthy, high fat foods and I was allowed to order anything I wanted. Occasionally my mom would suggest I get something on the healthier side, but I don’t think she liked conflict so she gave in if I acted like I didn’t want it. Oh, and we also had a maid that came twice a week to clean the house and do the laundry. So at my grandparents’ house I never observed or participated in a regular schedule that included preparing healthy meals, cleaning up afterward, or any other chores for that matter. NOT GOOD. As an only child I mostly played alone and would often “play” with the Windex, cleaning the windows for fun or the Pledge, dusting the furniture. I actually wanted to do those things back then and got great satisfaction out of cleaning things.

Every Friday I’d spend the night at my dad’s house. Talk about the complete opposite environment.  He and his wife were two people who had regular jobs (did I mention my mom was an opera singer, my grandmother was a retired singer and my grandfather was retired but spent hours each day inventing things in the basement?) and stuck to a regular schedule and ate at home more than once every month. If we didn’t go out for pizza, we’d stay in and have things like spaghetti and garlic bread and salad and iced tea with mint from the garden in the backyard (my dad hated lemon in his tea, but loved mint). Then we would all help clear the table and she would wash the dishes while my dad and I would dry and put them away. Seems like a simple thing, but to me it was almost magical. My dad would tell me about how when I was really little I loved helping him do the laundry even though I could barely see over the top of the washer. And he had this big bowl in his closet. Everyday when he came home he’d toss in the change left in his pocket. When the bowl got full I got to help sort it and put it into rolls. Maybe that sounds like a mundane task, but I loved it and it’s still one of my favorite childhood memories. 

Since most of my existence was chaotic and seemed very unstable, the simple chores were the highlights. Doing them made me feel like I was contributing something and working together on tasks made me feel like part of a team. Having a routine meant there was something I could count on. I can’t help but wonder how different my life would be now if I had spent most of my time at my dad’s and only one night a week with my mom and grandparents. While the thought of not living with my mom all those years breaks my heart, I know for a certainty that my idea of “normal” would be completely different. Perhaps eating healthy and drinking plenty of water would come naturally and cleaning the house wouldn’t feel like something that’s “not my job”. Maybe I would’ve learned to follow through with things and have some consistency in my life without going through mental acrobatics to think that way.

I shudder to think what I’ve already determined is normal for my kids. Although an improvement in many ways over my childhood, the life we’ve lived still isn’t what I’ve wanted it to be. My husband and I have tried to implement some kind of routine for our kids because both having grown up in homes with a complete lack of structure, we see the need, but nothing has ever stuck. I want my kids to grow up knowing how to do things like laundry, cooking and cleaning, but time has slipped by without me taking the time to show them. Now my older son is in middle school and we have a good relationship, but he is a “tween” and the thought of folding laundry doesn’t exactly appeal to him. It would’ve been so much better if I had started sooner, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to give up on the idea altogether. When my boys grow up and get married I want their wives to only cook and clean for them because they want to out of love, not because they’re expected to. And I don’t want my sons to marry someone because they think they need someone to take care of them.

While there are certain things we have zero tolerance for in our home like being mean or disrespectful, there are other things we’ve let slide like allowing our surroundings to be cluttered with things that should’ve been put or thrown away long before. And our eating habits…not ideal. I’d love for all of us to gather at the table for dinner, but our schedules don’t allow for it. We all eat at different times and at different places…the kids at the table and my husband and I on the couch. I suppose it might help if the table was clear from clutter so there would actually be room for more than two people to eat there. Each issue is related to another and it all boils down to our baseline “normal”.

I think it’s a step in the right direction to at least identify what feels normal so we can decide if we need to make some major or minor adjustments. The things that really do need to change are worth fighting for and that’s exactly what it is…a daily battle. Some days the fight is easier than others and some days we temporarily give in because we grow weary and can’t see an end in sight, but if the change is important enough we have to keep fighting no matter what. And little by little, as we find ourselves dealing with the same things over and over again we start to figure out the best way to overcome and make a new life for ourselves.

I did have one victory today, with the help of a friend. We went walking and then had lunch together. One thing is for sure, if we’re going to fight to change our lives having friends who support us is more precious than all the money in the world.

Oh, so many opportunities to photograph “droppings” presented themselves to me this morning, but I resisted. I am talking literally, but noticing poop and deciding whether to take a picture has become symbolic, too. Yesterday was quite the roller coaster ride of emotions as it started great, went a little downhill, plummeted down into the depths, got a bit better, then back to great and ended with uncertainty. This morning I got the answer and while it wasn’t what I hoped to hear, it wasn’t the end of the world, either. Anytime we work toward a goal we’re going to encounter setbacks. The question is, when we look back on the tough days will we laugh or cry?

If we give up, we fail, and may always look back on that time with regret and tears. But if we push through and succeed, we can look back on the hard times and laugh…or at least smile because we overcame.  We are who we are because of what we’ve been through and how we’ve chosen to view each situation.

As we go through life we meet all kinds of people, some who are impressive and some not so much. What I’m learning is that everyone has a story and we need to try to be understanding when we have to deal with people who aren’t necessarily the easiest to be around. Instead of just assuming that a person is mean-spirited or obnoxious or unintelligent, we should remember that there’s usually a good reason for their behavior. If we knew the story of their lives, we’d see why they are who they are.

As I walked along, I started noticing things that made me wonder what happened to make them that way.

I’m sure even “the tree” has a story. I’ve walked past it many times and taken its picture from many different angles, but until this day I’ve never wondered why it is the way it is. How many times have we done that with a person we’ve known to be a certain way for as long as we can remember? At one point, the tree was young and full of life just as the people who seem to have given up. It’s too late for the tree, but not for people we can take an interest in and help to find new hope for happiness.

Every time I’ve walked under this bridge, even months before starting the walking “group”, there was a pillow up on the ledge. I even took a photo of it for the Weekly Photo Challenge: Refuge. I’d never given its placement much thought until it was gone. Once it was no longer there, I had to wonder how it got there to begin with (because there was no visible way to easily get to the ledge), who took it down and whether they were using the filthy thing to rest their head on as they slept.

Sometimes the question isn’t so much how, but why. I didn’t fully capture the angle of the slope, but one wrong step getting on or off the bench and you’d be the top story on the evening news.

It began to rain…a lot. But I remembered a section of the railing further up the path that I had always wondered how it got that way. The path isn’t big enough for vehicles to drive on so I pondered how a person on foot or riding a bike could’ve possibly done this.

It’s amazing how much damage people can do, either intentionally or without thinking. It can come in the form of abuse, bullying, teasing, or simply standing by and doing nothing while another does the damage. While it’s up to the victim to decide if they’re going to let the experience break them or make them stronger, we can be there to support them so someday they can look back and laugh because they’ve overcome.

I remember one of many incidents in middle school (back in the day it was called junior high) that made me feel completely humiliated. There was a dance coming up and since no one had asked me to go with them I decided to write a note and invite what I thought was a nice boy to go with me. As I entered the auditorium where we all hung out after lunch, a roar of laughter rose from the large group of kids already there. In the hands of one of the more aggressive boys was the note and he was reading it…loud enough for everyone to hear. I’m sure my face was as red as my hair and if my best friend hadn’t been there with me, I probably would’ve cried making matters worse. Needless to say, I did not go with that boy to the dance. While I can still remember the pain and embarrassment of that day, I can laugh about it now because I see things from a different perspective.

As I headed back, I stopped for a few minutes under the bridge to take a break from the downpour. That’s when I saw this tent. Under normal conditions it probably would’ve been protected from the elements, but I’m sure it was getting soaked. Here was a person who certainly had a story. What were they like as a kid and how did they get here from there?

We begin our lives with a few tendencies and characteristics, but as we come in contact with others we start to react and change. If we can take all of our childhood experiences and teach our children to come through difficult situations stronger and to be the ones who lift up those who have been pushed down, then everything we went through was worth it. Even though there will always be abusers and bullies, we can do something to minimize their impact by showing our kids a better way to treat people.

Some of the most kind and compassionate people I’ve ever met have experienced pain because of others’ insecurities which may very well have been caused by someone who hurt them, too. It can be a vicious cycle, but some, because they don’t want others to experience what they went through, break that cycle by choosing to make a difference. They look for ways to be supportive and caring. They have no tolerance for behavior that would hurt another and teach those around them by example, including their children. Though they went through things that no one should have to, they make the world a better place because they chose to overcome and that is a beautiful thing.

“All the adversity I’ve had in my life, all my troubles have strengthened me…You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.” Walt Disney

“There are two ways of exerting one’s strength; one is pushing down, the other is pulling up.”             Booker T. Washington

I was beginning to wonder if I’d ever finish this post and I finally got the inspiration I needed from witnessing an act of kindness performed by an elementary school student at a basketball game which led to a brief converastion with his dad which finally put all the pieces together in my head. Just goes to show the little things really do make a difference. 😉

Originally, I was going to title this one Get In, Get Out & Get On With It because it was raining again and I just wanted to get to the tree, take the photo and get on with my day. Here’s a reality check…as “responsible” adults, sometimes we’re going to have to do stuff that we just plain old, flat out, DON’T want to do. I’m learning that the best way to deal with these situations is to just deal with it and move on. No point in wasting time dreading it if you know you have to do it sooner or later. Forget later…sooner is better. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t dreading my walk this morning. I just had a feeling it wasn’t going to be one of the more enjoyable ones I’ve taken. (Although, I suspected it would still be better than the train incident.)

Turns out I was wrong. By the time I got to “the tree” the outside of my sweatshirt (which was a gift and I love because it’s from a place my mom and I visited years ago and the color makes me happy) was definitely getting soaked, but I was still dry.

My glasses were also showing the effects of the rain and I realized I could probably see better without them even though my vision is horrendous.

The challenge I posted on facebook earlier in the morning popped into my head. Do something new today. Well, I’d never taken my walk without my glasses so I slid them into my pocket and continued on. Pretty much everything was ridiculously blurry and I wondered how I was going to take any more photos. Then something caught my eye. I had no idea what it was so I took a picture hoping I’d be able to figure out later what it was.

It’s bright and colorful so I’m thinking some kind of wrapper.

As I continued on, I started taking pictures of only the things that stood out in the otherwise dark, blurry and mostly green and brown surroundings.

Beginning to see a pattern here?

If I was surprised the day before that I hadn’t noticed the trio of posts, my discovery of many more left me dumbfounded. How did I miss these on all the walks I’ve taken this way before? Even though I didn’t have my glasses on it was becoming clear that something used to be there, other than just some random posts. I wondered, as I moved along taking more photos, if the bench from the day before would also catch my attention as it had before.

Yep, it did, as well as the bright orange construction sign farther down the path.

Did you figure out the one thing that they all had in common? Whether it was the shiny wrapper, the neon mossy stuff on the trees (which is even brighter in real life), the bright yellow of the paint and banners, or the pure white whatever it was, they all reflected the light. The dark path, the web of branches, even the deep green leaves absorb more light than they reflect.

If we want to get people’s attention we have to reflect light. What does that mean? It’s not about thinking we’re the greatest thing that’s ever graced the earth with its presence. There are plenty of people out there who do that and end up making fools out of themselves. They may get attention, but not the kind that actually helps anyone. I’m sure we can all think of an example of just such a person who’s sadly getting a lot of attention right now.

To get the kind of attention that helps the people around us we must first spend time around positive influences. That could be reading books that teach us how to live more effective, powerful lives (might I suggest the Bible) or studying the lives of people who are truly successful (we may all have a different definition of success). By beholding we become changed. The more time we spend focussing on something the more we see that thing in ourselves and reflect it to others. If we want to be positive, helpful, successful people we need to spend less time focussing on negative things/people and more time looking at those who have achieved what we hope to.

Maybe you don’t think you have what it takes to stand out in a crowd. Even if you think you don’t have much to offer or have been rejected and discarded, to a person who’s hit a rough patch and can barely see how they’re going to get through the day let alone the possibility of having better days ahead, something as small as a smile or kind word will shine brightly in their otherwise dark existence. So let your light shine! Be a reflection of the all the good that surrounds us so others can see it, too.

Usually when I head out for a walk I don’t plan where I’m going or what I’m going to photograph…well, except for the tree.

But, today was different. I was on a mission. Since I had a free hand, I decided I would go back on the same path I was on the day before and pick up the bag of poop if it was still there. As I looked for it along the edge I found this instead.

Sorry, but I had to share. I was just so amused that there I was looking for poop and although it wasn’t exactly what I was looking for, I found it. Of all the times I’ve walked those trails I’ve never noticed any before. That got me thinking about a life principle brought to my attention recently through the wonderful people on my team of coaches. In life, you find what you’re looking for so you’d better look for things you want to find. Like squirrels.

Ok, maybe most of us aren’t looking for squirrels, but we all are looking for something even if we don’t realize it. Our attitudes often determine what we find in life. Positive people find positive experiences and success while negative people just can’t ever seem to catch a break. Even if we’re not exactly sure what we’re looking for, having a positive attitude and an open mind allows us to see bright spots and opportunities along the way. The more time and energy we spend focussing on what we want, or don’t want, the more likely it is that it will happen. Goals gives us direction and something to move toward. We take action so we can move closer to what we want. Eventually, we find what we’re looking for even if it doesn’t look exactly the same when we reach it. The opposite is also true. When we spend our time focussing on all the negative things that can happen we become the kind of person that negative things happen to.

For example, if a person in a relationship is constantly worried that other person will be unfaithful or leave them they begin to act distrustful and jealous, turning themselves into the kind of person their partner doesn’t want to be around. They drive the other person away, creating the very situation they’re so worried will happen. If they had believed the best and focussed on the positives in the relationship they would’ve been that much more irresistible to their partner, creating a strong, happy relationship.

Besides looking for that green bag, I had another mission. WordPress has a weekly photo challenge and the title this week is Refuge. I was looking for something that would fit, though I wasn’t exactly sure what it would be. Since I hadn’t gotten the shot by the time I reached the main part of the park I left Pre’s Trail and headed out toward the mall along the river.

Once I passed the mall I crossed over the river and headed back.

The benches on the south side of the river were donated in memory of loved ones and each carry a plaque. This one was my favorite. Obviously a woman who was looking for good things in life.

Passing by the rose garden, I thought that someone looking for thorns would certainly find them, but even in winter while the bushes lie dormant there was something amazing there.

A little farther down the path, another memorial.

Directly across the path from the war memorial, something considerably more lighthearted.

Shortly after passing the cheerful animals I came upon a figure barely moving forward along the path with their whole life on their back and their head hung so low I couldn’t tell if it was a man or woman. I don’t remember ever seeing a person so downtrodden and heavily burdened. I overtook them quickly as they seemed to be struggling to put one foot in front of the other.

As I listened to the shuffling footsteps fading away behind me it occurred to me that I should do something. As I pondered the idea I slowed down, but kept going. What could I do? I had no money or food with me. Then I knew. I could lift their burden, even if for only a few minutes. I retraced my steps until I was standing right in front of what I had finally figured out was a woman. “Excuse me.” She didn’t look up, but tilted her head to the side so she could see me. “I don’t have anything on me to help you out, but I can carry that for a while if you’d like.” The look on her face made me wonder how long it had been since anyone had actually spoken to her. She shook her head no and kept shuffling along. Maybe she was afraid I would take her stuff or maybe she was holding onto one last bit of pride. Either way, she refused my offer to help, but it was fine. Maybe the fact that someone actually noticed her was enough to lift her burden for a while.

We parted ways and I found myself wishing I had asked her name or just walked with her for a bit. But she was gone so I went back to taking pictures.

I headed home, a bit weary from the extra long walk. Did I find what I was looking for? I did. You can see the photos here. No matter what you’re looking for you will find it. Whether it’s a person who needs help, or an opportunity to learn something new, or beauty among the thorns you’ll find it. And, if it’s poop you’re looking for, well, there’s plenty of that around, too…if that’s what you want.

I only took a few photos on today’s walk for two reasons. 1: Uploading all the photos from my phone caused me to go over on my data plan and the batteries in my actual camera were dead. (Note to self…buy rechargeable batteries.) 2: I was distracted by the events that transpired last night and my reaction to them.

The night started off as usual. I read for a little while in bed before the book slipped from my hands and hit me in the face. I turned off the light and went back to sleep. My husband tried to wake me when he finished his online tutoring so we could watch a movie on Netflix together. As usual, he was not successful. Once I’m out it takes a lot to get me out of bed. I continued to sleep soundly until a sound began to creep into my dreams. It was banging and shuffling and grew louder as I came into consciousness. Still half asleep, I tried to mentally locate the source of the sound. Then footsteps, running fast. Just as I realized they were coming from the hallway outside our door a woman’s desperate voice cried out, “Somebody help me! Help me, please!”

My heart began to race as I laid there trying to decide what to do. My first thought was to jump up and see what was happening. Then it occurred to me that if I opened the door the woman might run in followed by her persuer. The sounds from the struggle were coming from right outside our door. I didn’t want to take the chance of putting my family at risk. At that point, I was frozen by indecision. I heard the door to the stairwell across the hallway slam shut and then silence. There I was, still in my comfortable bed trying to make sense of what had just happened. Was this a prank? Remembering the fear in her voice I didn’t think so. Had someone else let her in or at least called the police? Surely. Should I get up and see what’s happening now? I knew I’d have to venture out of the safety of our apartment and my still sleeping husband who, as an infant, lost his mother to a burglar wouldn’t have wanted me to do that. As the questions swirled around my tired brain, I drifted back to sleep.

Again, a sound interrupted my dreams, more abuptly this time. Someone was knocking on the door. Again, unsure of what to do I was still. Another knock, a little louder. I though it might be the police so I sat up and began to head for the door. A third knock, still louder. Whoever it was, they weren’t going away. My husband woke up this time and in a whisper explained everything that had happened. He checked the peephole and said the police were talking to our neighbors across the hall. “We need you to answer the door!” The officer’s voice boomed as he knocked one last time.

I opened the door just enough so they could see me. The three of them began asking questions. “Are you here alone?” “Who else is in there with you?” “Is everyone alright?” “Did you hear anything?” I told them what I had heard, then they asked if I heard gunshots which I hadn’t. “Are you aware of any domestic disturbances here?” I said that things have been pretty quiet around here recently. They went on their way, canvassing the other tenants and we went back to bed. After tossing and turning for a while I was finally able to go back to sleep.

Despite all the commotion, the kids slept soundly through the night and got ready school just like every other day. The sounds of footsteps and the woman’s plea for help interrupted my thoughts as we performed our morning rituals. For a moment I wondered if any of it had happened at all or if it was all just a vivid dream. Once the kids were off to school I headed out for my walk. At first, the sun was shining brightly and it looked like it would be a beautiful day. I took a photo of a stream I pass by everyday.

My thoughts turned again to the woman. I wondered what she was thinking at that moment. Did she feel safe? Was she enjoying the sunshine? Did the morning bring thoughts of hope or more fear and desperation? Was she even thinking anything at all? As I headed West the sky began to reflect my mood. I couldn’t really enjoy the sunshine and was almost relieved to see the clouds taking over.

As I headed into the trees I asked myself why I hadn’t done anything to help her. I thought of the physical and mental abuse I experienced as a child brought upon me by a woman who was abused herself. Was the woman last night living with a person who caused her fear day in and day out? Could she be suffering as a victim of domestic violence right under the same roof? How can we live so close to others and never get to know them at all? Maybe it was a one time thing caused by too much to drink, but why didn’t I help her? All my reasons for doing nothing that seemed so logical at the time didn’t amount to much in the light of day. How could it be ok to do nothing when another human being was pleading for someone to help them? I hoped that somehow she got the help she needed and that today was a new beginning for her. The pain of abuse doesn’t end when the abuse itself does. It lingers on and constantly finds new ways into the life of the person who suffered and all those around them. It affects every relationship they have and can make them feel trapped and alone even when they’re surrounded by people who care about them. Even after years of healing, a single incident can bring back a flood of pain and fear leaving them wondering if they’ll ever really be free. That is what I experienced this morning as I asked myself why I didn’t help her.

By the time I reached the park and turned to head back it was raining. The drops on my face hid the tears that slid down my cheeks. I felt ashamed for not doing anything. Then I began to feel thankful for the life I have now. Thankful that with God’s help I’ve stopped the cycle of abuse in my family. Thankful that even though I can still feel pain from events that took place years and years ago I wake up everyday feeling safe. Thankful that I have the ability to help victims in a way that others who haven’t gone through it can’t. By the time I returned to my starting place I had a new sense of determination and the realization that I can do something to help.

We travel the same path over and over. When we’re able see it from a different perspective and decide to make changes in the way we travel the path it can become a beautiful thing…for us and the people we encounter along the way.

Ever find it excruciatingly difficult to get motivated to workout? Yeah, I’ve been there, too. Even after being really good for a long time and getting great results sometimes I just don’t want to do it and I’m finally figuring out why. I’m the type of person who always wants something new and different. Even though I LOVE TurboFire and P90X and both have tons of variety, sometimes I just want to do something either completely new or that I haven’t done in a long time.

I love going outside, but where I live the winter is very predictable…rain, rain, and more rain…or cold and overcast. Having the best fitness programs available in my living room is fantastic, but being a stay-at-home mom I start to feel claustrophic at times and just need to get out in the fresh air. So I’ve learned to mix it up. On the days when the weather is cooperating I head out for a walk/jog. Sometimes I feel so good after being outside I want to do more and pop in a DVD like P90X Shoulders & Arms or TurboFire CORE20.

The key to staying on track, even when you struggle to get motivated, is doing something FUN. Yes, exercise can be fun. For some people it may be taking a bike ride or hiking. For others it may be turning the music up and dancing. Some of us are old enough to remember when having fun as a kid meant some kind of physical activity instead of sitting in front of a TV or computer screen. So think like a kid from a generation or two ago. Maybe we can even teach our own kids a thing or two about having fun. So please share…what activities do you enjoy that get your heart pumping and those feel-good endorphines flowing?