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Silver linings

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I would have missed this sunset if life had been normal.

I would have been in my house, AC cranking, cooking dinner alone in the kitchen. I would have probably been listening to a podcast or book on tape or even watching some sit-com rerun for the umpeenth time, my son in the other room doing homework or playing guitar or a video game.

Instead, my life had been turned around in a first world kind of problem sort of way. We’ve been without AC for weeks. And I am on a cooking strike. So I piled my son and myself into the car and headed to get some form of take out. On the way, we saw this incredible sunset. We stopped in awe of mother nature, the universe and the power of serendipity.

Sometimes, life happen for us. Sometimes situations present themselves. Last night, as we sat around the table at the restaurant, we marveled at the fact that had it not been for the awful week we had, we would all be spearated ,living our own individual moments in front of one screen or another. Instead, we have explored forests, new restaurants, new cities, and even glorious sunsets with views for days right down the street from where we live.

So maybe the past few weeks weren’t really a crisis after all. Maybe it was the just the opposite - maybe past few weeks was the universe trying to break up our regular, safe, ordinary days with new adventures and some much needed fresh perspective.

If it comes with a silver lining like this, I’ll take it.

Sixteen

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Here we are...sweet sixteen.

I'm not sure it feels as sweet from this end.  No longer my snuggly little boy. Not yet a full independent man. But you are well on your way. It's inevitable. The clock just ticks along...and with each passing day, change is eminent.

You tower over me now. At 6'1", you are man-sized. But its your spirit that remains so sweet. It's still got the innocence of you when you were a toddler waking up from a nap – bleary-eyed and drunk with thoughts of dreams that made you full of wonder and curiosity. Sometimes, it makes it hard for me to see you as the man you are becoming.

This past year was hard. It was a year of growth. A year of hurdles. You gave up a little, and then you gave it all you had. You learned such big lessons about life. You know when to ask for help and where to look for it. You know what struggle looks like and how it feels to be hopeless. More importantly, you know how it feels to be empowered. Strong. Capable. And in control. You know how to change the story with mindset, grit and grace.

The year ahead will be something you remember forever. I often reflect on my 16 year-old self and what she did. The mistakes she made and the trails she faced. So this is my advice to you: Make good choices.  You are ready for the year ahead, but the world will test you - pushing back like a the bully it can be. That's how it works. Stand resilient in it's face. Just keep remembering who you are.

You are good.

You are kind.

You are strong.

You are smart.

You are talented beyond your years.

You are gracious.

And yes, you are beautiful. Full of heart. Full of soul. And full of wonder.

 

You are wonder-full.

I love you, sweet Graham. Happy Birthday.

 

Messy rooms.

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Some days, I wake up and look at my son's room and sigh. It's always a mess. Carpet tiles askew. Bed never made. Clothes strewn about the room. I turn the other way as much as I can. But honestly, some days it gets to me. The mess feels chaotic - like loud music with a lot of dischord.

Lately, though I have been leaning into the mess. I walk by the room and smile a little. Nothing has changed except, perhaps, for my outlook on it. He's growing up. In 2 years he will be gone, walking across the stage in a cap and gown, a sea of opportunity in front of him. After that, his little room that he has know since he was 2 will be tidy, quiet, and organized. But it won't have him in it.

So today, I sat in here for a few minute. I admired the spots and stains on his white carpet tiles from the juice he spilled when he was sick. I traced the tiny, dirty hand prints on the wall that he outgrew so quickly. I picked up a little matchbox car he has on his bedside table and remember all of it... flood of memories I can't quite contain before they come spilling out around me, messy and chaotic...just like his room.

I guess the moral of the story is that life is messy when we have more in it. Soon enough, his sheets will be tucked in, dresser dusted, and life will be tidied up. For now though, I will hang on to the mess. It reminds me of how much I have to hold on to.

The Human Experience

  My sweet little garden, on a particularly gloomy spring day in Charleston.

My sweet little garden, on a particularly gloomy spring day in Charleston.

If you follow me on social media, you know that this spot is one of my favorite spots in my yard – or really in my whole world. I don't know why, but it seems to symbolize everything I love about this space – the yard, the privacy hedge, the chair, and my futile attempts at gardening. It's an intimate snapshot of all that I have worked hard for and become over the years.

And yet, it's imperfect. The chair needs a good cleaning and some fresh paint. Weeds are growing through the crack in the pathway. The hedge is out of control with vines and overgrowth. And I have an unplanted hand-me-down pot sitting there, full of leaves, debris and actual trash.

The thing is, this used to bother me. I wanted life to be perfect. I wanted the perfect house, the perfect yard, the perfect family, and the perfect life. I wanted the social media life everyone was selling me. I wanted a spouse that loved me purely. I wanted to enjoy the sunny southern weather here like my friends on their boats and in their backyard pools. This seemed to be the recipe for blissed-out perfection. So in my mind, if I could just get my life to look perfect, it would be perfect.

We all know that's a lie. Yes somehow, we fall into this trap over and over again.

And the trap is deeper that the superficial things. It's about more than a pretty house > pretty yard > pretty life. It's about having life in the palm of your hand. It's about owning every challenge that comes your way. It's about not looking like your world is rocked when you are climbing out of a crisis or depression or another loss you can't bear. You have it together in your sunny, colorful, insta-life.

These superficial ideals are more dangerous than ever. We are living in a time where we aren't embracing the Human Experience.  We aren't accepting the bad with the good. We get depressed when we have a string of too many cold days in a row. We get frustrated when we have to wait in line at our local Target with a cart full of possessions we don't even need. We get mad when the barista doesn't get our order right. Or the traffic light hangs us up another 60 seconds.

In the current landscape of social media, we have been trained not to overshare. Don't tell me the bad stuff. I just want to hear the great parts of your life. I have been told not to tell you that my kid is struggling with school, ADD and depression, but I can tell you he loves rugby and is kind to all animals. I can't tell you that the past 15 years have been the ultimate struggle for me because life is hard, y'all. I can't share my fear of failure as I send a proposal for a new assignment out - I just have to ROCK THAT SHIT and OWN IT! Because we all know that leads to success, right? RIGHT?!?!

The problem is, we are losing all sense of why we are here - flesh and blood walking around on planet earth. We are here to experience it all. That doesn't just mean jumping from airplanes or living the sweet life in a van traveling back and forth across North America. (but by all means, it can mean that!) It means doing the dishes, running out of gas on your trip and forgetting your passports. It means leaning into the rainy days. It means living through grief and pain – even if it lasts for years. (Because honestly, sometimes it does last for years. And I am here to tell you that it's okay.)

The Human Experience is what we are here to live through. Leaning into the days and moments that aren't so great is part of why we are here. We aren't meant to be permanently happy and blissful. We need all of it to make our time here on earth meaningful. The good is there... it's just waiting for you to find it. It's hidden in messy bedrooms and piles of laundry. It's lurking at the bottom of your sink full of dirty dishes. It's hiding behind the clouds on a grey and gloomy day. It's in all of it. You just have to be patient.

The rain will soon end, but the sun never stops shining. It's there all along. For now, I am going to watch the raindrops and lean into this beautifully chilly spring day.

 

 

 

Sliver

  This was a test shot as I was walking out the door a few days ago. I almost threw it away. But look at the magic it created.

This was a test shot as I was walking out the door a few days ago. I almost threw it away. But look at the magic it created.

Sometimes, all it takes to grow is that sliver of light you let shine into your heart. Day by day, week by week, the light gets in and makes real change that can only be witnessed with patience and time and perseverance.

The gentle sliver warms the space it needs to and suddenly you are new again.  Thriving. Growing. Stretching towards that accidental slice of golden light. 

And before you know it, you are growing. And changing. And ready to be transplanted into a new place full of sunshine and light and delicious space.

And all it took was a sliver of light to get you through.

An early spring

radish

It feels like we are having an early spring this year.

As much as I want to say "praise the maker," I am stuck. It's the same feeling you get when you didn't get long enough to spend in bed on the weekend because obligation rang. Or when a party ended too early. Or when you just weren't quite prepared for your guest arrival.

On the bright side of things, spring is my favorite season. It's gusty winds clear the dust from my aching soul. It's colorful parade of blooms makes me feel like life is colorful and clear and oh-so-alive. The early arrival of spring means a long, lingering season of amazing things...things like fresh, garden grown veggies. Long, lingering days that melt into extended evenings and deep conversations. Bonfires. Delicious meals. Friends. Beach evenings. The best things that life is made of.

Maybe an early spring - crisp and bright like garden radishes, crunching with peppery brightness - is just what I need after all.

Here is where...

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I have spent the past few years unraveling myself. Gently brushing out the cots and the knots of some pretty colossal perceptions that may or may not have been a reality. While I have done other life-building things like losing myself in the woods for 3 weeks or traveling to the other side of the globe to wander and wonder, the place I have done the most work to get my head straight is right here in a small, humble corner of my bedroom underneath some magical morning light sitting on a folded blue blanket.

This corner brings me more peace and angst than I can express. Some days I have avoided it. Other days, I can't seem to remove myself from just resting here quietly and gently with my breath. Because some days, my breath is all there is to focus on.

One of the hardest things I have ever done is meditation. I remember the first time I tried it. I read about it in a magazine about 15 years ago and decided to give it a whirl. All I could think about at the time was "is my child going to wake up?," or "wow, my head really itches." Like most people do, I spent a lot of time in my head the handful of times I tried it.

A few years later, I found myself on the other side of the world. Riddled with jet lag and angst over leaving my life and indulging in something for myself, I found myself sitting on a bolster in the middle of a rice field in Bali. With a gentle breeze floating around us that felt like cotton balls up against my prickly, moist skin, I was told that the first thing we would do was meditate for 20 minutes, sitting in silence, not moving, resisting the urge to itch anything or move very much. I started panicking. Would someone be watching? Would I get in trouble if I had to itch my back/hand/arm/foot? I am good at a lot of things, but sitting still for 20 minutes is not one of those things. I practice for a full week out there and somewhere along the way, off and on, meditation became something I needed. The silence. The stillness. And mostly, the breath. Steady, gentle, constant, deep breath. Fulfilling breath. Life affirming breath.

With much practice over the past years and a lot of trial and error, meditation has become part of my self care routine. While this is a blog about photography (in theory), I cannot stress enough how important self care is. - to my career, my mental health, and my family. It is paramount to the quality of work I put out into the world and the quality of myself I put into my life. Believe me when I say that for years, I have been on auto pilot. I had to be. And truly there is nothing wrong with that. It's about surviving.

But somehow, this time of self reflection, while often painful and resulting in tears, has also been a monumental thing. It had allowed me to grow and change and uncover the things that were shaping me. It has allowed me to rewrite my story. It has been a harbinger of change, and a beacon of light in the most difficult times, gently holding my hand through it all, whispering to my heart "Here is where you belong. Here is where you are whole. Here is where..."

 

Breathe.

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Working as a full time photographer is not for the faint of heart. With long (and very odd) hours of shooting and hauling gear around paired with even longer hours of sitting at a desk editing photos, it can be taxing on your body. Big meetings with board members, cancelled conference calls, and some seriously cut throat competition in the world can only add to the stress of an already taxing career.  On top of this, there is gear to keep up with, technology to sort through, and a craft that requires a lot of your heart and soul and energy.

In order to show up for a demanding career (and let's face it...life as a full-time, single parent), I have learned over the years that I have to show up for myself first.

Let me be clear for a moment.

I have lived under the notion for years that the only way for me to be a successful photographer or designer (or anything, really) was for me to work so hard at it that I had no energy left for anything at the end of the day. I was collapse-into-bed-tired all the time. And for a long time, that worked...to a degree. For 15 years of a career on my own, I hustled and hid behind a shroud of what I like to call "bizzyness." During that time, I had a toddler to manage by myself, 2 dying parents to tend, and a sister who passed away somewhat unexpectedly. Needless to say, I crashed.

A few years after my sister died, I bottomed out. Around the time of her death, I hit an all time low. It crept in slowly at first, like a rising tide. And then suddenly and swiftly, I was pulled under. I was depressed, anxious, sad and suddenly - alone. And I didn't know how to fix it this time. I was left with no energy to face the dance of each day, let alone a career I had worked my ass off to establish.

My body, mind, and soul was forcing me into a stillness I hadn't known before. I had no energy for anything. So I listened by being still and listening. And in that space, all I kept hearing was "This plane is going down. Put your oxygen mask on first, Libby."

The interesting part is that the oxygen mask looks different for all of us. It's disguised a little. My mask won't fit you. It only fits me. It fits me in the shape of getting right with my body, mind and soul. It fits me by shedding layers that don't belong to me...they belong to someone else.

Truth be told, it simply boils down to the essential practice of self care, doesn't it? Practice....because it takes a lot of repetition before you actually see results. It's like weight loss and skin care and anything you do to shed the layers or transform yourself. It's a practice. A routine. And it's life saving.

So if you are bizzy, or busy, or anxious, or depressed, if you are looking for an answer or a way out of your current situation, or if you just need to regroup...Stop. Pause. And put your mask on first. Because truthfully, the main thing you need to do is to slowly catch your breath and pull that oxygen mask over your own face first... and breathe.

Just breathe.


If you need help, someone to talk to, or just have questions about what all this looks like for me, please feel free to reach out. I am not going to sell you a product or sign you up for anything. I am just here to share my story and journey with anyone who needs help.

Summer Benchmarks

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It's always been strange to me that we live in a world that values busyness over self care. We boast about work hours, job accomplishments and GPAs only to ignore the fact that we are simply undernourished and exhausted.

For me, summertime is the best time to actually allow yourself to unplug. It's the perfect time to let your body wake up when it needs to, eat what you hunger for, and really get some good quality soul time in. It's a perfect time to reset your self care routine and start fresh. Take a vacation. Start an exercise program. Cook fresh foods. Read a new book. And, of course, sleep in until mid morning (or, as in the example above, very late morning).

For me, summer is about changing those benchmarks you have been trying to accomplish. It's not about hours worked or grades made....it's about how you feel. Are you recharged? Rested? Refreshed? Do you feel healthy? Did you exercise you mind, body and soul today? These are my benchmarks of successful summer.

And by the looks of things, I think we are well on our way there!

 

Getting Balance

  My awesome spring break view.

My awesome spring break view.

I had a shitty "spring break."

Let me explain...

Like many of you, I have a school-aged son that was on spring break last week. We don't have a lot of spare cash these days, so a trip was not happening. Instead, I thought of the bright idea of camping for a few days in the mountains (something I have actually only done once in my life...smart thinking.). We set our plans and started the wheels of our camping trip in motion.

Of course, life being what it is, the universe had some other plans for me. Or maybe I wasn't fully committed in the first place. But my plans changed course somewhere the week before. Some great, unexpected work came up. My teenager had some specific ideas about his social plans. And then I slipped into saying yes to far too many things I didn't want to do. So our camping trip got cancelled, I worked a lot, and then became an unpaid Uber driver for my son in my spare time.

As the week progressed, I started to get increasingly more frustrated. I was mad at life...mad at myself. I felt trapped and owned by some imaginary rules I had set up for a life that I was supposed to live. And it only got worse as I scrolled through social media to see friends enjoying Caribbean vacations, European adventures, and good old US road trips. What's worse was that I knew in the truest part of myself that I was the one responsible for the way this week was panning out.

When I started to reconcile what was happening and got real with myself, I realized a few things.
1. I was in desperate need of a break.  I work weekends a lot. And when the typical work week rolls around, I am usually still working. While I do set my own schedule and have lots of freedom to make appointments and go grocery shopping at odd times, I tend to still feel like I need to be getting work done during the Monday-Friday, 9-5 hours as well. To top it off, I was going on weeks of constant work without a break. I needed a change. 
2. I was telling myself a story that wasn't real. Not everyone I knew was on a spring break vacation. In fact, I knew more people that had to work than those that did not. Spring break trips are a luxury, not a right. And I needed to hip check myself on that.
3. I was feeling sorry for myself. And that wasn't allowing me to live on a higher "vibe" - if you will. I was sulking and wallowing in self pity instead of changing my reality. Once you change that, everything changes. Literally...everything.
4. I wasn't seeing the amazing opportunity around me. I live in a place with abundant beauty. I am 15 minutes from the beach on a good day (5 minutes from one of the most gorgeous parks in the world). I have gift certificates to 5 local restaurants. I have a sister with a pool in her very own backyard. Enough said.
5. I wasn't saying "NO" enough. Not to my son. Not to his dad. Not to friends or neighbors. I was doing things I didn't want to be doing. I was creating my own misery and my own sense of disappointment.

Once I started seeing all these things, I began changing my story. I planned an Easter Brunch to see family I hadn't seen in months. I went to the beach. I watched the sunset. I played with the dogs. I went for a walk with a friend and talked about some amazing topics like meditation, family, and life changes that we are both on the precipice of making. Once I took the wheel back, I lived in the presence of joy and gratitude instead of wallowing around in my own self pity.

The best part of this shift is that it only takes a moment to change your mindset. For me, it finally happened when I got real with myself and realized I wasn't listening to my inner voice saying - SAY NO...YOU NEED A BREAK! I was trying to please too many people - clients, family, friends, neighbors. I wasn't voicing what I wanted to do. But once I finally followed through for myself (albeit with begrudging sighs and protesting from my teenager), everything shifted. In that simple moment of saying "This is what I want," I stopped being a victim of my circumstances and started taking care of myself. I started enjoying where I was in the moment.

  Squad. Goals.

Squad. Goals.

  My heart and soul got some much needed beach time too!

My heart and soul got some much needed beach time too!

  Beach time with friends where I mixed in a little work with a little pleasure.

Beach time with friends where I mixed in a little work with a little pleasure.

  Looks like they #brunchedtoohard.

Looks like they #brunchedtoohard.

 

Sometimes saying what you want isn't about being selfish or narcissistic...it's just about taking care of yourself. Simple, kind gestures that say "Hey wait...I'm important too!" Make yourself answer the call to do more for you. You know when the teeter totter of balance of your life looks like a chunky kid from gym class is sitting on one end with sandwich and a Snickers bar laughing at you for being trapped way up there. Take control back. He's not in charge.

Just get some balance.

Giving Thanks

thanksgiving

Yesterday was another Thanksgiving. Another reason to pause and show gratitude for the things we have which isn't a tall order for most of us in this country. Our forefathers took over one of the prettiest frontiers of the planet filled with lush forests, dry deserts and vast fields to live a life most people only dream of in their lifetime. We owe grace to that.

Yet still, for some, there are days it's hard to find grace in the mix. Things go wrong. Family gets sick. Relationships crumble out from underneath us. And money can be hard to come by in our society which is focused today on more abundance than I think yesterday was built on. It's hard to find a balance in that. It's hard to say "I'm lucky" when we are feeling less than so.

But pause for a moment. Look around you. Remember the things that matter most. Find something you have that fills you up. Sometimes it's family or a friend. Sometimes it's the place you live or a pet you couldn't get by without every day. Some days it's merely that you have a roof over your head, food in your refrigerator and a soft place to lay your head each night.  Whatever it is, find the gratitude within it and give it the honor it deserves.

Today - on the day after Thanksgiving - I am grateful that I have people I love, a roof over my head, clean water to drink, freedom, the best bed in the south, and some seriously good deep fried Turkey. I have it all, even when I don't.

Everything I need is there...right in front of me, just waiting to be appreciated.

 

Hidden beauty

 Tomatoes. Shot for  Plate South.

Tomatoes. Shot for Plate South.

There is beauty everywhere - just waiting to be discovered.

It's waiting to be found in the corners of your world. It's waiting to be seen in the most obvious of places. It's in the simplest of things and the most complicated places. It's always there...a part of life that eagerly and patiently awaits your discovery. You just have to want to see it.

Indeed, there is beauty everywhere. But it's your job to go and find it.

Into the woods

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I grew up with a forest for my back yard. Not a national park, but woods so deep they never seemed to end. I would get lost back there for hours, wandering and wondering about things that only I knew about in my own head.  I would lose time – examining leaves, tree bark and chasing fireflies as I quickly forgot about time and how I measured up in a world that seemed to be so limiting for me...even then.  I would stay out there until I was called back for dinner or bedtime, weary and drunk from the air that seemed so fresh and pure.  So it's no wonder that even today,  I still feel most at home in the woods.

There is a sense of embracing that envelopes my soul when I stand amongst the trees still, hearing the crunching and snapping of the twigs and leaves below my feet. I don't worry about who I will encounter or what I may come across. I feel supported - as though there is nothing to worry about but me, the breath in my lungs and the muscles in my body. I feel loved and protected. I feel safe....and understood.

I don't live near much of a forest these days. So every chance I get to be amongst the comfort of the tall trees and the quiet rustle of the ground covering is like some form of unpaid therapy to me. We travel far and wide so I can breathe in the earthiness of forest floors as I my every step seems to kick up another smell as I leave behind another worry, another issue, another problem. And nobody seems to mind as I stop to catch my breath as we climb higher and further away from every little thing that was tying me up in the first place.

And I just fit right back in - comfortably into this world without boundaries or borders to tell me what I have done wrong or right. I fit right back into to home.

 

The Real Picture

hands full

No matter what my shoot - be it commercial, personal, editorial - and no matter what my subject, I am always trying to tell the story. I am always trying to covey something with my images - mood, story, or feeling.

One of the hardest things to do is to let that happen with shoots that have expectations. Whether people are trying to pose for traditional Christmas card photos or whether I am working on a commercial shoot for a big client, most people have trouble letting go and letting things evolve during our time together. Sometimes the mood isn't quite right. Or what they thought looked good in their head looks awful in camera. So I sometimes have to convince my clients to just let things be as they are. I have to show them how to trust me. So we wait sometimes....longer than normal. And we let things happen as they need to.

As a photographer, this is one of the hardest parts of my job. It requires my clients not having attachments to the outcome. Mostly, it requires a large level of trust in me and what I am doing. 

Admittedly, this is even hard for me at times. It not only requires them trusting me, but it requires me trusting myself. When a client has paid a large sum of money to do something...believe me, my goal is to deliver a product that they love every.single.time. But there has to be a letting go in the process. Both from them and from me.

In this shoot, we were trying to get a specific shot...newborn twins with momma. But the 2 year old toddler had something else in mind. He wanted to be in on it – on the bed, bouncing from all the sugary snacks we were feeding him in bribery to behave. He was done...finished with me and this day by this time...buzzing with sugar and ready for attention. This tells so much more of the real story. A young mom, hands full with identical twins and a toddler, life moving at a blurred pace.

And honestly, this is the story. This is what she will remember for the rest of her life. Not just a pretty picture, but a real one.

Summertime

 A little look at our iPhone summer.

A little look at our iPhone summer.

Summertime in Charleston is full of beach days and pool time, flip flops and wet swimsuits, picnics and prosecco.

We don't always have the budget to travel to exotic locations every year or to go on exciting adventures every weekend. But we do have the budget to go to the beach for a few hours to ride the waves, search for sharks teeth (my new summer obsession) or watch a few sherbet-colored clouds float by the fading summer sky.

We get to dance for a little while longer under these lovely, lingering summer skies. And I plan on doing more of this. More meals by the sea. More days lived by the rhythm of the waves. More schedules set by sunrises and sunsets. And come August 15th, I will sigh a little more heavily as our once simple days wash out in the waves once more. 

Precipice

precipice

We are on the precipice of something big. Standing on a cliff, ready to fall into the gusty winds.

Change is headed our way - with or without me being prepared. It's coming regardless of whether we are all perfectly ready and in balance for it's arrival. Change is on my doorstep, whether I want it to or not.

High school looms on the horizon now and I can't believe it's here. I can't believe the time ticks away so fast or that the little boy who held my hand as we crossed the street to go to preschool is now taller than me and taking on this world little by little... one day at a time.

I guess that's how it all really happens, too. Day by day. Minute by minute. Without us even knowing. Until one day - one scary, big, confusing day - they walk across that stage to receive a little 8th grade diploma and stretch their wings as they stand on the edge of that cliff.

And I will whisper into the sky (just low enough for only him to hear), "Not yet peanut...not just yet. I still need to teach you to fly."

 

Summer Daze.

surf's up
reading
smiles
shells
beach

I am in a summer daze. A hazy, lazy summer daze. I can't shake it off. And I really don't want to. I want these lingering days to last forever. Beach picnics at sunset and surfing into the dark hours of the day. I want to stay inside these in between days of spring and summer where the sun is shining and the breeze is cool and all I do is buck the Rules of Life.

It's here I want to lay my head and rest a while. I want to float around and get comfortably lazy with our schedules and Lists of Things To Do. I want to smile into the setting sun and thank her for yet another glorious day of life and give gratitude for the things that make the rest of it a little more palatable.

So here I will stay for a while with arms outstretched into the blue skies, laughing into the ocean winds again. Here is where I will be until the Summer turns her prickly heat on me once again.

And just like that.....

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Summer is here. Just like that.

For us, it isn't marked on a calendar or a clock. It isn't measured by the moon or the sun or the tilt of the earth. It arrives the day we drop our schedules and routines for something looser and a little more free. It arrives on a Tuesday at 5:37PM, when we are tired of homework and supper routines and classes and deadlines. It happens when we throw caution to the wind and finally sigh under our breath, "Summer is here. It's finally here."

Welcome back, Summer. I can't wait to float around gently and purposeless in your wake.

The Gift

my little backyard

When I need to regroup, recharge or just or restart myself on a new track during the day, I often come out here on my back deck and look at this view. I take a long, deep breath and pause to find 3 things I am grateful for so I can continue on with my day - hopefully a little lighter than when I started.

Mostly, this is an easy task. But in the past few years, I have struggled with some serious stress and hardship life decided to toss my way. It has made it excruciatingly hard to be present - particularly when your heart is not anywhere near you.

So what about those days when it IS difficult to find balance. What about those days that are hard and complicated and confusing? Or the days that are filled with angst and frustration? How do you find gratitude there? How do you look to find your happy place in those moments?

Honestly, some days I just don't. Some days I just fail miserably. And those are the worst days. But the best part is that I am trying. I always try to find the joy. It's a practice we all work hard for most days.

So I keep showing up here...on my porch. Some days, I have a tea and a smile and so much gratitude my heart could explode. Other days, I am pacing with anxiety or on the verge of tears. It's always different, just like each unique day. The point is, you have to always try. You have to keep showing up and without letting the present get away from you.

So I will keep showing up...right here on this porch. I will keep looking for the present within my heart while seeing the gift of what is real right in front of me.