How the Story Ends…

After publishing 5 Years, 5 Minutes and the Happiest Place on Earth, I was contacted with the following: “Inquiring minds want to know, how does this story end?” So, for all the inquiring minds …

In the original post I wrote, “Let’s be … people who choose, and choose again and keep choosing to embrace joy, to grab it fiercely and hold on tenaciously.” Those words really are the rest of this story.

When I checked out of the hotel, I had to pay several hundreds of dollars for the repair with the assurance that there would be a partial refund coming the following week. The following week I received a bill for over $2000.00. When I questioned some of the line items, I received a bill for $2400.00. I spent hours on the phone with the hotel manager, with the maintenance supervisior, with the third party contractor who installed the tub, with his franchise headquarters in Canada. I talked with attorney’s. Finally, I obtained the contact information for the person who runs the hotel. He agreed to seek another bid from another repair company and I have not heard from them in over a month.

I don’t yet know how the story will end. I only know that this is an opportunity for me to practice choosing joy, to continue choosing it when the bad situation only gets worse, to choose it when I am tempted to worry and Anxiety, that relentless adversary, would attempt to place me in his shackles and isolate me from joy.

I chose not to let the situation steal the joy of Disneyland and being with family. That was a personal victory, but I didn’t realize at the time that the joy of Christmas would be threatened as well, that in the following days and weeks I would be confronted with the same decision, with the same choice.

This story is still a cliff-hanger. I still choose to cling to joy. I am learning what it means to cling relentlessly and how to hold on with tenancity when my grasp feels weak and the days without resolution feel long. I am hopeful that I’ve heard the last of this, but if not, well, I guess I’ll keep practicing, keep choosing.

5 Years, 5 Minutes and the Happiest Place on Earth

“Mom, you need to come in here.” This was Anna calling to me from the bathroom of our hotel room. Half an hour earlier I had stretched the hotel blow dryer from its location next to the sink, into the room that contained the bathtub and toilet. I wrapped the cord around the faucet, and put the blow dryer in my shoe.

About now you are probably wondering what in the world I was doing. Well, let me tell you. I was feeling brilliant!

We were at Disneyland celebrating Anna’s 21st birthday. Yes, her birthday was in July and yes it was now December. But there we were, with my parents, my son and daughter-in-law and my nephew. It was our second day and until now it had been magical!

Disneyland had been transformed into a Magical Christmas Wonderland. Garlands hung from buildings.  Lights twinkled, illuminating trees and roof lines. Christmas trees rose tall and majestic on Main Street. Christmas carols floated on the air. The very atmosphere was charged with a festive energy as gingerbread scented snow fell from the Southern California sky. Yep, snow in Southern California. Only at Disneyland!

An early catastrophe had been avoided when a kind man working Space Mountain recovered my cell phone. It had fallen from my pocket on our first ride on our first day.  In that moment, when he placed the phone in my hand I was sure nothing could mar this trip.

From there it only got better. We had not waited more than 10 minutes to get on a ride. I’d enjoyed a Disneyland corn dog … hands down the best corn dogs on earth … and I consider myself a connoisseur.  We’d laughed and laughed until I cried and my sides hurt.  I was surrounded by people I love.

The magic continued into day two. We’d walked thirteen miles the first day, and the park would be open later this night. For these reasons we decided an afternoon break was in order.

Knowing we’d be returning to the hotel room, we board a raft on the Grizzly River Raft Ride, affectionately known in our family as GRRR. The day before, we’d exited the ride with clothes soaked, hair hanging damp in our faces, and water squishing in our shoes with each step.

This time however we were prepared! We donned our newly purchased plastic ponchos, (at least the girls did), full of naive expectation that the plastic would somehow protect us. We’d learn that the water would find it’s way over the top, in the sides and splash up from the bottom. As a result, when we started the mile-long walk back to our hotel room we were once again wet and cold, but happy.

After changing from my wet clothes, I put the blow dryer in the porcelain sink with my wet shoes, hoping they would dry and plopped onto the bed with my laptop to complete some work before we returned to the park.

My dad asked about the persistent noise and in an effort to ease the annoyance I moved the shoes and blow dryer to the bathtub. I closed the door, the noise was muffled and I returned to the bed satisfied that I’d solved this minor issue and could only be considered brilliant …. until my high horse violently bucked me off with those 7 little words from Anna, “Mom, you need to come in here.”

I responded, somewhat tongue in cheek and with a little chuckle,  “What, did the blow dryer melt my shoe?”

“No worse. It melted a hole in the tub!”

What?! How can that be? A blow dryer can’t put a hole in a bathtub!! But it did. Right there, where the bottom of the tub meets it’s side was a silver dollar sized hole. There was no denying it. My mind raced. Could I fix it. Yes, I probably could. With a repair kit and a little bit of time. That was it. I’d just find a Lowes or Home Depot and I’d fix the tub before we left. But I wasn’t sure I could find an exact color match and did I really want to spend my vacation repairing a bathtub?

Google “what to do if you melt a hotel bathtub” and you will get exactly zero responses. Nada. Zip. Apparently I am the first person in the history of the internet to make this particular blunder.

I weighed my options, then drug myself to the front desk and attempted to explain to the manager what had happened. After several attempts to comprehend what I was saying he simply said he would send a maintenance man.

I left the office, dejected and depressed. This mistake was going to cost me more than the rest of the trip combined and I had certainly not budgeted for “melted bathtub”.

As I walked back to our room alone, I had some time to think. I recalled something I’d heard recently. “If the thing you are worried about will not matter in 5 years, don’t give it more than 5 minutes of energy or worry.” My memory was sketchy on the details. Maybe it actually said not to give it more than 5 hours of worry. I don’t know, but I had a firm grasp on the concept.

I knew, in that moment, I had a choice to make. I could let this ruin my trip or I could choose joy. I have the incredible privilege of being able to choose how I frame this story, not just here on my blog, but there, in that moment. In the moment of my distress. And in the moments that would follow.

I was in Disneyland. With three of my kids, two of which I don’t see often. I was spending time with my nephew, my parents. I was in the Happiest Place on Earth. A place where the worries of life can be set aside for a time and you can be transported back to childhood. Where magic is real and one can believe that dreams do come true.  I was experiencing something that, for many, remains only a distant dream.

A place that is the reality of one man’s audacious dream, a dream that today touches millions of lives every year, providing joy for it’s guests and employment for thousands of families.

I love the story of Walt Disney because he was a dreamer.  Disneyland was another dream in a long list of dreams pursued and obtained by Walt. Dreams that were pursued with great risk and at great cost. If you haven’t already, watch the movie Walt Before Mickey. Be inspired. Be challenged.

In that moment, walking from the office to the hotel room, confronted with my choice, I chose not to let stress steal joy. I chose not to steal the joy of those with me. There was not a thing, not one thing I could do about that tub. It was stupid, but it had happened and I would have to make it right. That was the cold, hard truth. But I didn’t have to let it be more than that. The circumstances had not changed, but I could.

In 5 years, it would be a mere memory, something the kids would bring up to tease me and we would all laugh together. I chose not to give it more than 5 minutes of worry, 5 minutes of energy. If I’m really honest, I chose not to give it 5 more minutes of worry. I’d surpassed the 5 minute milestone before I’d ever made it to the front desk. None-the-less, on that walk, alone, I made a choice.

That’s the real beauty, the real magic and most of us miss it. We have a choice! We can embrace faith or embrace fear. We can choose stress or we can choose joy. We can focus on what we don’t have or we can be thankful for the blessings we do have.

The choices we make ultimately make all the difference in our lives, in who we become, in our characters. They even affect our health. Choosing joy combats the damaging effects of stress. And, it affects those around us. Let’s be carriers of joy, people who enrich the lives around us in spite of negative circumstances. People who choose, and choose again and keep choosing to embrace joy, to grab it fiercely and hold on tenaciously.

There is tremendous power in realizing we can choose and in choosing joy.

5 years, 5 minutes. It’s your choice.


Dream the Life You Want then Live the Life you Dream: 6 strategies for achieving your 2018 goals

Just three days. Three days until we ring in the New Year. Three days until one calendar will come down to be replaced by another. New. Clean. Squares on a page, blank except for numbers to count the days, waiting for ink to consume the empty space. A blank page upon which we will write our story. And that’s the amazing thing. We have the incredible privilege of writing our own stories!

It’s a truth we often want to ignore, deny and avoid.  It’s uncomfortable. It means that our reality, our circumstances, our lives are in some way, at some level our own responsibility. Like a sword, it severs excuses. Like a flame it burns away blame we too often place onto others. It calls us to responsibility. We squirm. We try to avoid it, but it’s there, this truth. If we can summon our courage, raise our eyes and look it in the face, if we can set aside fear for just a minute, if we can come to embrace it, we will find freedom.

We don’t have to be stuck. We don’t have to settle. We don’t have to give up on dreams!

As I’ve thought about the coming year and considered goals, and what I will write in those blank, little squares, I’m increasingly mindful of this truth. My story will be written. Will I write it or will I let others write it for me? Will it be written by my intention or by the tyranny of the urgent? At the end of 2018, will I be able to say I lived the life I wanted to live, did the things I wanted to do, accomplished the things I wanted to accomplish, grew in the ways I wanted to grow, and developed the character traits I desired.  I hope so. With intention, with discipline, with faith.

It seems everyone has strategies and advice on goal setting. I’ve read the books, watched the Ted Talks, and listened to the podcasts. This year I’ve compiled those things into 6 strategies I want to implement in 2018.

1. Define the “why”.

I recently heard best-selling author Jeff Goins speaking about Michael Hyatt’s goal setting program. Jeff said a couple of things that were really eye-opening for me. He spoke of the need to define the “why”. Why do I want to accomplish a certain thing? Jeff said that the “why” has to be real, not some politically correct version of a “why”, or a “why” I think I should have. It needs to be a real, deep down in my heart reason for wanting to have or do this thing. He gave the example of losing weight and getting in better shape. The politically correct “why” is to be healthier and to have energy to play with the kids. The real “why” might simply be to look great and have greater confidence as result. We might be able to fool others, but we can’t trick ourselves. Define your “why”. Make it compelling. Make it urgent and be honest with yourself. I can’t explain it, but for some reason, that’s the hard part for me, being honest with myself. It’s scary. It feels vulnerable. But it’s powerful.

2. Focus on the smaller goals first

Jeff Goins said something else that really struck a cord. He said that sometimes it’s better to attack the smaller goals and then the big goals will take care of themselves.

In his book, This Life I Live, Rory Feek shares his journey to becoming a successful songwriter and realizing his lifelong dream. For a year he wrote at least one song a day. Day after day he wrote and he just kept writing. It didn’t matter that none of them became hits. He wrote. It didn’t matter that weeks and months passed without success. He wrote. After nearly a year, and over 300 songs, one song became a hit. And then another and another.

The goal could have been to write a hit song. In fact, that was part of his  ultimate goal, but the goal to get there was measurable and attainable. Write at least one song a day. Staying faithful to the smaller goal allowed the larger goal to take care of itself.

3. Be Consistent.

One of the hardest parts of setting and achieving goals is practicing discipline. You’ve heard the saying, “Pay the price of discipline or pay the cost of regret”. The reality is that few things are accomplished or achieved without practicing discipline. Discipline means doing the thing you need to do even when you don’t feel like it. It’s foregoing the good in pursuit of the best. It’s being consistent and tenacious, when you’re tired, when you’ve had a long day, when it feels like the world is resting on your shoulders, when your heart is aching. You do the thing anyway, because you can see beyond that moment in time, beyond those feelings, beyond the fatigue. The pain of the moment fades in the light of the promise of what is to come and you know that the cost of discipline pales in comparison to the cost of regret and joy comes in the morning.

4. Measure your goals and review your progress

Too often I’ve been known to set a goal and even go so far as to write it down only to stick it in a drawer and forget about it. Then I wonder why my life looks the same a year later. Goals are meant to be measured, reviewed and evaluated. This year I will review my goals each morning. I’ll keep them in forefront of my mind. I’ll evaluate my progress and tweak the goals if needed.

5. Celebrate wins, reward yourself.

I’ve never been very good at this. To me, accomplishing a goal is the reward. I don’t need a celebration. I’m much more comfortable just moving on to the next thing. But perhaps, just maybe, I’m missing the boat. My daughter Anna buys herself a little something every time she finishes a semester of college. She looks forward to this. It’s a little celebration, an acknowledgement that what she’s accomplished took effort and commitment, that she’s making progress toward the ultimate goal. I think it’s helpful. I think it’s good. Maybe I could use a little more celebration. Maybe we can celebrate together?

6. No place for fear.

What keeps us from achieving more? What keeps us stuck, struggling month to month to pay the bills? Or dieting year after year only to find the scale is moving in the wrong direction? What keeps us from pursing that thing we really love? Why don’t we tackle that project we’ve been putting off or get that education we talk about. The paperwork remains undone, the closets cluttered and unorganized. We still can’t get the car in the garage. We long for change so why don’t we create it?

For me, in my life, it’s usually FEAR. Fear is a ruthless slave master. His whispered lies become chains to bind us and we believe them. He cripples us from action. He’s a thief, stealing joy, stealing hope, stealing dreams. He tells us that we aren’t enough, will never be enough, that our best isn’t enough, and if we try we will only fail. He shouts that there’s not enough time, not enough energy, not enough money. He wants us to believe that our dreams are too big, too unrealistic, that people like us don’t accomplish things like that. Fear is a liar made powerful by our own decisions to believe him. Silence him with truth. Dis-empower him with  faith. Conquer him with love.

Then let yourself dream. And dream big. Then dream a little bigger. Define your why. Be honest with yourself, even when it’s hard, even when it’s vulnerable. Set goals and tackle the smaller goals first. Let them pave the way to accomplishing the larger goals. Be consistent. Practice discipline. Learn to find joy in the discipline because of the harvest it will reap. Measure your goals, evaluate your progress, change course as needed. Know that challenges are beneficial. And celebrate! Celebrate your wins, celebrate your milestones. Enjoy the journey.

Write your own story!  Find your courage, be bold, be playful, laugh, be audacious if you want. Dream the life you want then live the life you dream. If you haven’t started yet, why not start now?

The Practice of Gratitude

I’ve been thinking about Gratitude lately. The topic seems to be popping up on blogs, and in social media and magazines. So what’s the big deal about gratitude and why are people talking about it?

In his essay, “Why Gratitude is Good”,  Robert Emmos, a scientific expert on gratitude writes, “First, it’s an affirmation of goodness. We affirm that there are good things in the world, gifts and benefits we’ve received. This doesn’t mean that life is perfect; it doesn’t ignore complaints, burdens, and hassles. But when we look at life as a whole, gratitude encourages us to identify some amount of goodness in our life.” So far so good. Who can argue that it’s beneficial to recognize the good in the world and in our lives.

Grateful and blessed to see this view everyday.

In our plugged-in society we are constantly bombarded with stories of negativity, crime, terrorism, abuse and natural disasters. Sometimes it feels like the negativity washes over me, sticks to my body, invades my mind, drains my energy and joy and affects my sight. It’s very much like trying to look across a cigarette-smoke filled room. The colors are muted, eyes burn, images are distorted. The stench is foul and clings to hair and skin and clothing.

Practicing gratitude is a way of opening the doors and windows, letting light and fresh air replace the haze and putrid smoke. It’s like inhaling deeply of fresh, mountain, morning air.  It allows us to see things that we couldn’t see through the haze.

We live in a broken world. Bad things happen, children are hurt, disasters strike, we get sick, bosses are mean. You know this. You walk in those trenches every day. And it’s easy to begin to believe those things are the whole picture. They aren’t!

The world is also filled with beauty, kindness, goodness and love. Sometimes we just can’t recognize those things through the smokey-haze.

Grateful beyond words for these gifts…

Gratitude brings those things back into focus and in doing so it provides us with a whole host of benefits … It reduces depression, increases happiness and optimism. It has documented health benefits, affects neural activity (read more here), reduces stress, increases the length and quality of sleep, reduces pain, and boosts performance. Gratitude helps us see goodness.

Mr Emmos goes on to say, “The second part of gratitude is figuring out where that goodness comes from. We recognize the sources of this goodness as being outside of ourselves. It didn’t stem from anything we necessarily did ourselves in which we might take pride. We can appreciate positive traits in ourselves, but I think true gratitude involves a humble dependence on others: We acknowledge that other people—or even higher powers, if you’re of a spiritual mindset—gave us many gifts, big and small, to help us achieve the goodness in our lives.”

This, my friends, is the part that really spoke to me. For all it’s benefits, practicing gratitude is perhaps most beneficial in the way it affects our relationships. At the end of the day, it’s not the size of our house, the balance in our bank account, or the cars we drive that matter most. It’s the people who walk beside us, who share our lives, those with whom we laugh and cry and work and play.

And my fifth daughter!

And for this new son! (photo by Levi Tijernia)

Gratitude draws the connection between the goodness in our lives, those people who contribute to it and the God who is the source of it. It reminds us to be humble. It fosters kindness. It strengthens our connection with others. It helps us see the beauty around us, in nature, in situations, in people.

I wish I could say I’ve mastered this discipline, that practicing gratitude is natural and effortless. I haven’t and it’s not. It’s too easy to complain, to see the negative, to wallow in self-pity. But gratitude is worth pursing. And like most things, the more we do something, the easier it gets, until hopefully, it eventually weaves through the fibers of our being and becomes a part of our character. That’s who I want to be. So I will take the steps necessary to get there. I will put in the time and effort. I will practice the disciplines because I want to reap the rewards.  Would you walk this road with me, this road into greater gratitude?

Grateful for you!


Three ways to practice gratitude:

  1. Keep a gratitude journal. Before bed each night, take 5 minutes to write down 1-3 things for which you are grateful. Do this for at least three months. This is not a new concept nor a difficult one, but it does take commitment and discipline.
  2. Write a letter to someone who has influenced you and for whom you are grateful. This will foster gratitude in you and bless them.
  3. High/low game. When the kids were young we had a tradition at our dinner table. (I think we saw this in a movie, but to be honest, I can’t remember for sure.) As we ate, we would go around the table and each person would share their “high and low” for the day. They would tell something that was hard or disappointing and then they would share the high point. This is something for which to be grateful.

Thanksgiving and a Life in Perspective

I love Thanksgiving. The gathering of family, the traditions, the meaning behind the holiday. I love the decorations, the colors, the food, and the smells.

Last year nineteen people, including young children, gathered around the table set up in my living room. I loved having kids running around the place, jumping on the trampoline, gathering eggs, playing with the chickens, petting the horses, and chasing the cats.

I miss having little ones and sometimes I find myself bewildered when I consider my own kids. Where did those years go?

Nineteen years ago I was living in an old Victorian house, in a questionable part of town. In hindsight the house seems delapitated, but it had character and a spire at one corner and I loved it. My children were four, three, two and I was 6 months pregnant. Though my days were filled with endless chores (did I mention 3 kids and another on the way?) I still loved to entertain.

There’s something satisfying about setting a beautiful table, heaping it with lovingly prepared food and sharing it with others. Sometimes we’d have the luxury of lingering over dessert and a second cup of coffee while the kids ran off to play. We’d talk about our lives, our kids, current events, what books we were reading, our dreams. We talked about cooking, decorating, parenting, events in the Middle East and everything in between. The topic didn’t matter much. We were together. Sharing life.

About that time, one of those friends, Barb, first suggested I blog. To be honest, I barely knew what a blog was, and I couldn’t imagine anyone wanting to read about my crazy life. I wish now I had listened. I would like to have those years chronicled.

I wish I had been able to really grab ahold of the old truth, “time flies”. It’s the phrase so often and so wistfully uttered by those older, wiser individuals, with a sigh and slight shake of the head. The young nod in agreement, as if they understand, but the elders know it will be many years before the weight of that truth sinks deep and finds a home in the souls of the young. Sometime in a distant future when the young have moved from the ranks of young to the not-so-young, only then will they know.

Beautiful pies complements of my daughters!

So it is with me. I have left the ranks of the young … another truth whose reality eludes my comprehension. I don’t feel as if two of my children should have spouses, my baby should be in high school, and I should be a few short years away from an empty nest, from grandchildren. Yet the truth of it pursues me relentlessly.

I am learning to navigate this new chapter of my life. It feels awkward and unfamiliar, not at all like the transition to motherhood. Motherhood felt like coming home. This feels as foreign as any foreign land I’ve visited. Yet, I know the foreign can become familiar.

We have family traditions adopted from the countries we’ve lived and visited. Those scary, unfamiliar things have become part of who we are. And it’s good. I’m finding more time and money and space for things that have always been in me. Things like starting a business, flipping houses, doing rehab, refurbishing and repurposing old furniture, dabbling in agriculture, and maybe even blogging.

Maybe there are others who share some of my interests. Maybe others could benefit from my experiences. The young mom who doesn’t think she has the energy to change one more diaper. A young couple who would like to flip a house. The friend who asks how to grocery shop on a budget or how to create healthy, wholesome meals. The twenty-something learning to navigate her way into adulthood. The one who wants tips on creating a beautiful and functional home. Others, like me, learning to navigate a new season in life.

Maybe it’s bigger than just my experiences helping others. Maybe we enrich each other’s lives by sitting around my virtual table, sharing food, and ideas and life. By finding courage to be vulnerable. And being surprised by the freedom and joy that vulnerability brings.

In Daring Greatly, Brene Brown says, “Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. ”

I would argue that it’s the birthplace of beauty too.

I am confident that this life is best lived in the company of others.  You’re always welcome around my table. So, pull up a chair and stay awhile.

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