2018 and Getting The Most Out Of It

So here I am one week into the new year. I’ve had the week to think more about my plans for 2018. It wasn’t too hard to set the time aside – the temperature has hovered around 10-15 degrees all weekend. It’s been a perfect weekend to snuggle next to my Westie and work on my writing. With a couple of weeks left of college break my home is still busy and full since it has been gathering place for my sons and their friends. It has been far from boring and has been reminiscent of those earlier high school years with kids in and out, laughing, eating me out of house and home, late nights and sleeping in mornings. I don’t mean to digress, I guess my point is, even with the house full of activity since the cold is keeping all of us in a bit, I was still able to spend time plotting out the beginning of my new year. I’m so excited about 2018!

I mentioned in an earlier post that I wanted 2018 to be about inspiration, love, and hard work. Seeing these three words together on paper may not initially make a lot of sense. But these concepts keep ringing in my head, so I’m going with my gut and making these words my mantra for 2018. How am I going to do this? Well for now, I’m going to take this day-by-day focused on Inspiration, Love, and Hard Work.

My thoughts about Inspiration– I want to continue to be inspired by other Midsters and how they are making the most of living in the middle of their life and story. To be creatively inspired by continuing my love of photography and recent uptake of writing. I’ve been so inspired through photography this past year. Meeting people I would never have had the opportunity to meet if it wasn’t for photography. Hearing their stories, seeing how they live, what they enjoy, and what inspires them. I found the pictures and images I took, just a small window into their lives that they decided to share with me. I find this a real gift.

One of my adventurous photography clubs. Braving the cold temperatures for at least a short  while this morning.

 

Such a privilege getting to know the hardworking watermen on the Chesapeake Bay.

 

My mom and I visiting Tennessee together.

When it comes to Love– wow, so much I want to say about this and will definitely write more about this in the near future. Just a four letter word but the true meaning of this can’t be summed up easily. For me and 2018, I’m nurturing this one with all my heart! As I’ve aged I realized that this is it, at least for me! Feeling the love, showing the love… I’ve been so blessed with a family I love so much, both my nuclear and extended family. One of my favorite quotes of all time is from Mother Theresa, “Love begins by taking care of the closest ones — the ones at home.” My two children are “one foot out the door” sort of speak, as they are now young adults. They are everything to me therefore, I’m dedicated to continuing to love them by showing them, telling them and nurturing this new shift in the relationship that is now mother and young adult versus mother and young child.  And who can forget, as if my husband would ever let me, I still have a husband at home to love! I love him dearly. I consider “taking care of the closest ones” from Mother Theresa’s quote to mean more than those just at home as we become empty nesters. I’m fortunate to have both my parents still living. Though they are in Texas and I’m on the East Coast, I’m making them a priority this year. I did the same last year and want to continue to spend quality time with them. I’ve set aside time to make several visits home this coming year and my mother has become my routine travel buddy so I am blessed to see her quite a bit on the road. Adding to my extended family are my siblings. Sibling relationships can be complicated but I’m blessed with siblings that I love, adore, and enjoy spending time with. Nurturing these relationships comes easy to me- they are easy to love! I couldn’t finish writing about love and family without mentioning my cousins, nieces and nephew. Continuing to spend time with them and nurturing these relationships is something that also comes easy but takes time and effort since everyone has busy schedules. Last year, I started having dinner in the city once a month with my niece and cousin. Considering they are much younger than I am, they definitely find some young, hip and delicious spots to dine that I probably wouldn’t know exist. We are going to mix it up this year and add a few cooking classes to our outings. Washington is a vibrant city with a variety of entertainment options. I’m sure I’ll share more about this in future posts. Lastly, I’m intent on nurturing my friendships too. Oh, how I love my friends! This also is for another post and I can’t wait to share more about this with you. Having just said all of this, I think you can see that love to me is about relationships, that’s it and they so are important to me. This is what fills my soul.

Putting in some hard work and punches!

Hard work. I’ve always worked hard at least in my humble opinion. Having my first job at 14, putting myself through college, which wasn’t an easy task, and maintaining a job outside the home as I raised my family, these are all things I consider hard work. Admittingly, even though these things were hard, they brought lots of enjoyment and enrichment to my life. This year, I want to dig deep into those areas that might not initially bring enjoyment but are necessary and hard. The first on my list, commitment to a serious workout schedule. I’ve always exercised but not always as often or as consistent as I know I should. My physician told me at my age, I should be spending about one hour a day, 5-6 days a week doing rigorous exercise. So that’s it- I’m going to dig deep, even on days I have every excuse in the book not do so, I’m going to remember to “work hard” and get it done. I’m going to mix it up to keep it interesting and myself motivated. This morning I put in an exhausting workout at SolidCore. I’ve been going there for some time now and it really challenges me. I’ll definitely continue this routine a couple of days a week, hitting the gym one to two afternoons a week for strength training then power walking several mornings a week. I know without a doubt the benefits of exercise are invaluable and I need to make this non-negotiable for myself. Let’s see how I do. If you have any suggestions or advice for me about exercising, I’m all ears, just let me know.

Working hard for others is another challenge I was to take on this year. I volunteer now for 2 organizations in my community but this year, I want to get a little uncomfortable with it. I plan to step out of my comfort zone to work/volunteer in more vulnerable areas with those who really need it and are often overlooked because of the area they live in or their needs are too great. I feel strong about putting myself out there to really make a difference in places that most won’t. Truly doing something for others in great need.

I think my year is looking quite full and it’s only week one! So here it goes to Inspiration, Love , and Hard Work in 2018 as I continue to live with purpose, intent and a dash of adventure! Let me know what your intentions are for 2018. I’d love to hear about them and see how you are keeping them going throughout the year of 2018.

Snow, Bomb-Cyclone, Beginning of a New year.

So far, this year is off to a real cold one! The bomb-cyclone of January 2018 hit a bit east of DC leaving the metro-area with under 2” of snow, but with wicked winds, and frigid cold temperatures. The worst of the storm was on the Delmarva peninsula and upward to the Northeast US. I was so tempted to head out that way and stay at our vacation home on the Chesapeake Bay and watch this storm play out but obligations here in Arlington kept me put. If another storm heads our way, I’m bee-lining it to the Chesapeake Bay in hopes to listen to the snow thunder once again.

I admit I’m a bit of a weather junkie, loving all of it! I love the anticipation of a good storm and watching it play out on the other side of my windows. As soon as it is safe to venture out, I’m in it! It awakens me, feeling the rain fall, the splashing of the puddles on my boots, the wind on my face, the snow on my skin, all of it awakens my soul. It is one of those moments that gives me the feeling of “living” not just “existing.” I grabbed my camera in the early morning of the storm as it started to pass on by and went exploring the city.

Snow blowing furiously at National Museum of African American History and Culture, Washington DC.
The Lincoln Memorial and the frozen snow covered Reflecting Pool.
Only a few brave souls out in the snow. Not the usual hustle and bustle of a DC Thursday morning.

 

On the cusp of 2018

I find myself with raw and emotional thoughts on this last day of December and year 2017. It’s bitterly cold outside with a dusting of snow on the ground.  My home is cozy and warm except in my office where I am currently writing.  A cup of hot and steamy Chamomile tea is at least keeping me warm inside, leaving just my toes feeling a bit cold. Oh, how I love warm tea on a cold day. It almost seems decadent to me and such a treat!

My mind is playing like an old movie reel, not totally sharp of all the memories of 2017 but they are there, and leaving me both crying and laughing at different times. The year of 2017 started out with mourning the loss of my father-in-law who passed away just a few hours shy of ringing in the New Year. My husband and I had been his caregivers during the last six months of his life while our home had also become his. The challenges, sacrifices, and blessings that came along with that immense obligation and duty is still somewhat raw and I’ve not processed the experience yet completely. Part of 2017 was spent recovering from the roller-coaster emotions of the later half of 2016. Now don’t get me wrong, even in the light of dealing with the emotions of loss, 2017 was an awesome year! Personally for myself and my family, life was amazing and full of blessings, accomplishments, and adventures.

So here I am today on the cusp of another New Year and I’m so grateful to be here, alive, blessed, hopeful, continuing life’s journey, anticipating with excitement new beginnings, loving, being loved, growing to be more and do more.  Welcome 2018! This is my year of inspiration, love, and running to hard work. What are your intentions and vision for 2018?  Whatever they are, I hope you accomplish all your hopes and dreams for 2018. Happy New Year!

Holiday lights are lit to enjoy!

I’ve been a little annoyed at the time change and earlier nightfall this month. How about you? I’m trying to remind myself it is short lived and there are some advantages to an early dark sky. With the holidays here, one advantage of the early night sky is  enjoying the brilliancy of holiday lights all around us starting around 5:30pm. Whether you are running around in the city browsing, shopping, heading  home or enjoying a festival of lights with family or friends, be sure to make the most of all this color and sparkle since it only happens once year. Now go explore and enjoy the spirit of the holidays!

Silhouettes in Holiday Lights.
Squirrels at play
Meadowlark Garden Winter Light Festival
Silhouettes in Christmas Lights

Good For The Mind And Soul

What’s your charitable passion?

A few of us from team Seize the Day

With the cold nipping at my nose, I tied bells on my laces in anticipation of my family and friends arriving for the Jingle Bell Run. The annual fun run rings in the holidays for me every year. With elf hats, bells, strings of lights, and a toasty holiday drink in hand, I was ready to help one of my favorite charity organizations, the Metro DC Chapter of the Arthritis Foundation today.

Living with family members affected by this disease keeps this organization at the top of my list. Funds raised in this race supports research for new medications to help those affected with arthritis. Just in the past decade, biologic medications are literally keeping thousands of people out of wheelchairs and living a relatively pain free life.

I encourage you to choose at least one charitable passion and jump in and help. Not only is volunteering good for your community but it adds fun and fulfillment to your life. This is an exceptional way to help you live with purpose and intent! Since many organizations raise funds through charity races and walks,who knows it might even motivate you to walk or run more adding physical health benefits too. My niece and friend both took medals today in their age categories. They couldn’t have been more surprised!

So proud of these two! Winning medals for their age categories.

Let me know what charitable organizations are close to your heart. The link below can help you explore different charities to volunteer for. Break out of your daily routine and get creative, motivated, and inspired to help others.

https://www.volunteermatch.org

Up For Some Play?

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”  – George Bernard Shaw

Dawn and her horse Ava playing Chase.

Not that long ago, many early mornings started out with a game of hide and seek and yes, right inside my house. My youngest son was all to quick, flying by me and saying “you have to count to 20 then come and find me, ok mom?” His laugh often gave him away as he would giggle whenever I got close yet passed him by. Hide and Seek, tag, Marco Polo in the pool, tic tac toe, and hangman were all some of our favorites. As my boys became older, billiards, corn hole and beer pong replaced the list of early days. Even now, games are a favorite of my boys but somehow between the time my kids were young to being an adult now, I quit having as much “play” in my day. But in the pastures of Texas this past week, I was inspired to find my playful side.

 

Lucky enough to spend a couple of days with my best friend and her zoo crew, quickly brought back my sense of play with surprise, anticipation and excitement. Even though Izzy, a cockatoo and my friends’s two dogs bounced around the house and on me, it was Ava, the mustang that made me realize, we all need to have some fun and play. Did you ever think you could play chase with a horse? Well, my friend and Ava (her horse) played chase and oh what fun they had. I had fun watching them! Spending the day running, laughing, and playing made me realize what I had lost along the way and that I needed to make time to play again.

Dawn, Izzy-cockatoo, Ava, Abby and Sam

So what can we do to have or keep play in our lives now? To start with, we can set the intent to play more. Set goals to have fun along with your goals of exercise, healthy eating, and getting ample amount of sleep. All goals don’t have to be serious ones, right? I like to incorporate fun with my exercise so maybe try a Zumba class or some type of dance. If you played soccer or softball as a child, look for an adult league. Bocce Ball, bowling, and cards with friends or family can also be fun time.

Routinely having play as a part of your life can only add to your feeling of well-being. So get creative, start a game night group or join a sport and go laugh and play!

A few Happy, Thanks, and Giving in my life…

To me, Thanksgiving is best described as Happy, Thanks and Giving

A few of the Happy, Thanks, and Giving in my life….

Happy
Spending time with my family both far and near, moments of laughter with my boys Hunter and Cason, hugs from my husband, friends, seasons changing, my sweet dog Bloo greeting me at my front door, my first cup of coffee in the morning, wine, cheese, chocolate, the Chesapeake Bay, kayaking, boating, hunting for sea glass on the beaches of the bay, country music, hydrangeas, tulips, the sound of rain on the roof, holidays, laughter, kindness.

Thanks
For blessing me with my wonderful husband Robert and sons Hunter and Cason who I love so much, Loving, caring and supportive relationships with my parents, sibling, extended family and friends, being able to laugh when the going gets tough, hugs, memories, for my life…wherever it may lead me, freedom, good health, all the reasons to smile, miracles, God.

Giving
To my family, others, myself, to the Lord

I wish you much Happy, Thanks, and Giving this season!

Blessings,
Mary-Anne

A Meaningful Life

 How can you cultivate meaning in your life?

Lately I’ve been craving more from myself. This didn’t happen overnight but has been a constant tug and at times even a pull. Honestly, sometimes I think my subconscious is more menacing than helpful, but in this case, I appreciated what it was telling me.

Living in these middle years of life has given me a lot to think about especially since I’m almost an empty nester. I ask myself “what now?” And then I quickly remind myself, even though my kids are in college, I still have my wonderful and quite entertaining husband and career. Then why am I now craving more from myself? Could it be I need more purpose now that the kids aren’t home?

Having a career, friends and a hobby or two, definitely eased the transition. If you are approaching empty nest years be sure to keep your friendships with other parents, learn a new skill (I am learning photography) or find a fun hobby.

The years in the middle of our story, can be some of the best years and as meaningful as ever. We just have to start living these moments,  days and years the best way we can. I’ve recently been craving to be more, do more and live more. I’ll not only be writing about it here but I may even be shouting it.

So how can we all continue to live a meaningful and complete life in all stages of our lives? There’s a lot of different theories and ideas about how we can accomplish this. I believe if we take care of ourselves physically and mentally and find our sense of purpose, we are well on our way but there’s more to do.  Cultivate meaning in your life, learn about the 4 pillars that are essential to living your best life now. I encourage you to listen to the TED talk “There’s more to life than being happy” by Emily Esfahani Smith. http://emilyesfahanismith.com

Join me in enriching these years, making them meaningful, adventurous, and with purpose. Let me know what you are doing to make these your best yet.

 

Remembering our Veterans

Korean War Memorial, Washington, DC

Life as a child was fairly simple for me even with the challenges that came from having three siblings, a mother attending nursing school during the day and then working the graveyard shift, and a father who’s job at times took him out of the country. Our days were in constant motion, all chipping in to do our part and the conversations around the dinner table were mainly those of the day’s activities.

I can’t remember exactly my age when I came to realize my father was an American soldier, a man who fought for his country, a man who mourned for his friends who didn’t return from Korea, and a man that was grateful to God for sparing his life.

Having been born in the mid 1960’s overseas and not moving to the US until the 1970’s, war, soldiers, terror, and world conflict wasn’t in the forefront of our daily living and conversation as it is now. My father, being the modest and private man he is, never spoke of his service or the dark days of the Korean War. Even present day, at the age of 86, my father safe guards the days of war closely, never offering or mentioning the service he gave. The lack of sharing his experiences during those years spent, is evidence enough of the horrific days he must have endured.

It wasn’t but a few years ago during a visit with my parents at my home in Arlington, VA, that we all decided to visit the Korean War  Memorial in Washington, DC. As you can imagine, living in the Metro DC area and having many family members and friends often staying with us, the trips to the memorials are more numerous than I can count. To say the truth, none of the visits to the museums or memorials particularly stand out in my mind except for the one with my father. That evening couldn’t have been more emotionally stirring and poignant.

The day we visited, the mood was partially set by the evening sky, cool air, and earlier rain.
The aged man, the Army war solider that I have the privilege of calling dad, was standing at the feet of replica soldiers lined up in rows of Juniper shrubs as though they were walking through the rice paddies of Korea. The 38 soldiers were made wearing rain ponchos that appear to be blowing in the wind, some covering their equipment. The soldiers guns are either hanging off their shoulders or held firmly by their side. The expressions on their faces saying a thousand words.

We had the memorial on this particular evening almost to ourselves. Tourist season had since passed and the cool and rainy weather wouldn’t be very welcoming to most. It was a perfect evening for us, quiet, mood provoking, and the memorials were dimly lit because of nightfall. I find the war memorials in the evenings to be especially beautiful, they are perfectly lit with night lighting that casts the perfect amount of light on the images and stone walls.

My father, strolled through the Korean Memorial at a snail’s pace, taking it all in row by row and ending up at the Pool of Remembrance where the words are displayed “Freedom is not Free.” As I glanced over at my father, I could see the tears flooding his eyes and eventually spilling over and running down his face. He takes his cotton handkerchief from his pocket, wipes his tears and continues to walk over to the Wall of Remembrance. Here, over 2,400 photographs from the National Archives of the Korean War have been etched into the black granite wall.

I don’t know that I have ever felt more pride for my father than at that moment. My father is a quietly strong and modest man, a man who loves his country, God and family. A man I’m so proud to call dad .

As we all remember Veteran’s Day, please pray for all those that have served our country and those who continue to fight for our freedom.

Mary-Anne

 

 

Somerset, here I come!

The Barronville Bridge, Circa 1880 was the first on our stop.

A  friend of mine emailed a group text to several photographer enthusiasts, including me, suggesting a trip to Somerset, PA to photograph the covered bridges at the peak of Autumn color. Some of my best days over the past couple of years have been spent with these fun and energetic friends. We have explored the world around us, ventured into waters unknown to us, laughing until we almost pee, and have spent late nights attempting to solve the world’s problems since our teenage and young adult kids will no longer let us help solve theirs. No way was I  going to miss out on a weekend of fun with these ladies.

The beauty of the bridge could be seen both inside and out.

The most organized of the group, emailed each of us a map with directions to each old covered bridge weeks before we ventured out. A couple of us offered to drive including me since admittedly it seemed to be one of the easiest chores. Hotel reservations were secured from another in the group,  LA (nickname) who always seems to enjoy the finer things in life, leading us to believe lodging would be nothing short of acceptable. A week or so prior to this outing, she stated that one small motel chain appeared to be the only one area since it was the one that popped up in her Google search. Needless to say, it wasn’t the most pleasant of stays, to the point I won’t comment anymore about this except to say, this Somerset highway exit seemed to be a hub for truckers, hookers and several hotel chains. If you ever decide to visit this particular highway exit,spend a few minutes exploring all lodging options first. As I’m still burying thoughts about the one-night stay, LA has since spent time at the luxury resort, Fogo Island Inn, leaving any thoughts of the questionable motel far in her distance.

Dairy Farm in Somerset County, PA.

The beauty of the Pennsylvania countryside and the undeniable charm of the historic covered bridges soon proved to be worth the weekend trip. Unexpected adventures came with the day, as would be expected from these fearless and adventurous women. I don’t think any of us have met a stranger. We are all too quick to pull into picturesque working farms to take images or accompany fisherman, crabbers or clammers photographing their hard day’s work.

Photography is something I picked up just a few years ago and now with my nest empty, I have the time to go explore with my camera. What hobbies are you interested in? Don’t hold back, pick one and try it out. Now’s the time for you to live your best life now!