An Invitation to Beauty: What's calling you during the pandemic?

A local author and writing coach, Molly Caro May, recently offered a month-long daily writing experience titled In the Middle of It. Her intention is to help you uncover and write your story during this time of Coronavirus and its impact.

I joined immediately, eager for a structured outlet and time to journal.

In the weeks leading up to yesterday, I was still processing my fear and anxiety (see my last blog post). But as yesterday dawned, I could see a light in the darkness. I was in that state of consciousness that's between deep sleep and being fully awake, a half-dreaming-half-reality sense of being - the place where you feel confident, content, and hopeful.

For the first time in two weeks, fear was not on my mind. It felt like I was being lifted up and over my worries to see a larger picture. I could see a path winding across the landscape and a rush of energy and motivation urged me to follow it.

I smiled and got out of bed, stepping lighter than I had in days. As I sat down to b…

Beauty on the Bad Days: Anxiety and Joy

I've never labeled myself as one who experiences anxiety. Sure, I've worried about and ruminated on life's challenges, but I've always considered it a mild, temporary state of being.

Until Friday, March 13.

As news of COVID-19 permeated our world that week, I'd done my best to distance myself, both literally and figuratively, from the crisis. I knew I was in the "vulnerable" category with my muscle disease, but felt pretty safe. This strategy of avoiding the drama had worked in the past for me, and I was content to stay in my optimistic bubble.

Until I clicked on a link which was shared from a trusted organization. It was an opinion article from a doctor in Italy, and it shattered my little panic-free world. From its hyperbolic headline (Stop Killing People) to its dire claims of long-lasting effects if you even were to survive the coronavirus, the essay flipped a switch in the most ancient part of my brain that said, "You're in danger!"

My hear…

It's Okay to Have Limits: Putting your attention in the right place

Due to a rare muscular dystrophy, my muscles can only tolerate a certain amount of walking, standing, and sitting at one time. Even lying down has its challenges, depending on my positioning. These limits create a challenge for chores, hobbies, and daily living.

Yet for many years, I focused my attention in the wrong places.

Intellectually, I knew these physical limitations were there, but when I was in the middle of loading the dishwasher, mingling at a social gathering, or at the computer writing, I didn't want to stop, so I powered through to complete the task. I got the rush of accomplishment, but then a few hours later, I paid for it in muscle pain and exhaustion.

While recovering, usually on the couch with a book or with the television, I admonished myself for skipping the laundry, putting off a project, or otherwise not being productive. All I could see as I looked around was every unfinished chore, and I felt the judgment and shame building.

I needed to change my view.

So, for …

Stories From the Past: How a headline from over 50 years ago connected a daughter to her dad

I subscribe to, and part of the package includes access to I'd had the service for six months before I took the time to try it, and within the first fifteen minutes of searching, I'd found an article that made the extra fee worthwhile.

A few weeks ago, I sat down at my desk and brought up the website. I had about an hour before dinner, so I settled back in my padded chair, laid my hand on the mouse, and clicked in the search bar.

I typed in Murl J. Hume, my maternal grandfather's name, and hit enter.

On top of the list was an article from the Muscatine Journal and News-Tribune in Muscatine, Iowa. Bingo! I had a hit on my first attempt! The article was titled, Pvt. Murl J. Hume Returns to Camp, and it detailed how Hume, an enlisted Army serviceman, had been home on a 10-day furlough to visit his parents. It also told of his basic training and his Camp address in South Carolina.

I smiled at the way small-town newspapers reported on the…

Unplugging to Connect: What happens when you spend two hours playing with your friends

When is the last time you spent two hours laughing, concentrating, puzzling, and trying to outscore your friends, all without electronics or screens?

This is what a good board game can do.

Shawn and I have been acquiring and playing board games for over ten years. They have been Christmas gifts, birthday presents, just-because purchases, and impulse buys. Our collection used to fill one six-foot bookcase, and now it fills four. The local game store has gotten to know us by name as we have sought out entertainment, challenge, and variety.

Before I met Shawn, my experience with board games was limited to Trivial Pursuit, Pictionary, Monopoly or Risk. I had no idea that there were so many more diverse and engaging options out there!

The games we have take anywhere from twenty minutes to four hours to play, though the average time is about the same length as a movie. Some are card-based, some use dice to run the game, and many have the classic fold-out board at the center of the table.

No matt…

How to Set and Meet Your Goals: An obsessive control freak learns to let go

Hello. My name is Lisa, and I'm an obsessive control freak. My intervention was five and a half years ago, and I've been slowly releasing my grip since then.

New Year's Resolutions have always been troublesome for me. I love a fresh start, and if I'm planning a new project or endeavor, I'll always begin on the first, whether it be the first of the week, the first of the month, or (the best option) the first of the year.

My resolution usually goes well for a couple of weeks, maybe even a month. The trouble sets in when I miss day or two. My inner obsessive control freak tells me that I have failed the goal and that it's all over. That I may as well give up.

It's why I have half a dozen journals that are mostly blank.

It's why I felt an awful pit of guilt and defeat when I skipped a blog post two weeks ago.

It's why I've avoided making resolutions at all.

However, in my efforts to grow, I've been experimenting with letting go, especially when it com…

Picture Imperfect: How to feel authentic & beautiful in every photo

I took nearly a hundred pictures this Christmas. Pictures of food, presents, people, and pets. As you can imagine, not all of them turned out well; some were blurry, some had closed eyes, and some caught errant hands or feet in the frame. I deleted several of these for obvious reasons.

When I looked at the photos of me, I paid close attention to each one, scrutinizing minor details of my facial expressions and body placement.

I almost got lost picking myself apart in each picture.

Then I was reminded that the self-judgment wasn't worth my time. I accepted that the camera had captured an authentic view of who I am, and no matter my feelings about it, this was how I looked. And I decided to be okay with that. 

Once I let go of my expectations of perfection, I was able to see the beauty in the photos, the moments of joy, and the memories.

In this digital age of photography and social media, it's become easy to put forth only the best version of ourselves. We are tempted to delete the …