“Do something that scares you every day.”
“Push beyond your comfort zone.”
We hear the advice all the time but how often do we take it to heart? How often do we genuinely push and challenge ourselves? I suspect your honest answers to these questions will give you a good indication of how much growth you're seeing in your own life right now.
If we don’t test our limits, we’ll never know how far we can go.
I had the opportunity to push myself, physically, last Monday during a quick trip to Arizona. If I'm being sincere here, I feel like I drive myself mentally on a daily basis, but I admit I’ve been slacking on the physical side.
Friends we were staying with suggested a hike. Unlike me, they are dedicated to their own physical fitness, and I admire them for that. A hike with them would not mean a leisurely stroll. Was I up to the challenge?
Absolutely! The weather was beautiful. In less than 48 hours, I'd be back at my desk at my day job while temperatures outside would start with a minus sign. It was time to get out and enjoy the beauty of the desert.
We headed to San Tan Mountain Regional Park, not far from their home. The park has numerous trails, and our friends have hiked them before. Which did we want to try? One of the easier ones? Or the one that would take us to the top?
Gulp. Would I hold them back and embarrass myself if we opted for the tough trail? Probably. But these were good friends, and I was confident they'd make sure we got out of there alive. They'd already shared a picture of one of their parents reaching the top. If a man twenty plus years older than me could make it, I couldn’t wimp out. They’d also mentioned another friend that chose not to push all the way to the top. So if I couldn’t physically make it, I had an out. I wouldn’t be the first to wait on the trail for them to finish.
At the fork in the path, we took a right, following the arrow toward the more challenging route: Gold Mine Trail.
The first bit wasn’t bad. My confidence was building. But then the route started climbing. I was getting a little winded. Then a lot winded. But we know what to do, right? I kept telling myself: head down…one foot in front of the other…don’t look up. Every journey consists of one step at a time. Yeah, yeah, yeah. How long could I keep it up, pretending I wasn’t dying to sit down and rest?
I finally confessed I needed to take a break. And here’s the deal. Our friends were great about it. We stopped, visited a bit, and enjoyed the scenery. Our goal wasn’t to get up and down as fast as possible. They were fine adjusting the pace. I was the only one being tough on myself. All I had to do was ask.
They’d followed this trail before. They knew the path well—where it would be tough and where it would get easier. Telling me this as we went along helped. Their guidance was encouraging.
I'm happy to report that despite shaking legs and labored breathing I did it. We went to the top of the trail together and enjoyed a spectacular view that stretched to the far horizon. The natural high of reaching the peak trumped the pain of the upwards journey.
Then it was time to go down. A piece of cake, right?
Turns out, coming down was a bit treacherous in spots. At one point my feet slipped right out from under me and down I went. I popped back up again as fast as I could, my pride hurt more than my butt. The small scab on my hand is nearly faded now. Bless the little kid climbing near us that witnessed my fall and assured me that he’d seen lots of people tumble right in that same spot. It wasn’t just me!
Once the trail leveled off again, we strolled back to the parking lot, stopping for pictures by a tall cactus, and stepping out of the way for mountain bikers heading up the trail. The conversation was lively and the path became busier, littered with little kids and families.
Our three-mile hike was a combination of excitement, pain, exhilaration, and reminders.
If we don’t test our limits, we never know how far we can go. Pushing ourselves reveals areas we may need to focus on more if we want to improve.
Important reminders I gleaned from our outing:
That trek through a beautiful state park in Arizona served up powerful reminders for me.
We can accomplish so much more than we think we can. Don’t worry about convincing anyone else that you can do something, but you do have to prove it to yourself. Strengthen the faith you have in your own abilities. Challenge yourself every day, do the tough things, and sit back afterwards with a smile, knowing you can do those things you set your mind to. Then do it again the next day. Quiet the fears in your own mind with daily reminders of your own strength. I have faith in you. Kim
We have an unsolved mystery at the office. Nothing significant, but a mystery nonetheless. After some time away over the holidays, I was back at the office on the second day of the new year. As I filled my coffee cup and prepared to face a full inbox after nearly two weeks away, I spared a glance at the still-decorated Christmas tree as I made my way back to my office. I remember thinking I should find twenty minutes to pull off the ornaments and stow the tree away until next year. I’d get to it if I could.
Later, when the light faded outside my office windows, I realized it was time to head home. I flipped off the lights as I was the last one to leave, again passing the still festive tree on my way out the door. Maybe I’d get around to it the next day.
I didn’t have to. When I returned the next morning, the tree stood bare. Someone had taken down all the decorations and stowed them away. No ornaments remained except one lone little bulb, still hanging on a lower branch. There was something about that single bulb that spoke to me.
Curious, I asked around. We only have a small group in our office area. No, none of them took down the decorations. Perhaps it was the woman who does such an amazing job cleaning our offices after hours. But she wouldn’t know where to put the tub of decorations. Whoever it was, they left a little something behind.
That one little gold bulb reminded me of how we almost always leave something behind us as we move through life, even when we don’t realize it.
Think about how many people we interact with each day. Regardless of whether our encounter is brief or lengthy, the quality of our interaction has at least the potential to impact us both. A kind word or a smile may be all it takes to brighten someone’s day. We’ve left a little something positive in our wake. On the flip side, if we’re having a crummy day and get impatient with someone, we can pass those bad vibes on, too.
It’s like we leave a little trail of breadcrumbs behind us, everywhere we go. We seldom leave things exactly as they were before we pass through. Sometimes the impact we make will be fleeting, sometimes it will endure.
We see this in nature, too. A dropped candy wrapper here, a trampled flower there, and suddenly a tiny bit of beauty is lost. Over time, the effects of carelessness can compound. We need to tread carefully, doing what we can to nurture and not destroy.
Nearly everything we do will leave at least a small imprint on the world. Our spoken words have the power to have an immediate impact on someone else. Our written words record our thoughts and could impact others, possibly for years to come. A kind gesture that perhaps seems almost inconsequential could literally save someone's life.
I’m saddened and mystified by the dilemma we find ourselves in right now in the US due to the partial government shutdown, but it warms my heart to see men, women, and children stepping forward to help others who suddenly find themselves in difficult positions through no fault of their own. Stories abound of people and businesses doing what they can to help. I heard about a restaurant in an airport offering free meals to TSA workers. I saw an interview with a woman who's faced hard times herself in the past, and now she's providing financial assistance to people who gave her a job when she needed it the most.
There are many similar examples, playing out all across the country. I hope the media continues to focus on the positive stories because, as we all know, what you focus on grows.
We’ve seen strangers helping strangers, countless other times. People helping people in times of struggle. Whether it’s a fire, a flood, or horrific acts of violence, people come together in times of need.
These are the kind of footsteps I hope we can all strive to leave behind us as we travel through life.
Make someone’s day, don’t ruin it. Plant a tree, don’t cut it down. Write a funny story and make someone laugh instead of dashing off a scathing comment meant to force your opinion on someone else.
Attitude is everything. Your own attitude can make or break your day. Just as importantly, it can make or break someone else’s, even when you don’t mean for it to.
We still don't know who undressed our tree. I could keep asking questions, but sometimes a little mystery is fun. I took the tree down and stowed it away later that morning, but I brought the small gold ornament into my office. It will serve as a reminder to me.
Everything we do leaves something behind. Make it count. Kim
What are some of your favorite childhood memories? Who is a part of those memories? Do any of them include special places?
My hope is we all have those times we enjoy traveling back to in our minds. Back to a time when we’d play more and worry less. If there was any screen time, it was Saturday morning cartoons.
When I close my eyes and let my mind wander back to my early years, I scan my memory banks for the things that still bring a smile to my face. The scenes I see in my mind's eye almost always include sunshine, warmth, and water.
During my pre-teen years, we had a camper parked in a spot on a reservoir just outside of the small town where I grew up. I can’t remember too much about the camper other than it was silver and curvy on the outside and walls were lined with wood paneling inside. It wasn't anything fancy (and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t one of those coveted Airstream models), but boy did we have fun.
Mom worked half days, and we spent almost every summer afternoon out at the lake. We didn't care that the beach consisted of coarse sand or that the lake bottom was first rocky then mucky the further you walked into the water. We didn’t know anything different.
I remember my cousin trying to learn to water ski off the end of the wooden dock. Based on the wipe out he suffered, that was a flawed plan. I’ll never forget how my brother, who was no more than five at the time, chased my poor mother along the shoreline with a harmless garter snake in his hand, laughing all the way as she screamed in horror. And then there was the time Mom lost the diamond out of her wedding band. She was pretty sure she lost it somewhere at the campground. We scoured the grounds, hoping to find it for her. Talk about looking for a needle in a haystack! It may still be out there somewhere.
Eventually, my folks must have sold the camper. I think it was when they took up golf. Instead of lake time, we began spending summer afternoons at the swimming pool. Every hour, on the hour, the lifeguard would blow her whistle and kick us out of the water for ten minutes of "adult swim." We didn't care because that meant snack time. Snickers and Mr. Pibb were my snacks of choice back then.
There were also early morning swim lessons. I still shiver at the thought of the chilly air. The water often felt warmer…until it was time to get out. Our city pool also had two diving boards. One was low and extremely bouncy. The other was a high dive. I’m not sure which part scared me more: the climb up the stairs, that first gut-wrenching walk out to the end of the board, or the free fall into the water below. Eventually, I came to love those diving boards, but not until after I pushed through my initial fear.
My memories morph again as I enter my teenage years. Summer days transitioned into a combination of time in the sun and time spent at what would be my introduction to the working world. By the way, this reminds me of something else. Everyone should wait tables at some point in their lives. Until you do, you can’t truly appreciate how challenging it can be. I’m a generous tipper today because of my experiences at sixteen!
When I wasn’t working, I was often back out at the very same lake from my younger years. The public beach, south of where we used to camp, was a favorite hangout. Instead of hanging out with my parents and brothers, my memories include great friends, bikinis, music, and suntans. There were cute boys and boat rides, water skiing and inner tubes. Ah, those were the days!
Well…except maybe for our tanning techniques. I need only look at the many sunspots now marring the skin on my arms and legs to concede the baby oil we doused ourselves in probably wasn’t the best idea.
As happens to so many of us, time spent at work grew from part-time hours to full-time careers. Cute boys were replaced with a cute husband and little ones of our own. We knew we wanted our kids to have their own childhood memories of time at the lake. We just needed to figure out how to make it happen.
We started with week-long vacations, taken with extended family, at various resorts around Minnesota. Certain things stand out when I think back to the different places we rented. One place had two functioning cabins, which served our needs well, but there were also three or four older cabins, ringing an old fire pit, that had fallen into disrepair. The new owners hadn't yet had time to rejuvenate the quaint little structures, but if you've read my novel "Whispering Pines," those small units were the inspiration behind the cabins ringing the fire pit in my story.
When one week at a resort was no longer enough for us, and with baby number three not more than a month old, we took the plunge and bought a camper of our own. We enjoyed ten, fun-filled summers in that camper, parked in a campground an hour and a half from our home and not far from our hometown. I’ll always be thankful our kids had the opportunity to develop precious memories of their own from those times with friends and wonderful 4th of July celebrations.
Our family outgrew the camper and we took the next big step. We bought a cabin of our own. It was essential for us to have a place at the lake. Our cabin, which is situated on the very same reservoir where I spent so many of my childhood summers, is now our favorite gathering place. Our hope is it’ll draw our kids back, with their own families, for years to come.
Wow...I need to pause for a moment. Thank you for allowing me to bring you along on that trip down memory lane. Honestly, before sitting down to write this piece, I hadn’t really thought about the many different ways I’ve spent my life, or at least the summers of my life, around water. It’s a bit surprising, living my whole life in landlocked North Dakota!
I also never would have guessed those memories would eventually become such an integral part of the novels I write. Heck, up until the last five or six years, I’d never even considered writing books. One of my favorite things to do at the lake has always been to sit in the sunshine, or swing in a hammock, with a good book in my hands. Now, instead of only reading them, I’m writing them too.
I love the fact I’ve been able to take something I enjoy and use it to feed my creativity. I incorporate so much of myself and my memories into my books. I sincerely hope I’ve been able to capture some of the magic of time spent at the lake in my stories.
This can serve as a wonderful reminder of how our life experiences, both good and bad, can someday serve us in surprising ways. It also brings me back to my original questions. What are some of your favorite childhood memories that never fail to warm your heart when you allow yourself some quiet time to think back to when you were a kid? Or do memories pop into your brain when you least expect them? When that happens, pause for a minute. Dust off those old memories and give yourself time to experience them again, even if it’s only in your mind.
I’d love for you to share some of those things that make you smile in the comments below.
I've had so much fun incorporating my love of lake-time into my writing over the past couple of years. I thought I'd drop a link in here for you, just in case you haven't yet read my free novella "First Summers at Whispering Pines 1980". I invite you to take a little mini-vacation with me back to a simpler time to enjoy some summertime fun.
There’s more than one way to beat the winter blues! Kim
January is often the month when we feel the need to declutter. I know I do. Whether it’s one of our New Year’s resolutions to tidy up or simply the desire to take a deep breath and relax in a calm environment after all the holiday activities, some of the accumulated junk simply needs to go.
Once the festive holiday decorations are again stowed away, things look bare. I admit I miss the ambiance of sparkly lights. Christmas has come and gone but winter still has a firm grip on things around here. Since we won’t be spending much time outdoors in North Dakota anytime soon, it’s the perfect time to tame some of the messes inside.
I like to think I do a relatively good job hiding the clutter in our house. But please don’t look in my storage room, various closets, or junk drawers. Doing so will blow the facade I’ve built, pretending I don’t often feel overwhelmed with too much stuff.
I know I’m not alone in this. A few of you fortunate souls do a fabulous job keeping the nooks and crannies of your homes blissfully free of clutter. I’m jealous. But apparently not jealous enough to make any real progress with my own stuff.
Why do we have such a hard time letting go of things? And I mean literal “things”, like my kids’ grade school artwork or my high school prom dresses (yes, they are tucked away in my hope chest in the living room, right alongside my wedding dress). I blame it on sentimentality mixed in with guilt. Guilt because I spent good money on something but now I’m contemplating either throwing it away or donating it. Or even more guilt if it was a gift someone gave me. I wish I could take my emotional attachment to some of my “stuff” down a notch or two.
Keeping things because of the emotional value we attach to them can actually be counterproductive. Instead of making us feel good through the memories the item can invoke, we start to feel anxious when all the places we tuck our treasures into are stuffed full.
I had a bit of an “ah ha” moment at work this week. For years, I’ve kept three matching frames on my credenza in my office. Each year, I place a new school picture over top of the old one, starting with first grade all the way through to their high school graduation picture. The frames are compact, mini time capsules I have the opportunity to open and flip through once a year, at least until they’re out of school. Since our “baby” is a senior this year, I felt a pang in my heart when I updated her picture on Wednesday.
When I look through the pictures stored in my frames, the changes over those twelve-year spans are incredible. Some changes were subtle from year to year. Other times, there were significant changes from the previous year. Suddenly they aren’t little kids anymore. Or they started wearing glasses. The glasses are gone, replaced with contacts. There are gap toothed smiles, followed by mouths full of metal, and suddenly there is a photo where straight, pearly whites are revealed.
Hairstyles changed, ranging from short to shaggy and back to short again on our son. Our daughters sported everything from pigtails to stick straight, long hair. There was even one side ponytail. Sometimes there were bangs, sometimes not.
What seldom changed were the emotions the pictures stirred up in my heart. While I obviously know they’ve grown up, the physical changes aren’t as apparent on a day to day basis. Just like so many other things in our lives, we don’t see the evolution as it's happening. It isn’t until we look back later that we can appreciate the magnitude of the change.
So why bring up messy clutter and school pictures together? Because I feel compelled to do two things simultaneously. I would like to do a better job getting the many photographs I’ve taken over the years into a format that is easier to enjoy. Our oldest pictures are tucked into boxes in a closet upstairs (clutter) but most are digital and sitting on various forms of media all over the house. I worry many of these photos could ultimately be lost as both the tools we use to take pictures and the way we store the digital images evolves so quickly. Or what if a hard drive crashes and my half-hearted attempts at backing up my photos comes back to haunt me? Or what if I again accidentally close another laptop with my earbuds sandwiched between the screen and keyboard, rendering the computer useless? It happens folks. Don’t leave it up to chance.
I need to transform more pictures into actual physical copies. For me, I think the ideal way to do this is to use one of the online services to create photo albums. You can get an amazing number of photos on a page and into neat, compact books, unlike the older, much clunkier photo albums.
The second thing I need to work on is coming to terms with my resistance to getting rid of some of the things I haven’t been able to part with up to this point. There are so many items I’ve tucked away over the years because they were “special” but I’ve completely forgotten about them until I go digging around for something else in a crowded closet and stumble upon them.
These first few months of the year seem like the perfect time to clear away some of the inside clutter, before Mother Nature ushers in milder temperatures and we head outside again.
And if I have pictures of my then baby son or toddler daughter playing with a favorite toy or wearing that darling jacket, maybe I could let the actual toy or jacket go.
Maybe…but if I’m being honest…probably not. I’ll keep their favorites. But there are so many other things that have lost their appeal, that if I clear those items out, keeping the favorites will make me smile instead of giving me hives.
How about you? Do you struggle with too much stuff? Cleaning out closets and wading through gigabytes of pictures are probably low on your to-do lists, too, but making progress with either issue would feel so rewarding!
What if we:
I hope I’ve shared something today that will encourage you to find the time to do a bit of tidying up if clutter is leaving you stressed (unless you are one of those fortunate, neat souls without any storage issues and you’ve already made online scrapbooking your hobby). Here’s to less clutter, more picture books filled with photos of your loved ones that you can hold in your hands (and technology can’t steal away from you), and more storage space on your phones after you get all those pictures out of it!
Who’s in? Let me know!
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go clean out my front hall closet. My timer is set! Kim
Kimberly Diede Author
Hello everyone and welcome to my blog! My name is Kimberly Diede and I'm a fiction author and family girl. When time permits, I am happiest with a great cup of coffee in one hand and a book in the other. I love to alternate between reading and writing. Winters here can be long, dark and cold. Summers are unpredictable, lovely and always too short. Every season of the year, as in every season of life, is a gift. Let's celebrate it together!