13 years ago our nation was attacked.  It took our collective breath away. I remember the horror of watching the buildings fall, the news coverage jumping from Pennsylvania to the Pentagon and then back again to the Twin Towers.  Finally, once we felt the danger was over, everyone pitched in to help.  Our country was united in a way that I’d never experienced.  Politics aside, we helped, lifted, served and loved one another. 

My grandpa is a WWII vet who was stationed at Pearl Harbor when it was bombed.  His generation served their country and then came home with their hearts set on family.  In his 90’s now, he lives in the same house he raised his children in. He works in his garden, crafts homemade wood boxes, is active on social media and loves to be surrounded by his family.  He lives simply and happily.  He has lived this way for his entire adult life.

After a tragedy, the shiny complications of life fall away and we are left to focus on what is most important:  family, love, community, service, and God.  Slowly, the lessons learned are tucked away in our memories and we go back to focusing on the newest iPhone, the prettiest cars and all other modern fancies.

September is the last month before the rush of the holidays overtakes us.  October brings Halloween with fists full of candy.  November ushers in Thanksgiving.  Gratitude is always a blessing but somehow we’ve managed to juxtapose it with gorging ourselves and shopping all night.  December brings joy, but also a frantic hunt for the perfect gift, mailing of Christmas cards, planning and attending party after party.  To top it all off, we stay up all night on New Year’s Eve dancing, singing and laughing.  I’m not complaining!  I love the holidays as much as the next girl.  I’m simply pointing out that September is the last time we have to breathe before we are swept away.

Simply September.  This is the perfect time to scale back and to consciously focus on what is most important.  This month I’m purging my every nook and cranny.  I have three large bins set up in my living room:  Trash, Donate and Sell.   I’ve cut the fluff out of my budget (do I really need BOTH Birchbox and Ipsy?  Netflix and Hulu?  iCloud and Dropbox?).  I am simplifying my eating, my exercise and sleeping better than I have in a long time.  I’m stripping my calendar of its excess and focusing on my loved ones.

In a world that values busyness and that thrives on overcomplication, I’ve dedicated September to Simplicity.  I solemnly swear to cherish every true-love handhold, every puppy kiss and snuggle, every long conversation with a best friend.  I will cherish every delicious bite, every can’t-put-you-down book and every kneeling prayer.

What can you do to simplify this month? Let’s share our plans with #SimplySeptember!

A Love Affair

It has been over four years since I left Prague and returned back to Florida but I left a part of my heart there.  Today marks a cruel day in history for the Czechs and Slovaks.  On the 21st of August in 1968 the Soviets began their occupation of Prague, shutting down their milder socialist reforms and instituting communism (Soviet style) in Czechoslovakia.  

When you walk the streets of Prague there are moments when you are transported back in time to what seems like a fairy tale. A large castle, cobblestoned streets, and medieval bridges surround you. But the more you explore, the more you see.  The history is complex with dense and winding stories of freedom, wars, deaths and occupations. 

I often rode trams with the elderly wondering what their lives had been like. They experienced World War II, the Soviet Invasion, the Velvet Revolution. They experienced first hand what we now read in history books.  Their faces are etched with intimate knowledge of a pain, devastation, fear and relief that I will (hopefully) never know.  

As a girl of Czech descent, I loved traveling to the Moravian countryside to see where my ancestors lived before emigrating to the United States.  It was incredible to know more (the good and the bad) about the culture and heritage running through my veins.

Today as I watch videos and first-hand accounts of that day so many Augusts ago, my heart aches in my chest.  I know those streets.  I love those people. And I sit here stunned.  How can a place be such a part of me when I only I lived there 21 months?

{M} just came back from his first trip to Europe.  He was exploring Scotland (his personal family background).  He came over on Monday with a laptop full of pictures, his eyes bright and eager to explain what he had seen, where he had explored, and why he loved it.  It was incredible to watch.  It reminded me of my first time abroad as a junior in college studying in London.

The truth is that when you travel and live abroad, particularly when you have a personal connection to the location, your heart expands.  There is a special experience and love that comes with travel.  It is a softness and understanding, a kinship and sweetness that is infused into you.  If you’ve ever said “maybe” or “someday I will” to traveling and exploring another country and culture.  Start making it happen.  You will never be the same again.

It’s Okay to be a Beginner

I love watching toddlers. They have wobbly legs but are determined to explore! Have you ever seen a toddler anxiously peering up a bookcase worried about what his friends would think if he tried to climb it?  Does he sit there petrified that someone might see him fall?  He might worry about getting in trouble, but even that fear rarely stops a toddler.  He goes for it!

Somewhere in life that fear of what others think begins to take over our minds curbs our  sense of adventures.  Questions of “what if” crowd out the deeper desires and we relegate personal talents and experiences to a closet full of “somedays”.  

If you are anything like me I will make excuses, put off “adventures” until “someday” and then look back and say “why didn’t I?”  Why didn’t I start my own business?  Why didn’t I take that pottery class?  Why didn’t I buy that perfect sofa on clearance?  

What are you putting off?  What dreams are on the sidelines that you could put out into the field?  You might be a beginner at first.  We all are at some point, but you won’t be a beginner for long.  Soon you will be the one someone else is looking at saying “Wow!  She’s got guts! Maybe if she can do it, then I can too.”

So start your novel, your art class, your accounting business.  Start small if you want, but just start!  You might fall but that’s okay, dust yourself off and try again.  Who knows where the adventure might lead?  Ask questions.  Be humble and enjoy the experience of just starting out.  Your adventure is just beginning.

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