Circled with Love

Over this past weekend, with a new month beckoning, a large stack of new magazines arrived. Last night, I had the opportunity to settle in and start reading one, in particular – Family Circle. As a voracious reader, I tend to read magazines and books of all genre, even those that may contain some content not particularly relevant to me. Though, last night, the large feature I stumbled upon resonated with me more than I could have ever imagined, inspiring this very post.

Given it is the May issue, Family Circle carved out an entire section dedicated to mothers of all kind, allowing women to share their personal accounts with motherhood, as either the mother or daughter, or in some cases, both. All of us out there, whether we are close with our mothers or not, have ever met them, or if they have passed on, are either daughters or sons. One story in particular, recounted by a favorite author of mine – Liz Pryor, detailed one particular encounter with her mother, as a young teen, which stood out to me, as I could personally identify with it,

In the story, Liz shared how her mother was always perceived by her friend’s as “one of them,” the one who let loose on the weekends, had a laid-back approach to parenting and to some, may have been perceived as a “careless mother.” One day, in her sophomore year of high school, she was slated to have her braces removed. It was an imperative appointment, scheduled weeks in advance and in preparation, Liz posted signs to remind her mother. The day arrived and instead of arriving early to pick up Liz, as scheduled, she arrived well past the time of school ending, rendering them late for her appointment. Upon seeing her mother’s car with a fierceness and anger building in her body, she unleashed the second she entered the vehicle, telling her mother she needed to go to “parenting school,” among other harsh declarations and accusations. Her mother remained silent, simply driving to the orthodontist, letting Liz continue on her rampage. When they arrived at the doctor, her mother turned to her and instructed her to walk in because the staff was waiting for her – she had called in advance to let them know they would be late and were en route. As she heard this, Liz clutched the door handle, stunned into silence. Her mother continued and said for her to go in and she would wait for her outside. As it turned out, Liz’s mother, freshly divorced from Liz’s father was returning to the workforce and had arrived in a frenzy from the real estate exam she was taking, leaving early to take Liz to her appointment, because Liz’s grandmother was recently diagnosed with a grave disease/illness and could not accompany Liz as she would when her mother was unavailable.

Arriving late to pick up Liz, it was easy for Liz to assume the worst, given her mother’s laid-back nature and approach to life and parenting. I’m guilty of assuming the worst not only sometimes of my family, but also of those who claim they love me. It is a part of me I’m not proud of, but one that often stems from my internal low self-esteem and concept, always questioning if I am deserving of love and the undivided attention of others. Reading the story Liz shared comes at a time when almost 14 years to the present – May 2, 2005, specifically, my mother was injured in a serious, head-on collision to which she walked out with a shattered left wrist, needing reconstruction and a metal plate. That day still haunts me and is difficult to escape given my birthday is the next day. Sitting in my 11th grade social studies class, my now-aged flip phone alerted me to a text message from my sister, Hope. Back then, receiving texts during the day, especially from my sister, were rare. It simply read, “Mom was in an accident, I’ll be picking you up from school today.” Back then, Hope was a college student, studying not far, but lived on-campus. Her schedule was busy, but knowing she was picking up that day in place of mom signaled something grave had happened. My pulse quickened and I felt my sanity leaving me. Without a question to consider what I was doing, I quickly muttered to my teacher, I needed to go to the office to make a call and ran out of the classroom. Down the hallway I went, encountering hall-aides who stopped to question me, but ignored them, running as fast as my feet would carry me to the office. When I finally reached the office, the words, “Need to make a call, Mom in accident,” were all I could muster. When I finally heard Hope’s voice and took in her words, I learned our Mom had been injured in a collision and was transported to the local hospital via ambulance. The extent of her injuries, thankfully, were confined to her wrist, something that could be repaired.

When I think back to the moment and the story Liz shared, I’m reminded of how precious life is and how sometimes or most of the time, really, we never actually know what is going on in someone’s life. Seeing her mother being late, Liz assumed the worst, not realizing all her mother was working through while trying her hardest to be there for Liz. She didn’t want to “burden” her with all she was encountering and often times, through my adolescence and even now, I need a reminder of this. That day, when my mom was injured in the car accident, she was running errands in relation to me and my impending birthday. It is a reminder of the importance to love what our friends and family have given us, love them where they are and when you question something they’ve said or done, do just that – question, ask them, write them, but give them a chance to explain, because we never know what they may have been experiencing or going through themselves.

When I approached the end of the Family Circle article, Liz concluded her story by stating what her mother finally told her, “I didn’t need to go to parenting school. She said no school could teach her what she knew was most important about her job as a mother: making sure her children felt loved by her completely. That, she said, was the one thing she hoped to get right. And she did.”

How to Love        Out of Love quote

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If the Words Fit…

Good Morning and Happy Spring! It’s always surprising to me when Spring arrives again after a long, dreary Winter filled with inclement weather and frigid temperatures, but is always a welcome occurrence. Sometimes the transition happens quicker than others, but all the same, I’m glad to say Spring has sprung! With that being said, I’m proud to announce that something else has sprung, as well – some of you who have been following along with my blog (which I am truly grateful for!) may know about 1.5 years ago, I started a Facebook page specifically for my blog. On my Facebook page, I regularly update and post inspiring words and thoughts I stumble upon. In fact, I tend to post more often on my blog’s Facebook page than this very blog, due to accessibility and convenience. Though today, I am proudly announcing I will be posting all of my Facebook posts onto this blog, as well, so that whomever may like to (and isn’t on or doesn’t want to use Facebook) can see them, as well. If you’d still like to check out my blog’s Facebook page and haven’t already, here is another link and reminder to it: https://www.facebook.com/MelissasMorningMusings/

Therefore, today starts the first of my dual posts, as I posted on my blog’s Facebook moments ago regarding a graphic I noticed yesterday about all the tough things we encounter through life how they can be what enables us to grow, learn and take chances we may never have before:

Today’s Melissa’s Morning Musings Facebook Post:

In my life, there are many people, skills, knowledge and ideas I never would have encountered if I hadn’t faced my fears, or admitted a painful truth. Last year, I publicly revealed a nearly lifelong struggle and though I did so with fear and worry mounting, what I thought of most was the potential of letting someone else know they are not alone.

With this being said, yesterday, I stumbled upon this graphic posted below. Within it, it emphasizes all the tough and difficult things in life that can be painful and challenging, but rewarding and invigorating, all the same. Being honest with others and yourself, taking chances and pursuing even what seems so out-of-reach, if nothing else, is learning experience, leaving us with vast knowledge and an awareness that through every struggle we’ve encountered, we’ve still made it through.

This graphic emphasizes the importance of trusting the timing in things; this, for me, personally, can be one of the most challenging aspects of life to confront, but I realize how true it is. When I was 18, moving my belongings out of the first college I attended after 3 weeks, I remember sitting in the car en route to my home in Pennsylvania, wondering if I’d ever figure out how to navigate adult life.

That night, as I lay in my childhood bed, I no longer could envision what my future might be like. Life had disrupted my plans, but at that moment, I realized, I can still navigate my own path and make it work in a way that is FOR me and not simply what others are doing.

Always remember, there is no one “right” way to do anything in life. The right way is what works for YOU and you, alone. Maybe your “right way” looks different from others and that is more than okay.

Tough but Worth It

Love Through the Decades: A “SheSpeaks” Review of The Girl He Used To Know

*The following is a sponsored post for SheSpeaks.

Good morning! Today is a special day and one I’ve been looking forward to for the past month or so. In a little over a week Tuesday, April 2nd, 2019, the literary world will be gifted the latest New York Times Bestselling Authors latest novel, The Girl He Used To Know, a story characterized by passion, love, loss and resilience. It is a novel with the ability to capture and command attention from the very first page through its conclusion, keeping readers in suspense and on edge until the last moment. A love story in its own right, it does not follow a “typical,” pattern of a traditional love story, but rather one filled with self-discovery, self-acceptance and explores a woman’s willingness to love and be loved.

To learn more about the specifics of the book, including where to pick up your own copy, please feel free to check out and explore this guide: http://bit.ly/TheGirlHeUsedToKnowMMM

Today, I’ll be sharing about my unique and engaging experience I was provided with through the interactive women’s community enacted in 2007, SheSpeaks. Through a paid partnership with SheSpeaks, I was afforded the opportunity to receive an advance copy of The Girl He Used to Know in exchange for my honest and comprehensive review.

The Girl He Used To Know Fast Facts:

  • The Girl He Used To Know emerges on Tuesday, April 2, 2019, as New York Times Bestselling Author, Tracey Garvis Graves‘ latest novel and literary work. It is available next Tuesday in bookstores, online and wherever else books are sold.
  • Title Characters: Annika, Jonathan, Janice, Annika’s parents (most potently, her mother), Tina & members of the University of Illinois Chess Team.
  • The novel takes place during two key years spanning over a decade; 1991 and 2001 in a past to present format in each chapter.

About the Author (Tracey Garvis Graves):

  • As a New York Times Bestselling Author, Tracey Garvis Graves emerges again in the realm of books with a novel filled with candid, powerful themes of love, loss, persistence and resilience.
  • On her repertoire, are numerous novels crafted throughout the years, including, On the Island, Uncharted, Covet, Everytime I think Of You, Cherish, Heart-Shaped Hack and White-Hot Hack.

Before I delve into my own personal account regarding my experience reading The Girl He Used to Know, I felt it was important to reveal some of the poignant book themes I noted with every page turned. As an avid reader, quotes, mantras and insightful thoughts typically resonate with me, leading me to recognize the aforementioned themes throughout the book.

The Girl He Used to Know Book Themes: (As personally-noted)

  • WHAT and WHO is for you will NEVER pass you by; you’re never too late and not a second too early for what and who is meant for you. Though it may take time and there may be pain and hurtles faced, what is true will always find a way.
  • We meet people for a reason; they can be a lesson, a reminder, a lifelong friend or love; albeit, all with the ability and power to change us or help us discover/rediscover a part of us we didn’t know existed or has become distanced from us.
  • A reminder to “Let someone love you as you are,” no matter your challenges, physically or emotionally, or what you’ve been through. “Your flaws are meant for the heart that loves you.”

My Personal Account & Experiences with The Girl He Used To Know:

As a longtime member of SheSpeaks, an interactive community enacted in 2007, providing women of all ages and backgrounds a safe, welcoming platform to engage with one another, brands and media, it was a true honor to learn I was chosen to participate in the #ReadtheGirl Book Club Program. As an avid reader all my life since my early childhood days visiting the local library holding my mother’s hand, the opportunity to read an advanced copy of The Girl He Used to Know was a moving and emotional experience. In the days and weeks to following my completion of the novel, I found myself often contemplating all I read, still moved and intrigued as much as I had been as I traversed through the book nestled in my bed (pictured below) during the evenings.

Book in Bed

Through the years, I’ve learned my body “will tell me” in a way if actually am truly taken with a book.  Reading this novel was no exception. It was late one March evening when I began reading. Cozy in bed (my favorite reading spot) and weary with building fatigue, I resisted putting the book down. From the very first page until the last, my mind, heart and pulse churned and quickened. The words and sentiment on the pages took on a life of its own as the characters and story took shape.

First meeting the book’s protagonist, Annika, I was charmed by her honest yet bashful means of communication. Well meaning and more insightful than she may realize, from the beginning, it is evident how far she’s personally come over the span of the 10 years (1991-2001), the book details. In the first few pages, we become acquainted with not only Annika, but also Jonathan, now also in his 30’s, who is careful and calculated in his communication with Annika. Without wanting to spoil the specifics of their relationship and accompanying history, their connection serves as proof that “what and who is for us will never pass us by.” When love is genuine and right for us, it will surely find a way, as noted many times in this novel.

What stood out most poignantly in this novel to me, was the author’s tactful, candid, respectful and transparent snapshot of Annika. She is honest in sharing the various thought processes, struggles and triumphs Annika endures and encounters. At times, I paused to reflect as I almost felt I could personally and feel and relate on some levels to Annika’s internal struggles.

To that end, the book is a beautiful kaleidoscope of love and how the turbulent waves of emotions and sentiments one may experience can still be understood and respected by those who love us. The book itself and Annika’s and Jonathan’s relationship, Annika’s dear friendship with Janice (her college roommate) and Annika’s mother/daughter relationship shines a light on acceptance, emotional support and providing a safe place for those we love.

Throughout the book, Annika’s quirks are not chastised or ridiculed by the unsung heroes in her life, serving as Jonathan, Janice, her mother and therapist – Tina. These individuals help Annika see and discover the best in herself and are the shining light to her throughout many occasions in the book when she begins to lose her way.

In a sense, Annika’s relationships specifically with Janice and and her mother resonate with me, personally. As a woman in my early 30’s, who has battled and continues to battle self-esteem, body image and self-worth struggles, my mom – Marci and sister – Hope, have always served as guiding lights in my life, always lending a helping hand, listening ear and shoulder to cry on (Mom, Hope and I are pictured below at Hope’s wedding). They’ve celebrated my successes (graduating college, seeking help for illness, and weathering through many personal storms) and always make me feel that my dreams are within my reach and that who I am, as an individual is more than okay.

0680

Reading about Annika and Janice’s friendship and Annika’s friend in her mother allowed me to celebrate all the beauty that encompasses my own mom and sister. In specific, towards the end of the novel, Annika’s mother reminds Annika, “You will always have to do things you don’t want to do and they’ll be harder for you than they are for your brother, or Janice or Jonathan or me. But I truly believe there will always be people in your life who will help you. Who will love you just the way you are.”

It goes without saying that on countless occasions throughout the book, Tracey Garvis Graves emphasizes the importance of letting yourself love and be loved. She provides awareness that often times when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable, as Annika allowed herself to eventually be with Jonathan and Janice, we are often blessed with a life that FEELS as good on the inside as it looks on the outside. This is noted on the first page as Annika is faced with Jonathan for the first time in 10 years and bravely/courageously reminds herself, “Don’t run, take responsibility, be yourself.”

Connections to Animals: In addition to the people in Annika’s lives serving as her support, comrades and romantic loves, her connection to animals through volunteering at an animal rescue, serving as a Foster for animals and beyond, is one worth noting:

Providing both solace and companionship to Annika and I, animals, in particular dogs (my dog, Daisy is pictured below with the book), have been a constant in my life since childhood.

Daisy Read the Girl 2

For me, and Annika, as well, animals exemplify acceptance, unconditional love and and an understanding. For Annika, animals and volunteering at the animal clinic and later fostering cats, is reprieve and builds confidence, serving as evidence that she CAN care for another, both emotionally and physically.

For me, dogs, in particular have done this for me since childhood. As a young child, I first became acquainted with dogs through my neighbors, whose yellow Labrador Retriever, Darby, carried me through the intense grieving process at the loss of my grandmother. Years later, when I became a dog owner, receiving Oliver, a Bichon Frise puppy, for my 14th birthday, I realized dogs could fill a hole within me I never knew existed. For the next 15.5 years, Oliver and I weathered through many turbulent and fulfilling times. He became my copilot through a tumultuous adolescence and young adulthood and when he passed in November 2017, my heart was broken. Though, just as Annika was over the course of those trying 10 years the book details, resiliency surfaced.

Oliver alone

In February 2018, Daisy entered my life and family, symbolizing new beginnings and my ability to love another, just as I had with Oliver. The ability to love and be loved is a gift we can unwrap and enjoy each day; in The Girl He Used to Know, Annika proves this to be true, time and time again.

Daisy Rescue             image1

My Final Thoughts on The Girl He Used to Know:

To me, there is no greater gift than a book that helps and allows me to think of all I’ve been through and note the resiliency and love rooted within these obstacles. For me, The Girl He Used to Know was able to do this and also provide me with knowledge about others, their communication styles and their own private struggles only those close to them may know about. The book helps me to establish and maintain a greater empathy and understanding of others and is a beautiful notation of how when we reach out to others, often times, they will take our hands, leading to a friendship or relationship filling a void within us.

*Many, many thanks to SheSpeaks (shespeaks.com) & St. Martin’s Press for providing me with this opportunity to read and share my insights on The Girl He Used To Know.

Rescued by Love: Celebrating Daisy’s One Year

Exactly one year ago today, a blustery, frigid February day, the second to last Saturday of the month brought us to the parking lot of our local Petsmart, a short distance from home. Prior to 9am, the wind fiercely whipped as our fellow rescuers gathered before us awaiting the arrival of the van, slated to arrive shortly en route from Alabama. Families and individuals of all kind stood huddled together donning their heaviest Winter gear, eager to meet their new pals, confidantes, and family members.

For me, as excited as I was, there was no denying the painstaking fear and nervousness I harbored since learning she was ours. Having Oliver more than half my life, my beloved Bichon Frise who passed away last year at the ripe age of 15.5 years, I’d never known another dog as closely as him. Though I desperately longed for another dog, especially after seeing Daisy’s photo and experiencing an immediate connection, apprehension also surfaced as I contemplated if I could love another dog as easily I had with Oliver.

Rescued Quote

Though, no matter the worries and apprehensions I nursed, the desire to rescue and welcome another worthy dog into my family surpassed any fears. In the months following Oliver’s passing, I’d established a close connection and following for animal rescue organizations, choosing to follow many on social media, carefully searching for my next potential family member. Unknowingly, one Sunday morning in early February of last year, I first laid eyes on Daisy (formerly known as Cinderella), and suddenly, I knew she was the one. Perhaps it was because the slight pink coloring in her nose and white fur reminded me of Oliver, or maybe it was because something about that friendly smile called to my heart; whatever the case may be, it took little time for me to quickly submit an application for her, hoping it would be me the organization would choose.

Daisy Rescue

That Saturday, February 17th, 2018, my family and I awaited Daisy’s arrival, braving the frigid cold with our fellow rescuers, until finally, last out of the white van from Alabama, was Daisy. Eager and excited with anticipation, Daisy freely roamed the area, running wild and showing us for the first time, her rambunctious personality, full of life and eager to show us what it meant to be carefree and full of zest.

Daisy Home

Life, as we all know, isn’t always easy, but rather filled with a serious of challenges and triumphs, alike. After bravely weathering through a series of late Winter storms following Daisy’s arrival, the Spring season brought with it a plethora of sunny and warm days with not a cloud to be found in the sky. On those days, my family and I would peruse the neighborhood with Daisy, leash in hand, making new acquaintances and taking in the freshly laundered air that is that of the Spring season. On more than one occasion, I found myself during these moments looking up at the clear, pristine, blue skies and thanking whomever or whatever it was that blessed me with Daisy. It is proof that sometimes when one thing, person, or moment is taken away, there is always something of equivalent, or maybe even better value lurking upon the horizon.

Rescued 2

Today, I celebrate and commemorate Daisy’s arrival into my life and family, so proud to have her as my best friend, my sunshine on cloudy days, and my forever family member.

Rescued 3

Happy One Year, Ms. Daisy; I hope you know how truly loved and celebrated you are today and everyday.

image1

Roads to Silver Linings

At times in our lives when we are going through rough or difficult times, facing challenges we question if we can ever overcome, this quote serves as a unique reminder that sometimes the most beautiful things/results in life undergo a series of rough changes and alterations.

Process quote

Several weeks ago, I stumbled upon this quote and was instantly drawn to it. Often times, I fail to recognize the lengths some of the most beautiful and unique occurrences in life must go through to reach that state. This quote identifies those processes, as does another one of my favorite quotes, a popular one, which reads, “Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly.”

In other words, in the case of the butterfly, not everyone gets its wings as the same time. Flowers can bloom at all different times in life, but when they do, they are all beautiful in their own way – just like us, as people.

 

Strength in Numbers: A Celebration of Individuality

For those who know me well or have been following my journey via my blog andmy blog’s Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/MelissasMorningMusings/), self-esteem, body image and self-worth have been constant battles and struggles for me. Through all I have weathered throughout my life, I’ve always looked to those who choose to rise in response to naysayers, or those who may judge them. People like UCLA gymnast, Katelyn Ohashi who just the other day stepped forward to confront the judgments, criticisms and evaluations surrounding her body and physical appearance, are a source of inspiration and strength to me.

just be you

With her body considered to some as being more curvy in comparison to other gymnasts, Katelyn proudly stepped forward to reclaim her individuality, saying goodbye to self-hatred, or relying on others words to confirm her worth. To me, her declarations are an inspiration, a symbol of beauty and strength and the epitome of all I hope to embody someday, as I weather through the self-defeating thoughts and emotions quite regularly.

gymnast quote

How noble, brave and courageous to greet adversity and the naysayers in the eye and declare her vow to as she states, “Today I stand with a love that penetrates deeper than any wedding band, because I am my OWN size and no WORDS or JUDGEMENTAL STARES will make me compromise.” She ends her thoughts with an even louder declaration that still makes me smile and feel such joy even at this very moment – “Today, my self-hatred says its GOODBYE.

be yourself

In my mind, Katelyn is representative of all it means to be who you are, to recognize your differences and that makes someone unique. Uniqueness is not something to be hidden or concealed, or pushed aside to meet the expectations or needs of others; it is an honor to be different and it deserves to be shared with the world, as Katelyn did. Thank you, Katelyn, for your bravery and for standing your truth and reminding us all that to BE YOURSELF, bravely in a world that encourages us to be something or someone we’re not, is a beautiful thing.

be as you are

 

A Big Screen Becomes Reality

As a teenager, my friends and I would regularly spend the majority of our weekend evenings visiting the mall, sleeping over each others’ houses and seeing the newest releases in the movie theatre. As a 30-year-old, I’m from the era of many beloved teen and young adult films, such as Never Been Kissed, She’s All That, Now & Then and a host of others, including 13 Going on 30, a 2004 movie starring Jennifer Garner, as an up and coming magazine editor who wakes up one day 17 years older. That movie, in itself, always particularly resonated with me, for no other reason then it was the life I THOUGHT I’d be leading, or sought to lead, rather. From a tender age, magazines were always fascinating to me and even as a kindergartner, I recall cradling my sister’s magazine in my hands, intrigued to look at the photos and layouts, hoping to someday read/comprehend all the words spilling across the pages.

13 Going on 30

Though I’ve seen 13 Going on 30 countless times, it was numerous years since the most recent occasion, but last night, as my mom and I sat down to dinner, I began channel surfing and landed on a showing of it and decided to catch the last 30 minutes. As Jennifer Garner and her fellow co-stars (Mark Ruffalo and a host of others) filled the screen, a moment of realization sunk in. The movie, from 2004, which premiered in late April, just days leading to my 16th birthday, now depicted adults the same age I currently am. It was eye-opening at that moment, watching a film I first watched and enjoyed as a teen believing I’d eventually be leading the “cosmopolitan” life I thought I coveted. Watching the movie became difficult for me and I found it nearly excruciating to get through; an instance completely the contrary to how I’d felt as a teen. After my 19th birthday, I all but abandoned my goals and dreams of one day becoming a magazine editor or journalist, switching my major halfway through college, realizing that maybe my original dreams no longer suited me and what I felt my calling was. Still though, watching the last parts of 13 Going on 30 was a reminder of everything I left behind and how my teenage and high school years came to an abrupt end at the beginning of my senior year in high school. Often times, as I’ve said to close family members, I feel as though I closed my eyes as a 17-year-old in early September, leaving behind friendships and goals and woke up much older, needing to readjust my dreams; similar, in a way, to Jenna, the title character in 13 Going on 30.

One thing about the movie though, still stands as true to me as it ever was. During one of the last scenes of the movie, Jenna, as a magazine editor, presents her “vision board,” to other magazine staffers and her boss, emphasizing the need to see REAL women in ads and magazine profiles. In this presentation, she states, “I want to see…real women who are smart and pretty and happy to be who they are… I think all of us want to feel something that we’ve forgotten or turned our backs on because maybe we didn’t realize how much we were leaving behind. We need to remember what used to be good. If we don’t, we won’t recognize it even if it hits us between the eyes.”

The perspective of Jenna is one I’ve always maintained, no matter the changes or shifts I’ve undergone in my life and in the 14 years since the movie’s premiere. Looking back on my difficulties in watching the film last night, I realize that even though my dreams of being a magazine editor living a sophisticated life may have shifted, I can see look that life and appreciate it, recognizing it as a beautiful one, but perhaps not for me. It’s the way I’ve started to look at other things in my life, simultaneously – seeing clothing or accessories on someone and appreciating how it looks on them, but realizing it isn’t right for me. Simply because we admire or think something or someone, for that matter, is beautiful does not mean or have to be right for me or us.

Live Life quote                             Growth quote

It’s true evidence of the quote, “The way we are looking at things changes the way we see them.”

Change What you Look At quote