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The Precious Now

Consider your earliest days as an infant, and those looking down upon your tiny presence didn’t see very much going on in that fat little head of yours. Yet, to you, every single minute was amazing, full of awe-inspiring wonder.You’ve learned much since then: mastered processes of thought and logic, developed perceptions, formed ideologies, and built relationships that have come and gone.

Those who’ve taught you life lessons are numerous: the ones who helped you learn about love, the ones who provided light in your time of darkness, and those who lent a listening ear or a shoulder on which to cry. Often, we take for granted some of the people and situations that got us to where we are. You’ve come a long way, and you weren’t alone.

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Sharing Your Tools

One of the things I treasure most in our community is the wonderful array of diverse individuals who are willing to help each other. People are truly blessed when they go out of their way to be a blessing to others, and I’ve seen it happen more and more over the past few years. Having lived here all my life, I’ve noticed that the kindness movement has grown at a faster pace than our population. Our neighbors from various backgrounds, cultures, and lifestyles are increasingly eager to lend a hand.Alone, we cannot do all the good the world needs, but the world needs all the good we can do. Each of us can do something to help change someone’s situation from tearful to cheerful. Some may suggest we save ourselves before attempting to save others; that egregious attitude is one that doesn’t sit well with me. Nietzsche once asked, “Supposing I have the key to your chains, why should your lock and my lock be the same?” Each of us has our own strengths and weaknesses. It’s a good feeling when you find a use for the other half of your glue by loaning it to someone who has been broken by a situation you’ve already overcome.

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Forever Young

About this time last year, I did what some might consider a little silly, or for lack of a better description, a “midlife crisis” thing: I bought a motorcycle. Ruby was an impulse purchase, as I’d never driven a road bike before. I’d only ridden on one once or twice. We’ve had our differences from time to time, as I learned to work through the gears, accelerate as desired, safely navigate back roads, and pass through the occasional sudden storm. After spending many hours of quality time together, we both ride smoother with an occasional pulse quickening burst when appropriate.“Do not grow old, no matter how long you live. Never cease to stand like children before the great mystery into which we were born.” – Albert Einstein

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Putting Yourself Out There

Being vulnerable often puts us in a position to become a better version of ourselves. That uncomfortable feeling that we get in the pit of our stomach that makes us wonder “Why this?” “Why me?” or “Why now?” can be very unsettling, yet it prepares us to discover a direction that we may have overlooked. If we choose not to stick complacently to our usual ways, we can push ourselves to a higher level.Six years ago, when issue one of volume one of each of Family Life Publications’ three titles was delivered, I admit that I was incredulously less than pleased. Although having decades of experience in the field and knowledge of each facet of the job, I had jumped into something much bigger than I ever had before. I had made the first step, and it was as though I’d leaped onto a wet, unstable, moss-covered stone at a river crossing — I slipped, but I didn’t fail.

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Live to Learn, Learn to Live

We all have those moments when we think about bringing a raincoat, packing an extra set of clothes, or double-checking to be sure we have our keys. When reality sets in, we wish we had listened to that inner voice. Everyone makes mistakes, but those “Oh, I knew it!” ones usually leave me laughing at myself after all is said and done. I’ve never been one to get upset over a problem. Chances are, I could’ve prevented the consequences from raining down on me; I probably knew better in the first place.Last month, I was at a photo shoot for one of our cover stories. It was a beautiful sunny day, with comfortable temperatures and a gentle breeze. As I set up my fill flash on a stand with an umbrella to soften and reflect the strobe, I knew I had to keep an eye on it. Umbrellas, like kites, tend to catch wind. A small tent stake that I keep with my gear would typically hold it down; however, I was set up on the pavement, so that wasn’t an option. As I peered through the lens, a short breeze flowed toward me. My subject gasped, as she saw the stand and strobe slamming to the ground. I said to myself, “I told you so” and set it back up with a smile. Fortunately, the umbrella saved the flash, and the bulb did not break. So, an Amazon order for a replacement umbrella and a new sandbag to add to my gear is on the way. Lesson learned.

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Here's to Good Health

Recently, I have come to discover that I have been taking my good health for granted. As fun as it was to live carelessly in my youth, it’s time I discovered the importance of not putting my health at risk. Now, this doesn’t mean that I’ll stop the fun, adrenaline-filled activities I enjoy, but I do recognize that without proper maintenance, my aging body will not withstand the challenges I force it to endure.My mother raised me to eat healthy and stay away from junk food and soda, which keeps my motor running smoothly. However, I’ve been having issues with my frame and transmission recently.

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Think Cleaner

Recycling is no longer an excuse to use single-use plastics. Less than 10 percent of plastic waste is recycled. There are better alternatives that aren’t as costly to our personal and environmental health. The problem is that there is too much recycling to do, and it’s our fault. Our unintentional disregard for the obvious is filling up our planet with debris. Yes, it really is happening. Modern luxuries and conveniences are accelerating the demise of our home.According to a recent National Geographic article, a study by Roland Geyer that was published in the Science Advances journal was the first global analysis of all plastics ever produced — and their fate. Of the 8.3 billion metric tons that have been produced, 6.3 billion metric tons have become waste. Of those, only nine percent have been recycled. The vast majority — 79 percent — is litter or taking up landfill space. At some point, much of that ends up in our oceans, causing countless problems for the marine environment and the quality of water for every living thing.

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The Restless Season

The vibrancy of fresh green grass, the melodic sounds of spring peepers, and the colorful birds returning from their vacations are only a few of the joys I find in the South during this time of year. Spring, like fall, is a season of change. As we move through life’s changes, we are reminded that these transitions are not so “flip-of-the-switch.” Intensive redirection takes time, introspection, and healing. It’s best we grasp that sooner than later to avoid disappointment and excel beyond difficult periods.Opposites, the positive and negative charges, drive us toward change. Consistency, not complacency, provides recognizable patterns that we can alter to benefit our own life as well as the world around us. Seeing the differences and the similarities is key. We make mistakes; it’s our nature. We are flawed; it’s our heritage. We should see ourselves in others and accept that they (like us) are imperfect, too.

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The Art of Good Conversation

Good conversation should leave us feeling fulfilled and appreciated. We each like to walk away inspired and motivated while relishing the moment. Sometimes though, not so much. It seems that even the two basic safety stops, the weather and our health, are topics that are up for debate with issues like global warming and vaccinations. The reality of a conversation without fear of an argument may be slipping away. So, let’s embrace the discomfort and use it to everyone’s advantage.Enter every conversation or debate with the presumption that you have something to learn. Listen not with the intent to reply but to better understand. Be curious and open minded. Be prepared to find out amazing things about people, and in turn, be amazed at what can happen as a result.

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The Problems With Happiness

The real man smiles in trouble, gathers strength from distress, and grows brave by reflection.” – Thomas PaineWith January behind us and February bright on the winter horizon as a fresh clean month before us, I wonder what is ahead. What would happen if the next month, and maybe the rest of the year, was completely problem free? No deadlines, no dirty laundry, no friends in need, and no dog hair to sweep from the baseboards sounds nice on the surface. But what would we do with all the extra time? A-ha! See what just happened? A new problem for me to solve.

I’ve been inspired by several new books that I received over the holidays (yes, as you may imagine, publishers get books for gifts). This year I got some real gems. They all seem to have a similar course/theme that really got me thinking. Great books tend to do that.

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Finding Your Spark

Looking back on a remarkable 2018, it was a year filled to the brim with a hearty helping of life. Admittedly, it wasn’t all cookies and cream. Last year had its triumphs and failures, challenges and opportunities, and many moments that we can look back on for reproof and review, as we prepare our minds and paths moving in to 2019. All in all, if you’re reading this right now – congratulations! You made it. Now, let’s get to it.Fresh out of this past holiday season, my heart is filled and comfortable with all the quality family and friend time I was blessed and fortunate to have enjoyed over the past several months. In 2018, it seemed as though more people were setting new places at their tables for others to join in on the joys of togetherness, the giving of spirit, and positivity. My plan for 2019 is to use their influence to motivate and inspire me to pay it forward and do the same for those I find myself engaged with.

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The Joy of Unwrapping Wonderful Gifts

It’s almost time for me to start wrapping presents. I’ll get on that as soon as I get past the annual procrastination of actually finding gifts. I’m not totally behind, as I’ve a few tucked away already. But I must admit, my ever-evolving virtual list includes many unpurchased gifts that linger still. Then comes wrapping day, which is all too often Christmas Eve at my house.Looking back to my modest childhood, my family always managed to make wrapping presents fun. In the days of the comic strips, some of my fondest memories were reading the “funny papers” (used as gift wrap) while turning, weighing, and shaking presents in an attempt to gain a clue to what surprises may be inside. Our family from “the city” always wrapped the most beautiful gifts with decorative labels, curly streamers, and big lacy bows that were always a joy to admire. Of course, it didn’t matter what the boxes looked like. The size, sound, and distribution of weight in a gift was rarely indicative of what was inside, yet every present got a sensory inspection before the paper was peeled back for the reveal.

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Live a Thankful Life

With the cool fall breezes finally upon us, and the scent of leaves in the air, we can peacefully reflect on our year. Our ups and downs, the lessons and wisdom we’ve harvested from both challenges and successes are all reason to give thanks for the blessing of just being able to keep on keeping on each day. We’ve seen some unusual events and activity these past several months, and in turn, we have witnessed some amazing feats of recovery, rebuilding, and restoration within our communities, neighbors, and ourselves. I’m thankful for that.Our plan at Family Life Publications for the upcoming year is to remain dedicated in service to our business partners and organizations. We plan to grow together within our communities by staying actively involved and speaking out for those in need. We are grateful for the chance to be part of positive change.

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October 2018

“Healing is the journey. The destination is yourself.’’

There are times in each of our lives when we feel like we’re stranded in a month of Mondays. The day-to-day dilemmas, drama, and dredge grip us at our ankles, pull on our hearts, and seem to make our mind wander off in any number of directions. Without the blessing of understanding friends who can see through our pride, point out that it’s okay to hurt, and offer their support, we may often find ourselves playing possum, retreating into our shell, or just building up those walls.

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Decisions, Decisions?

Every waking moment we have decisions to make. That is just one of the reasons I enjoy a restful night’s sleep. Each choice we make, or choose not to make, affects our individual timeline of events and often someone else’s. Hit snooze again on that alarm clock? Eggs scrambled or fried? When you get dressed in the morning, you’re often deciding about your behavior the rest of the day. For example, if you put on flip-flops, you probably won’t be doing much running and should be nice to others, especially those wearing sneakers. If you decide to wear a hat because it’s a “bad hair day,” you’re going to have hat head all day, so select a good hat.

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Built From the Community for the Community

It has been a very satisfying first five years publishing our community magazines for you to enjoy each month. Before we opened our doors in July 2013, the plan was to deliver a publication that put your family and our community first while promoting local businesses and providing a resource to help readers plan exciting evenings and weekends close to home. Andrew Carnegie once said, “If you want to be happy, set a goal that commands your thoughts, liberates your energy, and inspires your hopes.” That is what we did.The second part of our plan was to use sustainably sourced papers that have been manufactured and printed reflecting my personal unwavering concern for our environment. Our magazines use well designed and informative content to engage, inform, and entertain, using trees grown exclusively for our papers that are created without harsh and toxic chemicals, which are detrimental to fragile streams and waterways. We’re so very proud of that.

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Community, Content, and Character

Looking back five years ago to the excitement and joy of establishing a community magazine, I am still a bit overwhelmed by how well our readers have embraced us on this adventure. We have learned so very much about how to make our magazines stand out, not only as the leader in our local markets, but we’ve also increasingly articulated the “how” and “why” we do what we do in the first place.Honestly, when our August 2013 issues were delivered, I knew immediately that changes in our paper supply needed to be made. My first “a-ha” moment was discovering how much all those magazines weighed! Since we direct mail our magazines, the weight was clearly marked on our postage receipt, and one word stood out: tons. I was floored and a bit upset at myself for not considering the environmental toll. Soon after, we made the pledge to only use sustainably sourced paper for our pages. That basically means that the trees used to make the paper on which this magazine is printed were specifically grown to make paper. That certification may cost a bit more, but protecting our environment should be top of the list when the goal of our magazines is to help create healthier and happier places to live.

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The Destination Ahead

Summer vacation time always brings back fond memories of travels and adventures with my grandparents, Jack and Lillian Briscoe, who I knew as PapaJack and Nanlil. Much like many of our grands, they were two of the people I admired most in my youth. Always happy, inseparable, and seldom angered, PapaJack and Nanlil knew how to live their lives to the fullest and embraced their days together for almost sixty years. My brother, cousins, and I traveled many miles by plane, train, and automobile and listened intently to the optimism and wisdom of two of the kindest souls one could ever meet. They were successful not only financially, through a strong work ethic and wise business practices, but also spiritually and mentally by living right, one day at a time.Traveling along the road to get to destinations with our grandparents was always a well-coordinated adventure. At least four or five times a year, we would pile in the back seat of PapaJack’s big red Chrysler® and drive for hours to their little mountain retreat. Along the way, we would play travel games they kept packed in pockets on the back of the front seats. I would watch mile marker numbers shrink in size, as we approached each little town, remembering the last time I was there and knowing exactly what was around the corner. It seemed so easy, all so natural as children. We knew that fun was ahead, and soon, we would be in a comfortable place. PapaJack and Nanlil would have everything planned perfectly, from roasting marshmallows, snow skiing, hiking, and tubing, to breakfast, which was always orange sweet rolls, scrambled eggs, and cheese grits with half a big pink grapefruit. I loved it all — except the grapefruit.

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May 2018

After years of writing these perspectives, I must admit that I sometimes find myself struggling to find topics that motivate me enough to begin tapping the keys. Of course, working in an office where your coworkers are often anxiously waiting on you, so they can edit and design around your ponderings to meet an already extended deadline, adds to the stress and freedom of thoughts that the “squirrels at a party” inside my head have already scattered. On a few occasions, I’ve resorted to jumping on the web and typing in a random character trait out of curiosity to see what inspires me. I do hope you’ll forgive me.

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Looking Deeper Inside

Growing up, I was fortunate to learn to swim shortly after learning to walk. Being a member of a family that enjoyed the outdoors and respected nature, water became my second home. My mother, Bonnie, taught swimming lessons for many years at our home on Toonigh Road. Watching her help others learn to enjoy water and build confidence was a big part of my early years.Developing confidence was one of the largest underlying factors in overcoming the fear of water. It didn’t matter if the student was a toddler, teen, or senior — fear was always due to the unknown. It takes courage to get over fear, and it takes knowledge to gain confidence. Mom was one of the best at helping others learn about water, overcome their misconceptions, and cope with the fear to build that confidence. Once the fear was respected and addressed, it could be processed, understood, and overcome.

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