friday’s “secret”: practice empathy when you can, sympathy when you can’t

This post was inspired by my thoughts while listening to the sixth episode of Modern Mrs. Darcy’s What Should I Read Next. Anne and her guest, Tsh Oxenreider, spent a little time discussing the book, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed. Both of them didn’t particularly care for the book and abandoned it but after reading Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar, also by Strayed, Anne said that she had more insight into Strayed’s life experiences and was thinking of giving Wild another shot.

I read Wild last year and while it isn’t one of my favorite books, I enjoyed it because I wanted to read about Cheryl’s journey, hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. I personally wanted to know how she could go out into the wild, alone, while never hiking before. I was curious as to how she dealt with the fear and I wanted to read her story. And while I wouldn’t have made some of the choices that Cheryl made, I realized that the book was a story about a certain time of her life and it is highly unlikely that who she was then who she is now. I’m different and I don’t know if any book can tell an entire story; it can only give us glimpses into certain aspects, certain thoughts, and certain experiences of someone at that particular time.

Which is also what we are only able to see of each other in actual life. It made me think about how we, in our humanness, often make judgments about other people, often times not knowing their story. And when we do know bits and pieces, we are quick to judge without empathy (if that is possible) or sympathy (when empathizing is not available).

I did this all the time. But life had a way of showing me a lot of my flaws, causing me to be empathetic to a lot of situations. Plus, in attempting to connect with others in a sincere and authentic way, I have begun to be more sympathetic to others.

I don’t know if anyone can tell that I am making the effort but I am a lot happier. No judgment here! And it’s a lot easier to…

…enjoy life.

an enjoy life interview: jennifer belthoff


You guys will remember that one of the highlights of my 2015 was participating in The Love Notes Project this October: a three-week project that invites individuals to send and receive little bits of love through the mail-the real mail. You are paired with a partner and each Sunday you receive a writing prompt, which you respond to on a postcard of your choosing and send to your partner by Friday that week.

I am honored that Love Notes creator, Jennifer Belthoff consented to speak with me about her project and today I am so excited to share that interview with you. Enjoy!

Jennifer BelthoffI totally love Love Notes. Tell me the story behind it.

I love that you love Love Notes as it is so much fun to host! The idea was born out of my appreciation for the handwritten word and a desire to have a project that was easy and attainable for anyone to participate in. I was seeing a lot of creative projects online that involved painting or mixed media but that wasn’t my forte. I am a writer. Writing is my art. I wanted a project where someone like me felt comfortable participating.

The idea rumbled in my head for a while as I struggled to figure out what this project could look like. One night I was telling Dustin about my desire to connect with people, to have individuals share handwritten words, and to do something that was easy and attainable for anyone. He mentioned the magical word: postcards.

A postcard was perfect for what I wanted to create. The small writing space is not intimidating and there is already artwork on the front so no worries about creating something. Plus, postcards have the ability to bring joy to all hands it passes through on its journey to the recipient.   Yes, postcards!

And so the Love Notes Postcard Project was born.

One of the reasons that great ideas never come to fruition is because of fear. I know this is something I struggle with. Were there any fears during the creation of the Love Notes project?

I think whenever we risk with our hearts there is always fear because we are risking something that means a lot to us. My biggest fear with this project was that no one would sign up. I mean really, who is going to sign up to send a postcard to a total stranger? But, if we do not risk we never know and I am a firm believer in taking that risk.    

I am fascinated by individuals who have an idea and then go and do the work. What did you have to do and what challenges did you overcome?

To bring this idea to fruition I had to figure out a way to invite and encourage individuals to send three postcards to a total stranger. The idea seemed farfetched but I fully believed in it and knew I had to give it a try. I searched the internet to find the easiest way for people to sign up and then I utilized my blog and Facebook as a way to reach out and invite people to participate.

One of the biggest challenges I face is sending out the initial addresses to each partner. This has to be done manually but I do enjoy the process because it is so much fun to look and see where everyone is writing from.  

There is another round of Love Notes coming up right? I’m excited. How can individuals participate?

The next round begins January 10th. To participate all you need to do is click here and fill out the form by January 8th. I will then contact you with your partner info and on the 10th you will receive the first writing prompt.

Anything that you would like to add?

The life that this project has taken on is beyond anything I could have ever dreamed of. There are individuals participating from all over the world and some people even create their very own postcards which are little works of art. Previous partners continue to write to one another, others get together to create postcards, and friendships have been developed. All of this makes my heart smile wide!

What is your favorite quote and why?

Hmm, really good question as I have so many. For this moment I would have to go with this one by Brené Brown:

“Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity, and change.”

 This quote resonates deeply with me because I have learned that in order for us to connect with others we need to share our heart and let others see our vulnerable side. We grow when we go to the edge of our comfort zone and continue to step forward. This project would never have been possible had I not been willing to be vulnerable.

And finally, how do you “enjoy life?”

For me life is most enjoyed when I am with those I love, outdoors in the sunshine, soaking in a good book on my little front porch, running, or riding my bicycle. I love to be active and capture my adventures with my camera.

Thank you so much, Jennifer!

Jennifer can be found “seeking out hearts, finding feathers, and sending love notes along the way” at You can view previous postcards that have been created by checking out #lovenotejb on Instagram or going over to the Love Notes Facebook Group.  And don’t forget to sign up for the next round beginning January 10th in April.



friday’s “secret”: to be happy, you gotta step outside of your comfort zone, again

Logo. Galaxy of Lights 5KThis week, I did something that was truly terrifying for me. I ran the Huntsville Botanical Gardens Galaxy of Lights 5K race alone; in the dark.

The Galaxy of Lights is a holiday extravaganza of lights displays throughout the Garden during the holiday season. Displays include the 12 Days of Christmas, and my personal favorite, the Icicle Forest which takes my breath away every time. The displays are sponsored by local companies and community members and installed, repaired, and maintained throughout the year by NASA engineers, electricians, and volunteers. After Thanksgiving, Galaxy Driving Nights allow you to experience the displays in the warmth of your vehicles. The 5K and 3K Holiday Dash allows you to experience it up close and personal.

I had made plans to run with a friend. Being alone in large crowds terrifies me. Unfortunately this friend hurt her ankle and couldn’t do it with me. I spent the day scrambling trying to find someone else to go with me. On top of that, it was raining cats and dogs throughout the entire day and I told myself that the was suppose to be a fun race and running, in the rain, alone, in the dark, was not going to be fun.

Around 3:30 PM, the rain let up enough for me to consider doing it. But I couldn’t find anyone to go with me. I flip-flop back and forth between going and not going for about an hour and ultimately decided to go. I had all ready arranged for my mother-in-law to keep the Buddy Man later with Hubby picking him up after work and I rationalized that I would ultimately regret it if I did not.

I got there at 5:00 and hour and a half before race time. In retrospect, this was a mistake. I wanted to make sure I had close parking and that I was able to pick up my race packet in time to pin on my number and use the restrooms which had lines throughout the night. It had stopped raining and I wandered around the exhibits looking for someone to talk to. Overwhelmed, I gave up and went to my car and the tears formed. Why was I doing this? I began to feel guilty about not being there for the first time to put my baby to sleep. I was lonely. This wasn’t fun.

I found a book and read by the light of a flashlight until close to race time. Once, we were off, I thoroughly enjoyed it! The lights were beautiful and every time I run, I feel awesome!

I felt so proud of myself. I did something else that I was afraid to do. And I don’t have to look back and wish that I had had the courage to do what I really wanted to do. I did high-tail it out of there as soon as the race was over, though. And what do you know, but it started pouring again!

How about you? Ever done something you were afraid to do?

enjoy life…