The Hands Free Revolution page was hacked, but now the issue is resolved

light will outshine darkness

UPDATE:  Over the last 24 hours my page was taken over by hackers, and I was shut out as the page administrator unable to do anything to stop them. This amazing community came to aid and my defense in a way that I will never forget. Thank you for knowing my heart would never willingly allow this to happen and post the horrific things that were seen here. Thank you for reporting the images to Facebook and for sharing my blog post asking for help to get my page back. This community, as well as many fellow bloggers and personal friends stepped up to show these sabotagers that GOODNESS prevails. While I hope that my administrator status is back for good, please know that if you see anything out of the ordinary from what I normally post, please report the vile content see the steps outlined at the bottom of this post.

I hope to get back to my regular schedule of positivity and hope tomorrow on The Hands Free Revolution FB page. You are the most wonderful community and I am blessed to walk the Hands Free journey with you. Let us continue to focus on the good.

“I’ve always believed the light can outshine the darkness.
I’ve always believed that goodness will prevail.
But sometimes in the face of adversity, a need a little reminding.
Thank you for reminding me.
I shall not ever forget.”
-Rachel Macy Stafford

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Original post:

My friends, I have been locked out as administrator of The Hands Free Revolution Facebook page. The hackers have been posting vile and offensive material. I am deeply sorry if you have been subjected to this in your newsfeed on Facebook. You can help me GREATLY by doing one or both of the following to report the problem:

1. Click this link and report that The Hands Free Revolution page has been hacked.

2. Go to the page and hover over the top right corner of the offensive post for the drop down carrot to show
then click on “I don’t like this post”
A pop up will come up – click on: “It’s Spam”
On the next window click on: “Their account is hacked”
That will report it.

I am so grateful to all of you who have written to me personally to let me know about the situation. Thank you for standing by me as I try to regain control of my Facebook fan page so I can continue spreading messages of positivity and hope!

A Daily Goal with Life-Changing Results

I hope after spending an hour … a day … a lifetime in my presence, I leave your heart fuller, your smile wider, your spirit stronger your future brighter than you could have ever imagined by yourself.   -Rachel Macy Stafford

I hope after spending an hour … a day … a lifetime in my presence,
I leave your heart fuller,
your smile wider,
your spirit stronger
your future brighter
than you could have ever imagined by yourself.
-Rachel Macy Stafford

*name & story have been used with permission

A little over four years ago I started my Hands Free journey to let go of distraction and grasp the moments that mattered. It became my daily practice to write down the little moments of meaningful connection that I would’ve missed had I remained tethered to my devices, pressures, and regrets. What I experienced during my designated Hands Free pockets of time was so powerful I knew it was meant to be shared. I started publishing my daily Hands Free successes and failures on a blog. This helped me stay accountable to my goal—to live more and love more in the precious time that I’d been given. But there was more. My willingness to share my story was unexpectedly reciprocated. Each day for the past four years, I’ve heard from people I do not know. But they tell me their stories and inspire me in ways I could not be inspired alone.

Recently I opened my inbox to this:

“I have you to thank for the light bulb that lit up inside of me that turned into a flaming inferno of wanting to connect with my children. I have you to thank for the belly laugh (the best laugh that I have had with my oldest in years) that I would have missed had I not been in a ‘Hands Free Zone’ that I’ve designated and stuck to. I have you to thank for the wall in my kitchen (which is against my obsessive compulsive nature) that I have posted blog entries and favorite quotes from your book. This wall is what I look at when my baby is crying so loudly that I want to rip my hair out—your words are the caution cones that tell me to slow down and embrace my screaming baby and laugh. I have you to thank for my life, my children’s lives, and the amazing mom that I never knew I could become to them. I have you to thank for raising me from the dead; for that I will be eternally grateful. Thank you for saving me.”

–Fallon*

This message was written by a single, full-time working student/mother. I could see her in her kitchen. Her eyes weary from lack of sleep … baby food stains on the front of her shirt … her older child’s homework splayed across the counter along with bills and school reminder notes. I could see her trying … trying … trying. I did not know this woman, but I adored her.

Attached to the e-mail message was Fallon’s completed assignment for her psychology class. It was a short description of her fall semester goal: Keep Things Simple. To her this meant trying to avoid “overwhelm” which she knew had a negative impact on her mood, her progress, her sleep and of course, her children. “Keep Things Simple means not sweating the small stuff, getting tasks completed in a timely manner, not over exaggerating, and eliminating unnecessary stress to enjoy my life to the fullest,” she wrote.

Fallon listed several strategies that would help her reach her goal. First, her Inspiration Wall filled with meaningful quotes and artwork by her children would act as a visual reminder to “slow down and not miss life.” Second, a daily planner neatly organized and color coded would enable her to keep track of appointments, assignments, financial responsibilities, and family needs. Third, she designated “Hands Free Zones” around the house and during certain times of day that would be device free. Lastly, she placed two open books on her kitchen table with pens and highlighters. “The Bible and a book that my older son bought me for my birthday this year, Hands Free Mama. These two books are food to my soul, reminding me to slow down and not miss my life,” she’d written to her psychology professor.

I did not know this woman, but yet I felt as if I did. Fallon’s steps toward a more present, gratitude-filled, and simpler way of life sounded an awful like my own when I started my journey. I wanted more than anything to see this brave, loving, and hard-working mother succeed. And because one of my purposes in life is to encourage others, I wrote her back with words of affirmation and support. I also sent her a few more signs for her Inspiration Wall and a bracelet because hers had faded from constant wear and bath time submersion.

Over a span of several weeks, Fallon and I corresponded. We both felt we were connected for a reason. During the day, I often found myself wondering how she was doing. I most wondered if she was receiving any signs of confirmation – signs that she was on the right track – like loving smiles, unexpected tender words, “Sunset Moments” that had been vital to fueling me forward on my own journey.

The other day I reached out to check on her. Much to my delight she said her older child was sharing more information with her than he used to be too shy to bring up. Instead of “I don’t know” she was being provided with voluntary information about friends, teachers, and what interested him at the moment. Fallon also noticed he was asking her to engage in activities with him that required time and presence. They’d recently set out twenty plastic cups, filled them with water, and marked them with a point value. The two of them laughed and bonded while tossing a badminton piece into the cups over and over. Due to her newfound availability, this boy (who used to race off to the television) was now inviting her to join in activities with him.

The results of Fallon’s intentional presence were not as obvious with the ten-month old baby, but there was definitely a notable difference. “I am slowing down to show him flowers and plants and watching his face as he discovers new things. He will look at me and talk in baby language with his eyebrows raised, and I can tell he is really telling me something serious. More than anything though, I am remembering the time I am present with him—like when I stopped in the middle of cleaning the kitchen to dance and sing, his little face happy and mesmerized by this little moment with his mama. Being able to remember these moments is my greatest gift,” Fallon said.

I could relate. I could remember. One of the most reinforcing results of giving my undivided attention to my loved ones was the peace that settled over my frantic mind and productivity-driven soul. Never in my life had I ever felt like I was right where I was supposed to be until I gave myself permission to Be Where You Are.

be where you are #HFM

I vividly remember one particular evening in the beginning stages of my journey when I gave myself permission to stop thinking and stop moving—to be fully available to take that moment in.

Let’s just be here. I thought to myself that night as I tucked my older daughter Natalie into bed. I’d been reading bedtime stories to her for many years, but my mind was always somewhere else. I was always eager to close her bedroom door. But my newfound awareness on my Hands Free journey motivated me to want to Be All There.

“There’s no way you can do it,” my inner critic scoffed at such a lofty goal. “You’re Queen Multi-Tasker. You are a hurrier, a checker off-er, a ‘why do it later when you can do it now’ person through and through. You are a moving target—even illness cannot stop you!”

But love could. Love could stop me.

I knew I was not a patient, Take Your Time Person. I was always thinking ahead and experienced guilt when I felt like I was being “unproductive.” But all hope was not lost. I could fake it. I could act like a Take Your Time Person. I could do it for my child.

I searched my memory bank for a person who made me feel like I was the only person who mattered when I was in her company. Instantly I thought of my second grade teacher who would allow me to read my multi-page stories to her. Ms. Paluska would tuck her hand beneath her chin like she actually enjoyed this time with me. She would nod enthusiastically. She would smile as she listened. There could have been a classroom of twenty-five second graders going nuts behind her but you would’ve never known. I was the only one in her world during those moments.

And now there I was, laying next to my child, wanting so badly to give her my full presence. I was not a patient person, but I would act one. I could act like Ms. Paluska.

For the first time in a very long time, I did not think about the dishes in the sink … or the messages in the inbox … or the trash needing to go curbside … or the ache in my hip in need of an ice pack. “Let’s just think about the little girl in need of a little time with her mom,” I said to myself.

I focused on Natalie’s sun-kissed hair falling across her cheek, the way her pillow smelled like Suave shampoo, and the way my breath steadied in time with hers.

And when she noticed I wasn’t in a hurry to leave, she talked. And I talked. And then ten minutes or twelve minutes, it didn’t really matter. I stopped watching the clock. I shut her door feeling calm, content, and connected to my child and my own heart. I vowed to do it again the next night. For a handful of minutes each night, I could Be All There.

It wasn’t always easy. Sometimes Natalie would say “stay” and it took every ounce of strength in my body to oblige. That is when I would count. I would count to 50 or 100 in my head. And every time I mustered up that little extra time, Natalie would say something important, funny, or simply whisper, “I love you.” I would be thankful I stayed. I would be thankful I did not miss it.

Just the other night, out of the blue, Natalie said, “I like the way you take your time putting me to bed.”

I actually looked over my shoulder. She couldn’t be talking to me, I thought. “Take your time” were words that had nothing to do with me.

Well … they didn’t used to.

But I guess they do now.

I had to fake being a Take Your Time Person, but eventually that is who I’ve become, at least to this little girl at tuck-in time. And does it really matter how I got to this place? Does it really matter how you or I get to the place we want to be? Whether it’s signs plastered on your walls, books opened on the bedside table, strings tied around your pinkie, promises written in ballpoint pen, or the best acting you’ve ever done in your life, these are all ways of getting where you want to go and becoming who you want to be.

Because in the end, those on the other side of your undivided presence feel what you want them to feel. Important. Loved. Heard. Those on the receiving end of your loving presence are left better than they were before. And isn’t that the ultimate goal? I think so.

be where you are 3 #HFM

The Presence Pledge*

I hope after spending an hour … a day … a lifetime in my presence,
I leave your heart fuller,
your smile wider,
your spirit stronger
your future brighter
than you could have ever imagined by yourself.

© Rachel Macy Stafford 2014

 *The Presence Pledge is now available in two styles 

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Like Fallon, posting signs around my house to slow down for love and silence my inner bully were vital to my Hands Free transformation. Sayings like, “XO Before You Go” and “Only Love Today” that I once wrote in black Sharpie are now available as beautiful prints. The Presence Pledge was recently created in gold foil and sea foam green due to your many heartfelt requests. I extend a huge thank you to my sister-in-law, Stacie, for being the amazing force behind the Hands Free Shop. I write the words and she brings these tangible reminders to life and to the homes of readers all over the world. The Hands Free vintage tee’s are on sale for $12. When I throw on that t-shirt it puts me in a frame of mind to really let go & live.  

Here is a life-changing opportunity that can bring you closer to your goal of a more meaningfully connected, simpler, gratitude-filled life:

A Simple Year: 12 Months of Guided Simplicity – I am so honored to be one of twelve simplicity authors who will be sharing wisdom designed to help you simplify your life. Check out the twelve topics for the course here. Along with inspiring and informative articles that will come right to your inbox, there will also be a live webinar each month where you can connect with the authors, ask questions and meet other people on a similar path. The live webinar will be recorded and provided so you can view anytime. All the information you need to know about the course and early-bird sign up is here.

Friends of The Hands Free Revolution, please share your current goal for living better & loving more. What’s working? What’s not? We can learn so much from each other. I am grateful to walk beside you on this journey. Your messages fuel me. 

P.S. Don’t forget I will be sharing strategies to let go of distraction & perfection with Experience Life magazine in “A Healthy Revolution: The Virtual Conference.” This is a FREE online event where you can hear from today’s most progressive experts about how to live happier & healthier even in the face of real challenges. In my interview (airing 8pm CST 10/20/14), I will be describing my first steps to a less distracted, more meaningfully connected life & what I do when I find myself slipping back into old ways. I will also discuss how living Hands Free has changed how I relate to my spouse, my parents, close friends, & complete strangers. I hope you will join me!

Which Way to a Peaceful Response?

"Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves." ~Henry David Thoreau

“Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.” ~Henry David Thoreau

I should’ve known not to get so confident. I hadn’t gotten lost once in this new big city of mine. I’d traveled interstates, back roads, and busy thoroughfares. Every time I’d punched an address into my new navigation system, it had taken me there without fail.

I’d become so confident that I even stopped printing out paper directions as a back up or calling people ahead of time asking for landmarks along the route. Those were the safeguards I’d used for over a decade to compensate for my severely flawed sense of direction. I am known to turn the wrong way out of the bathroom at a restaurant and not be able to find my family. I am known to fear that my car’s been stolen until my Noticer daughter tells me we’re in the wrong parking lot. When my friends heard I was moving to a new, much larger city, they worried. They suggested I not leave a two-mile radius for awhile. But with the help of a new navigation system, I’ve had a new lease on life. I’ve been taking my children to places I never thought I could go by myself. I stopped gripping the steering wheel with sweaty hands when venturing into uncharted territories.

Well … until Saturday morning.

My daughters had their first swim meet with their new team at an aquatics center that was about twenty minutes away from our house. After years of stressful crack-of-dawn departures, we’d learned to get prepared the night before. All the bags were packed. Swim suits and flip flops were laid out. I had the address of where I was going written on a sticky note next to the bags. All I had to do was punch the address in. The night before I thought briefly about gathering my direction back ups, but I happily reminded myself I didn’t need them anymore.

That morning when I punched in the address of the swim center, it didn’t show up. I tried typing in the name of the facility. No luck. I tried just the street. That didn’t work either. For five minutes, I punched anything I thought might get us in the general vicinity. I noticed my fingers becoming more aggressive with each fail and the air in the car was getting warm. Suddenly my hazard lights came on automatically. I frantically felt around the steering wheel for the off button. The obnoxious clicking sound was nearly loud enough to wake the neighbors. I had a full-on sweat going now.

“Why is this address not in existence?” I growled to myself. “And how in the world do I turn these hazard lights off?” I angrily punched more buttons on the dash and ended up turning on all the lights in the car and opening the trunk.

[Read more...]

An Invitation to Live, Really Live

“Come outside, Before the world gets any colder, And you and I get too much older. ‘Come outside,’ she said. ‘Come outside,’ she said.  Climb out your window.” -Counting Crows

“Come outside,
Before the world gets any colder,
And you and I get too much older.
‘Come outside,’ she said.
‘Come outside,’ she said.
Climb out your window.”
-Counting Crows

Recently I’ve found myself driving like my seventy-four year old mom. I’ve been double and triple checking before making left turns. I’ve gone a mile out of my way just to avoid a dangerous intersection. I’ve also been chewing my food slowly so I don’t choke and taking a multi-vitamin. I’ve been determined to do the best job I can of keeping myself alive.

I didn’t connect these heightened safety precautions to my current project until I came to the conclusion section of the book I am writing. My hands began shaking as I typed the closing thoughts that I’d been waiting … living … and making cautious left turns in order to finish. And although I knew my editor would probably remove these final and unnecessary words, I typed, “The End,” in fancy font at the close of my 63,714-word manuscript. And then I cried. I cried because I lived to tell the story.

This particular book was not the easiest to book write, not that any books are—a fact I failed to appreciate until I actually wrote one. This book called for my deepest truths and my most painful reflections. But even more, it called for me to trust that the words would come in due time, not in Rachel’s time. Knowing the deadline for submitting this manuscript to my publisher would sneak up on me as far-off events often do, I tried writing this book last fall. I wrote lots of notes. I wrote lots of ideas. I wrote chapters that I ended up trashing. It was not time. I tried writing this book again in the spring. I took lots of notes. I wrote down lots of ideas. I wrote chapters that I ended up trashing. It was not time. And then summer involved moving boxes, anxious children, tearful goodbyes, and new territories to navigate. I didn’t even try to jot notes or cultivate ideas. I allowed myself to be in “receiving mode” rather than “producing mode.” I decided I would live. I would taste. I would cry. I would walk. I would laugh. I would read. I would say yes to as many Moments That Mattered as I possibly could. I ended up filling lots of little notebooks with experiences that only come from living, real living. And when my family felt settled in our new home, my husband and I went to a Counting Crows concert at a beautiful outdoor venue in our new city. I thought I’d heard every lyric Adam Duritz had ever sang, but on this particular night, he was the master of improvisation. “Round Here” turned into a message my soul had been longing to hear. “Climb out your window,” Adam sang. “Come outside before the world gets any colder, and you and I get too much older. Climb out your window.”

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To Love a Child By Their Book

by their book 1 #HFM

“Well, good for you. You stopped rushing your younger child and undid some of the damage, but what about your older daughter? What about her? What about the damage you did to her?”

It was a question posed by a commenter on this post almost a year after it was published.

Although the reader had no way of knowing, I’d addressed the damage that my hurried, perfectionistic ways had on my older daughter in several painful posts like this one and this one. But for some reason when I read his comment I saw an underlying question: You describe what you did to love your younger daughter as herself, but what about your older daughter? What did you do to love her “as is”?

To me, that question was far more important to address than what damage was done. It’s taken months, maybe even years, but I finally have an answer. I hope it will help someone crack open a few undiscovered pages of a book well worth reading. This is my story …

When I experienced the “hurry up” epiphany several years ago, I realized I needed to make changes before I completely stifled my younger daughter’s carefree spirit. What Avery needed was painfully obvious—it was written all over her face. She needed me to stop trying to change her … to let her be herself … to love her “as is.”

I dug deep to find patience buried inside my productivity-driven soul and stopped trying to turn my child into someone she was not. I noticed certain offerings produced a wide smile, a sigh of contentment, or the look of relief on her face. I learned:

Saying the words “take your time” was love to this child. I tried to say it at least once a day.

Allowing her to do her own hair was love to this child. I stepped aside and let her fashion her own haphazard ponytail for school. If she was happy with how it looked, I chose to be happy with it too.

Letting her play the guitar notes as she felt they should be played was love to this child. I sat back and watched and left the correcting to her instructor.

Giving her assurances in new situations was love to this child. I stopped dismissing her fears and hesitations. I stopped saying, “It’s no big deal. Stop crying,” and instead said, “New things are scary, but I think you are ready. You can do this.”

Speaking gently and not so sharply … letting her do things differently than I did … giving her privacy when she was getting dressed were acts of love in Avery’s book. And through this process of watching, listening, and observing, I learned how to love this child and even found myself borrowing a few pages from her book to re-write my own. Witnessing her approach to life helped me slow down, live better, and love more than I ever imagined I could.

But how to love as my older daughter “as is” was not so obvious. Natalie was the speedy one, the planner, the supervisor, the overachiever, and the worrier. Her book was strikingly similar to my own book, and this didn’t really come as a surprise. I didn’t begin my Hands Free journey until Natalie was six years old and the letting go process took several years. But the more Hands Free I became, the more I could see my former Type-A tendencies in my older daughter. Every time she was impatient, strived for perfection, or laid awake worrying about things beyond her control, the word damage flashed like a neon sign in my guilt-ridden mind. What have I done? I thought. Was there any way to undo the damage?

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A Question to Live By

small moments/small notebooks HFM

“Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.” –Fernando Sabino

I was standing over the shrimp dip when a family friend approached me. Although he was known to ask thought-provoking questions, and this was my going away party, I was not expecting this one. “So once you get settled in your new home, what do you imagine that moment will look like when you feel like everything is going turn out okay?” he asked.

In one mere sentence my friend went straight to my greatest fears, my greatest insecurities, and my greatest hopes. Funny thing is, I knew the answer to his question. I’d envisioned it a thousand times as I’d prepared our home to be emptied. Tears began dripping my face. An unsightly sea of mascara, I was sure, but I could not stop the tears if I tried. My friend didn’t act like it was any big deal. His wife, who is also my dear friend, had probably exposed him to spontaneous sobbing a few times. My friend just waited. Then he listened.

“When my children come home from school and say, ‘I met a friend today, Mama.’ That is when I know it’s gonna be okay. One friend makes the whole world better, you know. One friend for each girl. That is the moment,” I replied. Then I dabbed my eyes with a yellow party napkin and smiled because friends like that just make you smile even when you’re crying.

I thought that conversation concluded over appetizers and farewell hugs, but it didn’t. For the past two months, that conversation has continued in my head.

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Knowing Where Your People Are

where your people are #HFM

“But I’ll kneel down,
Wait for now
And I’ll kneel down,
Know my ground
And I will wait, I will wait for you.”
–Mumford & Sons

At the beginning of any school year, there are always quite a few student information sheets to fill out. But when I came to the pink sheet in my second grader’s folder, I was forced to pause.

What are your child’s fears? What calms your child when upset?

As my pen sat suspended above the blank lines, I let my mind wander into dark territories. What situations would upset my child at school? I knew. Intruders and tornadoes. Thankfully she’d only experienced one of them first-hand, and the tornado did not have a direct hit. But it was close enough to forever alter her perception of storms and the fragility of life.

Thankfully, I knew exactly what would bring comfort to my child if either of these situations arose. She would want to know where her sister was in the building. She would want to know that I was coming for her just as soon as I possibly could.

In other words: tell her where her people are.

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How to Change Someone’s Story

change someone's story 1

This summer my family moved to a new state. Over the past couple months, I’ve repeatedly heard my younger daughter say, “I still don’t feel like this is home. It feels like we’re on a trip, and we need to get back.”

Sometimes she says it through tears. Other times she says it just matter-of-factly. And sometimes she even laughs about it. This fluctuation of emotions pretty much sums up the ups and downs that go along with moving.

But I must admit something. My daughter’s recurring comment, whether said through laughter or tears, has worried me. You see, this particular child is my Firefly with glasses that sit on the tip of her nose. She has prominent freckles and unruly hair that refuses to behave in a smooth and orderly fashion. This child is a Noticer with a keen awareness of other people’s struggles and fears, especially her own. On more than one occasion she’s maturely expressed that she is “different” from the rest. This child is a friend to all but not really attached to one. She marches to her own beat, makes up her own lyrics, sings like no one is listening. What happens to someone like this when thrown into a new environment with people who know nothing of her inner gifts? Back in our former community, she was loved and celebrated “as is”. We are now in a much bigger city where life is fast and unfamiliar. Would her light brighten or dim here? I’ve wondered many times.

Well, I was just at the height of my worry when something happened. I guess you could call it a game changer. In this case, I’m calling it a story changer. I share this experience as a means of grasping what matters in a fast-paced, overly distracted, pressure-cooker world. Whether we are lost or we are found, just a few moments with open hands and attentive eyes can turn things around.

This is our story …

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Life on Repeat

life on repeat HFH 1

“But if you close your eyes, does it almost feel like nothing changed at all? And if you close your eyes, does it almost feel like you’ve been here before? How am I gonna be an optimist about this?” -Bastille 

I don’t think it was meant as a criticism, but the words stung a little.

“Usually I have to really dig to find anything new in your messages, but this time I didn’t,” the commenter wrote about a short piece I published on The Hands Free Revolution page.

I write about grasping what really matters in a world of a distraction. I write about seeing the glimmers of goodness amidst the mayhem, mess, and mistakes of everyday life. I have written over 200 blog posts, one book, and I am working on my second book. Sometimes when I write, I find myself asking, “Have I written that somewhere before?” And the answer is yes, in some form or fashion, I probably have. Writing is my instrument for focusing on what really matters. And because the distractions of life never go away, I require daily reminders repeated over and over. To some folks, it probably does begin to feel like a broken record.

But here’s the thing. Every once in awhile, as I am writing about what I write about, something unexpected comes out. Painful personal reflections like the hurry up post, the yelling post, and the bully post that cause tears to come to my eyes. Stories like these cause my hands to shake when I push the ‘publish’ button. That’s when I know someone is out there waiting to read these words. Such moments are my fuel. They say, “Keep writing, Rachel. Even though it’s tedious and repetitive, you just never know when your words are going to intersect with someone who needs them.”

But I am human which means in between those encouraging moments are times of doubt and uncertainty. That’s when I begin to question myself. I think about the criticisms and wonder if I’ve said all there is to say about letting go of distraction to grasp what really matters. I wonder if I’ve run dry. I wonder if my writing gig is up.

But recently, as I was thinking about this painful possibility for myself, I thought of you. I thought to myself, maybe there is something here for all of us. Maybe it will even make one person cry with me today.

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Finding Your Footing in New Beginnings

grave #handsfreemama

“No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow. ” –Lin Yutang

One of the first things I did when I moved to my new state this summer was look for a quiet place to walk. You may recall that I had a hilly, serene area near my last home where I walked daily for the six years that I lived there. Many powerful epiphanies occurred to me on that stretch of tarmac where cars seldom passed. I had a feeling that finding a place where my legs could grow tired as my spirit came alive might be challenging here in my new, much bigger city. My suspicions were right.

On my first outing, I quickly realized it would be necessary for me to leave my neighborhood if I wanted a substantial walk. Upon exiting my subdivision I was greeted by a heavily traveled roadway that was intimidating, to say the least. There would be no daydreaming here, no getting lost in my own thoughts. This bustling thoroughfare screamed, “Pay attention or you might get hurt!”

I took a deep breath and forged ahead, hugging the outer edge of the sidewalk farthest from the busy road. With every Nissan and Chevrolet that barreled past, my hair blew back from my face and hot air hugged my legs. I kept my head down and walked briskly, pausing briefly to notice the historic cemetery on my right. I’m pretty sure I would have felt sad (or a little creeped out) if I hadn’t been so focused on finding a peaceful place to continue my walk.

As soon as I got past the cemetery, I saw what I was looking for: an established neighborhood canopied by lush trees and not a moving vehicle in sight. I immediately turned right and walked the shady maze of side streets and cul-de-sacs for an hour. When it was time to return home, I resisted the urge to walk past the cemetery at a quickened pace. Instead I noticed the names and dates of those who lived over a century ago.

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