Rediscovering a Passion and Connecting to a Legacy

Relearning to slow down and see the world through a camera lens. Pictured here looking through my dad’s lens, that I recently inherited.

One of my goals, during my inspirational and intentional change journey, is to reconnect with my passions. Passions that I have either neglected for too many years, or passions I have yet to discover. On the neglected list was photography. As a young person, I loved capturing a moment in time through a camera lens – stories told without words, transferred to the viewer through a single still image. I have been reconnecting with that early love. Five weeks ago, I signed up for a photography class through our local Parks and Recreation department and have been relearning a hobby that once inspired me and gave me purpose.

When I was a sophomore in high school, I asked my dad if he would buy me a camera for a photography class I wanted to sign up for. I don’t recall the cost of the camera back then, but it was enough to warrant a conversation between my dad and (former) stepmom. I had passionately pleaded my case. My photography fate rested in the outcome of a conversation that took place behind a closed bedroom door. I sat in the hallway, waiting and hoping, while they deliberated on this potentially, life-altering decision. Much to my surprise, they agreed. I was ecstatic. Of course, my future camera purchase came with a caveat:  I had to listen to the obligatory, “This is an expensive purchase, so it is important that you see it through,” directive from my stepmom.

My first “real” camera was a pre-digital Minolta; 35 mm film was required. What followed my parents’ purchase was a love affair with my photography class and the picture-taking process. I loved learning about f-stops, the shutter speed, exposure, and film developing. The darkroom was a secret chamber. A place where faces magically appeared on blank paper. I remember the smell of the processing chemicals and the feel of the closed-off chamber that sealed out light and fresh air. But inside that black room, the energy was anything but stagnant. I remember standing over the tub of chemicals, gently moving the photograph paper back and forth with tongs, breathing wafts of pungent odors, and watching as the image came to life. Often the exposed image revealed a lesson to be learned regarding my photography skills, but sometimes I captured something that made me gasp. In joy. In surprise. In wonder. The photograph, whether one to share or one to toss, was then clasped to a long thin wire for drying.

My emerging love affair with photography gave me a sense of purpose. I felt purposeful and directed when I could take pictures at events or gatherings, versus engaging in awkward small talk, or worse, confronting boredom. Looking through the lens also allowed me to see things I might not otherwise see and in doing so, my perspectives began to evolve – not only about the material world around me, but about my future. I daydreamed about becoming a photojournalist, which would allow me to marry my new love, photography, with my first creative love, writing. I continued taking pictures, learning, and progressing through high school until the unthinkable happened. My sophomore year was cut short when my stepmom decided I should live with my mom three weeks shy of summer vacation. Once again, the details of my destiny were sorted behind a closed door, in a hushed conversation. I was surprised by the decision, only this time I was not ecstatic. I was devastated. Moving to Colorado the last three weeks of my sophomore year was a difficult transition and one for another story. I had to say goodbye to my childhood friends, but I did not have to say goodbye to my camera. My camera came with me when I abruptly left my high school and moved to Colorado to live with my mom and stepdad.

Moving to Englewood, Colorado and starting a new high school was a difficult experience, but I did have a few memorable photography moments while there. I remember taking pictures of a lake in the early evening. My perfectly selected settings captured trees, the moon, stars and their glowing reflections in the still water below. The developed image made me gasp. In awe. I also captured several urban shots in Denver that I incorporated into a Social Studies project during my junior year. I was allowed to complete an extra credit project because I was earning an excelling grade in the course. I chose to research and share pictures and details of several historical downtown Denver buildings. My stepfather drove me downtown and waited while I walked several streets looking for just the right architectural picture. Once again, my camera gave me a sense of purpose and it also allowed me to see my new city with a different perspective.

I moved back to Mesa, Arizona to graduate from my original high school, with my childhood friends. Once again, my camera came with me.

Lake Pleasant, Arizona (substitute for my Denver lake picture that is long gone)

…………………

I kept my first camera for a few more years, but my photographs went dark. Photography was an expensive hobby that I could not afford to maintain as a young trying-to-survive-person. The point, click, and save world of today, had replaced the buy and develop film of an earlier era. Each of those steps required a monetary investment – one that I simply could not make. I remember the day I sold my camera. I sold it to a stranger who would never know the purpose it had given me and how grateful I was when my parents agreed to buy it. Although that camera had represented a highly coveted path to creative expression just a few years before, it had turned into pieces of metal, plastic, and glass that served as another reminder of what I could not afford to indulge in. I sold it, paid some bills, and moved on.

I would pick up a camera again when my daughter was born, and like most new parents, I documented every month, if not every day of her young life. Those photographs are my most cherished possessions; they document every stage of her life. They also document a time of delayed photographic gratification. When my daughter was a toddler, we bought our first digital camera. The cost was exorbitant and one that should have made the young parents we were pause, but we were fascinated by the technology and wanted to experience it as quickly as possible. What we didn’t realize, as we were caught up in a must have this newest gadget frenzy, is that the technology that would transform our picture taking would also take away the tangible result of taking a picture. The cost of the camera (somewhat) balanced not having to buy film anymore, except for a few select photographs, but the new technology could not replace the simple pleasure of sitting side-by-side and looking through photo albums. Nor could it replace the experience of developing my own images in that darkroom, or the feel of a photograph in my young daughter’s hands and the intimate connection made by looking closely into a loved one’s eyes, versus clicking hurriedly through dozens of pixelated images staring back from a computer screen.

I appreciate my files of digital photographs that document our lives together. Digital photography is extraordinary and allows for smoother sorting, easier sharing of images, and of course, digital manipulation. My need to know different camera settings to achieve the results I visualized had been replaced with the ease of point and click. I have continued to take pictures, but the act of capturing an image had lost the creative allure I experienced as a high school student. Yet, I have harbored the desire to reconnect with that young love and once again learn how to use my camera in a manner that goes behind the simple point, click, and save process. So, after several years of saying, “Someday I would like to take a photography class again,” I finally followed through with my desires; I signed up for a photography class and have been learning how to use my 2017 Canon camera Christmas present, beyond the automatic setting, and relearning the technical and the artistic aspects of visual storytelling.

Shared Lens

Inherited camera that I am learning to use.

It was during week two of my photography class, that my (current) stepmom gave me my dad’s camera. I was surprised. I thought he had sold his camera to my brother. He actually had sold a camera several years ago; this was a different camera. She thought I should have his camera, given my interest in photography. His camera, a Sony, represents so much more than the metal, plastic, and glass materials that house the 21st century picture-taking technology. It represents a connection to a side of my father that emerged during his retirement years. A side to him that may have been there for many decades, but it was when his active work life slowed that he began to share his sensitive reflective nature, that was delivered through dozens of emails, sent to family, containing photographs of his picture du jour. His emails often included humorous and thoughtful messages.

Here is an example of an image and message my dad sent to family:

“HAVE A GREAT DAY. I thought this was appropriate for a Friday. It looks like he is heading home.” DDW (email received May 15, 2015)

I can recall several memories of my father, the man behind the lens, as he documented important life events. I remember waving to him, as he stood in the orchestra pit, camera ready, during my first dance recital. He also captured pictures of me walking across the stage, both as a high school graduate and when I received my first college degree. My father would once again be the man standing, camera ready, taking pictures of his dancing daughter, when I participated in several community holiday performances. I appreciate having tangible reminders of special life moments, made more meaningful by knowing the photographer, but it wasn’t until life forced my dad to slow down, that he began to explore the creative side of photography, and through that exploration, an attention to nature’s special moments.      

Nature’s force and fragility, captured by my dad.

My dad was thrilled to capture the Salt River Wild Horses on the move. A “decisive moment in photography,” as my photography instructor would say.

I have been told many times that I have my dad’s green eyes. As a young person, I heard this frequently when meeting one of my dad’s coworkers, friends, or Iowa family members for the first time. I appreciated sharing this physical feature with him. His eyes were a light green that contrasted dramatically with his dark hair (in his younger years). It occurred to me recently, that we shared both similar eyes and the love of extending our vision beyond what is obvious and capturing what a focused camera lens reveals. It took me slowing down and reconnecting with this early passion to fully appreciate the joy my father was experiencing as he worked on finding just the right setting to capture a bee buzzing around a flower in his backyard.

My Green Eye

My “Eye” picture was taken at the Arizona Science Center, in Phoenix, which has a telescope that projects the viewer’s supersized eye onto the ceiling above.

……….

I have some unfinished business with an early creative passion, and now that my fate rests in my hands, I plan on seeing it through – through green eyes that observe behind a shared lens.  

I hope you enjoyed reading the puns as much as I enjoyed writing them. 😊

Slow down and capture a moment.

Are you interested in learning more about photography? Community colleges and local Parks and Recreation departments are a great place to start your photographic adventure.

My class takes place in the City of Peoria, Arizona, at the Rio Vista Recreation Center, with professional photographer, John Keedy.

Message to myinspiredlife.org blog followers:

If you are receiving my blog through email, thank you for taking the time to follow my blog, I really appreciate it. I hope you are finding the weekly writings and photographs inspiring. I have noticed that the formatting of each post gets wonky through the static email delivery.

For optimum viewing, consider going directly to the web @ https://myinspiredlife.org/blog-feed/ for each post. However you choose to look at my posts, thank you!

If you are going through a life change or know someone who is, I would love to learn more and possibly share their story on a weekly post.

Thank you and have an inspired weekend!

Michele

Copyright © 2019 Michele Lee Sefton. All Rights Reserved.

Outward Change Reveals Inward Transformation

The personal story that follows took courage to share and it is my privilege to write it in a manner that is respectful and honoring of the strong woman I interviewed.

Krissy claims (everyday) that, “Today is my favorite day!” Such a grateful way to greet the day.

My husband and I have been blessed with several neighbors, across two states, who we have formed friendships with and who have added richness to our lives. Those friendships have taken many forms through the years. Together as neighbors, we have watched children play and grow, we have laughed and celebrated, and we have supported and been supported. Not to be understated, we have been greeted with friendly faces and welcoming waves more times than we can recall.  

We have also experienced the sting of not-so-nice-neighbors, so we were thrilled to meet our new neighbors after making a move back to the valley just over seven years ago, after living in Tucson for five years. In a mirror floor plan, directly across the street, lived a young family who were immediately kind and inviting. The husband, Glynn, and wife, Krissy, introduced themselves with smiles and dispositions that could brighten the cloudiest of days – smiles and attitudes that have been unwavering since our first encounter. Their young children exhibit the same cheerful outlook and loving nature that they so generously convey. Watching Glynn and Krissy’s kids play with other children in the neighborhood was reminiscent of our daughter’s carefree cul-de-sac childhood in Henderson, Nevada. Over five years of friendly hellos and farewells would have been enough to enrich our lives, but their actions went beyond those appreciated gestures. They invited us to several gatherings, including their yearly memorable Halloween celebration, complete with a bouncy house in the front yard. They are equally gracious hosts as they are kind neighbors and we always felt welcomed and energized by their positive presence. We delighted in watching them prepare and return from their many family adventures, and are forever grateful for Glynn’s willingness, without prompting, to mow our lawn when my husband was recovering from foot surgery. They model neighborly goodness and that is what made seeing their for sale sign so difficult when returning home one afternoon, over one year ago. I understand. Sometimes families need more space. We couldn’t be too upset with them, after all, we have planted six for sale signs since we were, ourselves, a young family forging friendships and then moving on to the next location.

Fortunately, our neighbors did not move too far, or at least close enough for a stop in and say hi visit. It was on one of those visits a few months ago that Krissy said something that didn’t shock my world, but I did file it away for later consideration.

When I told her, “You look great! Have you lost weight?”

“Yes, I lost thirty pounds. I stopped drinking,” she said casually.

“Oh, that’s great,” I said, as we were departing.

We drove off, happy to have reconnected with our “old” neighbors. I didn’t think much more about Krissy’s alcohol abstinence until I sat pondering:  who do I know who has made a life change recently that I can learn more about, with the goal of inspiring and motivating others. I immediately thought of Krissy and her lifestyle and physical transformation. I reached out to her and she agreed to be interviewed. The conversation that followed is a reminder of you never know what other people are going through, including people with heartwarming smiles and contagious laughs.

I knew that my neighbor is a fellow Arizona native, but I wanted to learn more about the Krissy I didn’t know. I learned that she has two older brothers and that her parents are married and will celebrate their 47th wedding anniversary next year. She is close with her family and they see each other often. I have many more things to learn about my neighbor, my friend, but our conversation quickly turned to her personal history and the focus of our fifty-minute discussion. Her disclosures were surprising, based on my false assumptions about someone with a radiant attitude, but they are far too familiar to many families, including my own. Krissy shared her experience of attending Al-Anon© 1 to understand and support a family member’s drinking and addiction challenges. She had been going regularly to these helpful meetings for almost two years when a conversation with her Al-Anon© sponsor revealed that, she too, might have an issue with alcohol, and that like her family member, her relationship with alcohol might also be damaging the relationships she most valued. The conversation caused Krissy to take an honest look at her own choices surrounding drinking. In doing so, she realized that she needed to make some changes, or risk permanently altering the course of her marriage, and ultimately, her life.

Krissy made the decision to stop drinking on April 22, 2018 and has been sober since. Saying no to alcohol on that day, turned into a week, then a month, then six months, then a year. She continues to say no to the substance that made her life “blurry.” Focusing on one day, sometimes, one hour at a time in the beginning of her sober journey, has brought her to a place of absolute gratitude, joy, and strengthened relationships. Krissy continued to attend her Al-Anon© meetings but had not attended an AA® 2 meeting until she reached one year of sobriety. At the one-year mark Krissy attended that meeting just to pick up a chip to mark her year milestone. It was then, after attending Al-Anon© for over two years, that she was ready to admit to herself, and others, that she wasn’t just taking a break from alcohol, she was an alcoholic and the struggles of her family member, were also her struggles.

Krissy realized that alcohol directed too many of her days and her family trips, and that those patterns were consuming her and damaging her most cherished relationship – the relationship with her loving husband, her best friend. Those habits consisted of drinking on good days and bad days, drinking to the point of blacking out, fighting about things that she never would have cared about sober, drinking excessively and embarrassing loved ones, and over-planning the drinking schedule for family vacations. Anyone who drinks or has drank to excess, even one time, can probably admit to at least one of these consequences; I certainly can. It takes someone with tremendous courage to admit when negative consequences have become habitual, and then be strong enough to seek support, before those habits erode relationships and sense of self. Krissy is someone with tremendous courage and her bravery and grace are helping others through her involvement with support groups and through the life she is living.

Gratitude is the Key to Happiness     

Krissy is “genuinely happy” without alcohol in her life and she feels “like a million bucks.” She attributes the foundation of that happiness to practicing gratitude. This “key to happiness,” as she describes, is helping her stay sober, especially during difficult situations that test her sobriety.

Practicing Mindful Gratitude has allowed her to:

  • Be fully present and aware
  • Know tomorrow is not ruined
  • Let go of the need to control situations and others
  • Remember everything
  • Be in control of words and actions
  • Not feel shame or embarrassment
  • Learn to have fun on her own
  • Practice honesty and forgiveness
  • Let go of resentments
  • Be accepting of others and herself
  • Embrace a willingness to change
  • Let go and let God
  • Feel God’s grace

While drinking Krissy said she didn’t think about leading with gratitude throughout her day. To hear her talk passionately about being grateful in all situations, it is hard to imagine that awareness hasn’t always been a core strength of hers. Practicing gratitude is a gift that she has extended to her family and her home reflects that awareness.

The “Family Gratitude Jar” contains notes of gratitude experienced throughout the week. The small gratitude notes are then read at the end of each week. An inspiring family routine that is strengthening grateful hearts, and a family bond.

Prepare the Mind, Prepare for the Day

Like I am rediscovering every day, morning meditations provide quiet space for prayer and prepare Krissy for the remainder of her day. Praying before her day begins and leading with gratitude throughout the remainder of her day has transformed Krissy’s attitude and has given her inner peace and strength. Krissy has radiated positive light whenever we have seen her over the last seven years; now, she has been able to shine that light inward, as well as outward. Krissy has modified both when she prays and how she prays. Her transformed prayer life is now led with an accepting heart, versus an asking heart.

Motivational quotes Krissy has learned and does her best to live by each day:

“I can do this today.” “Accept things for what they are.” 

“Progress not perfection.”  “We heal what we reveal. 

“I can help other people today.” 

“I am not better than, or less than, I am equal.”

Krissy describes her turning point as a time when, “I was able to get off the elevator before I went to the bottom floor.” Krissy does not make that statement from a place of superiority. She acknowledges God’s grace in giving her the strength to make life changes before consequences became more serious and permanent. With the encouragement of an incredible husband, a loving family, supportive groups, and a strong faith, Krissy has been able to leave that descent and walk a new path – a hero’s path. She isn’t just walking a new path; she is shining a light on the path for others.  

…………….

The goal of this piece is not to tell people to stop drinking, and it certainly is not Krissy’s goal. That is a personal decision. The goal of this piece is to share a story about a strong woman who had the courage to be accountable for her choices and then take the uncomfortable steps, one day at a time, toward a stronger and healthier life, for herself and her family. Her willingness and determination to do so serves as a model for others who might be following in her footsteps, or as Krissy would prefer, alongside her.     

Resources:

  1. Al-Anon© is a mutual support program for people whose lives have been affected by someone else’s drinking. Description found on the Al-Anon website. For more information, please visit https://al-anon.org/
  2. Alcoholics Anonymous ® (AA) is a an international fellowship of men and women who have had a drinking problem. Description found on the AA website. For more information, please visit https://www.aa.org/

Enjoy your weekend and if you are receiving this post through email, please visit my blog for additional pages and previous posts.

Copyright © 2019 Michele Lee Sefton. All Rights Reserved.

The Summer Sun’s Retreat Invites Us Out to Play

Our beautiful backyard sanctuary is an inspiring place to greet the fall day.

Agreeable Autumn Days in Arizona

Change is a constant in our lives and that renewal is reflected in the natural world around us. On Monday, September 23rd, the sun began to loosen her control over those living in the Valley of the Sun. Although the change in season occurred over two weeks ago, we are just beginning to enjoy the effects of that seasonal change. The sun does not leave us quickly or willingly, it seems, as she crosses the celestial equator headed south. The shining sun that scorches us all summer is reluctant to give up her control over our thermostats and our daily routines. In other locations across the northern hemisphere, the arrival of fall means winter is approaching too quickly, but for us living in the southwest, it means we can let out a collective sigh of relief when we step outside, especially early in the morning. The less intense blazing star invites us outside to enjoy golden sunshine and we are happy to oblige. The skin-scorcher becomes a life-giver – invigorating rather than depleting our senses. We have endured the soul-stifling summer months and can now enjoy crisp mornings, cool afternoon breezes, and open windows in the evening that allow fresh air to once again circulate through our summer-sealed homes.

We have been living in a pressure cooker for four months and the sun’s retreat delivers an explosion of outdoor activities across the Grand Canyon state. A change in the season brings desert dwellers an anticipated season of farmers’ markets, fairs, festivals, hikes, bike rides, concerts, weddings, walks, art shows, and other activities that share the same inviting sky. It is impossible to do everything offered around Arizona during the agreeable autumn days, but it sure is fun to try. I have been making the most of this fall thus far, even if those moments arrive in the form of pausing to look at the setting sun during the golden hour.

I am headed to the Desert Botanical Garden this morning, followed by a visit to Sidewalk Surfer in Scottsdale to see our friends’ band play during the lunch hour, and a drive back to the west valley to attend an afternoon art mural dedication, then we will end our evening at a Second Saturday in Peoria Dinner event. It will be one of two busy weekend days, but I am going to squeeze every drop of loving sunshine out of this season and I invite you to do the same. Unless of course you are already shoveling snow – warm wishes to Billings, Montana, Denver, and North Dakota, or anywhere else that abandoned autumn too soon. If that is you, I hope my fall photographs bring you joy and a respite from the cold outside.

Fall Highlights

“Give me juicy autumnal fruit, ripe and red from the orchard.”
― Walt Whitman

from the poem, Give Me the Splendid Silent Sun

My Friday Happy Hour ~ A bike ride along the New River Trail before the sun set.

Play like a child, read like a child.

Leaves by

David Ezra Stein

In the spirit of embracing the changing season and adding more play to my life, I recently read a children’s book about a young bear experiencing his first autumn. When the leaves begin to fall, he is concerned and tries to put them back on the tree. Realizing he cannot put the leaves back on the tree, he decides to scoop up a pile of leaves and put them in a hole, where he spends his sleepy winter. After a long sleep, he awakens to sunshine and tiny new leaves welcoming him to a new season. This sweet book reminds me to practice seeing the world through the eyes of a young child, or in this case, a young bear, and experience the wonder of nature.   

Discovering the world through my daughter’s eyes.

My daughter’s fall view.

Eugene, Oregon

Letting the light shine through and embracing freedom and exploration.

I am still embracing the freedom that comes from waking up on a Saturday morning and realizing I do not have 100 senior essays waiting for me to read and grade. The memory of being shut up in my office most Saturdays to grade student work is fresh. The awareness of that freedom is enhanced when the weather is inviting. I was so focused on my work that I rarely even opened my window shutters. Maybe I did not want to be reminded of what I was missing outside. I have started opening the shutters recently, and I have captured some beautiful sun rays shining through. I am letting the light shine through in many ways. I do miss connecting with high school students – I surprised myself two days ago during a writing workshop in Tempe when I got choked up reading a piece about my students, that I wrote during a seven-minute prompt. I am grateful for my years of service in high school classrooms, and I am also grateful for a brief home office visit this morning – just long enough to write this post before I head out to explore the inviting fall world.

What are you up to this fall? I would love to hear about it. Do you have any favorite fall traditions? Please share in the comments.

Enjoy your weekend and if you are receiving this post through email, please visit my blog for additional pages and previous posts.

Last Saturday’s Phoenix Farmers Market &

“Meet Your Literary Community” Event

ended with a “Can I take a picture of your cute dog?” event.

My Inspired Life ~ Updates:

  • Be sure to follow Emily Gerlick’s Instagram account @em_run_teach_love and, if you haven’t already, read her inspiring story from last week.
  • I am wrapping up Story #26 and starting Story #27, in my “50 Life Stories” writing project (68 pages and 34,341 words).
  • I have completed my application to volunteer with a local organization that assists the elderly.

Copyright © 2019 Michele Lee Sefton. All Rights Reserved.

Adventurous Arizona Athlete and Teacher Inspires Others

Emily Gerlick finds adventure, tranquility, and breathtaking moments while increasing her physical endurance and belief in herself.

I have had the privilege of following inspiring athlete, Emily Gerlick, for a few years now on social media after meeting her at work over four years ago. I have looked at dozens of beautiful photographs of Emily running in picturesque scenes in several states, including Arizona, Colorado, and Utah and have often wondered how she makes it to so many remote locations, while also maintaining a busy teaching and coaching schedule. I am in awe and I am inspired by her, and I know I am not alone. Emily’s photographs reveal more than colorful landscapes in hidden valleys, they reveal dedication, desire, determination, and talent. Her photographs of running through the woods, or standing over crystal-clear lakes, or gazing at mountain vistas also do more than momentarily entertain, they beckon the viewer to get out, get moving, and get exploring.

From the moment I met Emily, I was immediately drawn to her independent nature and her compassionate teaching style, but as it often goes, it is difficult to truly get to know another teacher in the confines of the workday, when their classroom is across campus. I sought out an interview with Emily because she recently made a professional move, leaving our mutual school in Glendale, Arizona and accepting a position over 140 miles north, in Flagstaff, Arizona. Changing jobs and relocating can be a terrifying proposition; her story may help or motivate others who might be considering doing the same. Emily has also continued to push herself with her fitness goals and her results are incredible and motivating. I have learned several details about Emily during our interview that further add to my admiration and I am thrilled to share her story. I also learned to not wait so long to get to know someone who I admire from afar.

Running in nature is “soothing and meditative.”

Who is Emily?

Emily is from a Wonder Lake, Illinois, a small-town northwest of Chicago. She went to high school in Woodstock, Illinois. Arizona is her home now, but she misses the downtown square, the mom and pop restaurants, and lighting of the Christmas tree, which she described as being beautifully lit.

Not surprising Emily enjoyed playing outside as a kid. As someone who is working on adding more play to her life, I love that Emily continues to allow her inner child to play, run, and explore. As a child she loved to do those activities barefoot – in the summertime of course. She has fond memories of being three years old and watching bonfires in her family garden, during changing seasons. She would sit and watch as long as she could, until the cold became too much, and then she would race her dad, fifty yards, back to their house. She learned discipline as a young gymnast and ballerina. As an eight-year-old, she fell in love with softball and would continue playing through middle school, high school, and eventually at the University of Iowa. Softball is also one of the sports Emily has coached, passing on her love of the game to aspiring players.  

Emily enjoyed playing outside as a kid.

Emily feels the influence of growing up with four seasons (something native desert dwellers cannot relate to). Illinois winters gave her grit and those long cold winters also gave her an appreciation for spring and summer. She is both an athlete and a fan – supporting the Bulls, Bears, and Cubs. She remembers watching Michael Jordan play with the Bulls and considers him to be an inspiration for her and her athletics.  

Who Inspires Emily?

Emily is inspired by her parents.

She said, “They both worked so hard to give my sister and I the best life they could. They worked hard and showed up at all of our events that we both participated in.”

Her students with special needs also inspire her, “… to be a better human. They have so much courage and work so hard and still have time to smile and laugh.” She thinks of, “them often when … out on the trail.”

Making the Moves

University of Iowa to Arizona

Emily fell in love with Arizona while competing against Arizona State University every spring. She completed a strength and conditioning internship with ASU the summer before her senior year, then moved to Arizona after graduating from college. Arizona surprises her most by the abundant places to explore and the beauty in the state. She mentioned one of my favorite spots, the Mogollon Rim.

She stated that she has “… not even covered half of the cool spots to hike, explore, and camp” in Arizona. Based on her posts, I would say she is covering more of the state than most. Although the Illinois cold gray winters gave her grit, she doesn’t miss having to shovel snow, however, the endless summer days in Phoenix, that never cool down, even after the sun disappears from the horizon, require their own form of grit.   

Phoenix, Arizona to Flagstaff, Arizona

Emily’s most recent move – the one that prompted this interview request – was her move from Phoenix, where she had lived for thirteen years, to Flagstaff. For those who are not familiar with Arizona’s geography, the two locations are distinctly different, and an example of the diversity in the state. Her desire for new adventures, new career and personal challenges, and the abundance of trails, motivated her to head north. Landing a job in an area she has always loved and leaving the security of the known for the unknown, demonstrate Emily’s ability to trust and believe. Two additional qualities I admire in this adventurous athlete.

She has faced the challenges of starting over, but her risk to leave the familiar is paying off. She is meeting new people, settling into her new job, learning new running trails, and she is loving the small town feel of Flagstaff. A feel that reminds her of home, in a place that is starting to feel like home.    

Blazing a Trail

Emily’s first trail running experience was a seven-mile trail at the White Tank Mountain Regional Park, in Buckeye, Arizona, in 2008. She was hooked! Her trail running began with hiking and running with friends. She loves the reward of seeing beautiful views after a climb. Her Instagram followers also love those views! Running in nature, and surrounding herself with natural beauty, gives Emily an immediate release from everything else going on in her life. Trail running has also given her ways to cope with the intense struggles of anxiety and depression.

She loves her supportive, and ever expanding, trail running community and she loves sharing her trail running and outdoor adventures with friends and family. Through her sharing, she has, “met some pretty amazing humans.” I would add that through her sharing people have seen beautiful hidden corners of several states. It is Emily’s hope, and my belief, that her running and sharing will inspire others to get out and find their own adventures.

If I haven’t yet mentioned, Emily is also humble, but I am happy to share that she qualified for the 2020 Boston Marathon. She believes it will be her last road marathon. As her interviewer and someone who has seen her push forward and grow, I am not convinced it will be her last.

Emily’s Top Five Reasons to Hit the Trails

  • Repetitive movement is soothing and meditative
  • Fresh air to the lungs
  • Connecting with earth
  • Seeing amazing feats of nature
  • Sitting in a cold creek listening to the sound of rushing water

Emily’s adventurous spirit, beautiful photographs, and willingness to take risks, both professionally and on the trails, inspire me to get up, get moving, and go beyond my comfort, which “is where life begins.”

For your own weekly dose of visual inspiration, follow Emily @ em_run_teach_love

Life begins at the end of your comfort zone. ~ Neale Donald Walsch

Copyright © 2019 Michele Lee Sefton. All Rights Reserved.