Ten Gifts I Gladly Give to You

If you are celebrating the season,

your days have been packed with efforts of pleasing.

In less than 100 hours,

your hustle and consideration will be shared.

Gifts will be exchanged,

and you can finally collapse on a chair.

Before you head out to tackle last-minute holiday tasks,

I have but one favor to ask …

Grab something warm to nurture your bones,

then scroll through ten of my inspired photos.

Ten photos from 2019, along with twenty lines –

gifts I gladly give to you during this holiday time.

Please know how much you matter.

You are more cherished than anything hidden under shiny wrapper.

Paddle Fest on Lake Pleasant comes only once a year.

This shot is lovely, but the view from a board is better than the pier.

Granville Island in Vancouver was a quick ferry ride away.

Shops, art galleries, a park, a brewery, and a market that made us want to stay.

The drive from Eugene took some time, but the Cape Perpetua Overlook in Oregon was sublime.

After spending time with sea lions on the coast, we were famished and stopped to eat.

Watching the sunset beyond the Florence Siuslaw River Bridge made our day complete.

This majestic cactus at Desert Botanical Garden appears worn and spikey.

But every angle reveals a plant that is interesting and thriving.

A tiny winged creature busy pollinating; she was not concerned about me.

Thank goodness, because I have an allergy.

The Granite Dells that surround Lake Watson emanate a sacred presence.

Those who visit are often transformed by their mystical influence.

A replenishing walk along the water’s edge at Dead Horse Lake.

A flock of birds in the sky and Jerome, a town on the hill, too far for my lens to take.

Our view from a cabin at Lake Havasu State Park.

Gentle waves, the setting sun, and the moon, in the shape of an arc.

A challenging 8.2 mile hike in the Tortolita Mountains in Marana took longer than expected.

Nothing happened and we didn’t get lost. We just couldn’t stop taking pictures of the beautiful landscape that made us feel refreshed and uplifted.

Thank you for stopping by and glancing through ten holiday gifts I gladly give to you. I hope that your weekend isn’t too stressful and that you have some time to relax and enjoy the season with your loves.

If you are receiving my blog through email, thank you for taking the time to read my words and glance at my photos. For optimal viewing, consider going directly to the web @ https://myinspiredlife.org/blog-feed/ for each post. Have an inspired weekend! Michele

Copyright © 2019 Michele Lee Sefton. All Rights Reserved.

Only So Many Days

Life sometimes delivers a diversion

from what currently is and reveals all that can be.

That is exactly what happened to me.

I was walking a familiar path that had become stagnant and uninspired.  





I found only fragments of the sun’s rays here and there.

I kept walking, accepting that this was my fate,

but quietly praying that I would find my way.

That I could find the courage to run




that radiates promise, hope, and wonder.

My dreams were dwindling with each setting of the sun.

Then life took care of what I could not.

It forced me to confront personal loss.

My heart exposed; my soul reclaimed.

I was reminded that I am given

only so many days.

We are each given

only so many days.

Only so many days-

To pause on our well-worn path, look up, and wonder.

Only so many days-

To find a gap in the dark and run toward the light.

Only so many days-

To nurture our own dreams, like we do those of others.

Only so many days-

To greet our fears like a harmless stranger –

look her in the eye, extend a firm hand, and say hello.

Only so many days-

To be surprised by what we can dream up, act on, and accomplish.

Only so many days-

To create our own path and be our own hero.

Only so many days-

To be the incredible you; the only you there is.

Don’t let your hope dwindle.

Don’t let your dreams go dark.

Look for an opening, find





Toward the ray, find the courage to run.

A ray, that might begin as only one.

A ray, that will expand,  

and in time,

 surround you

with love.

50 Life Stories update:  I am currently working on Story #32. I lingered on Story #29 for a bit, because it was such an important story to tell and I needed to relive and move through intense moments and emotions. Story #29 centers around my experience fleeing from a fire in the Black Forest near Colorado Springs in the summer of 2013. Many lives were changed that day, especially the many families who lost homes, and sadly, lives were also lost. I have completed the story and shared the story with a few friends close to the situation. The story has evoked some tears, but it seems to have also delivered more healing surrounding the situation. For that, I am grateful.

When working on the final draft of Story #29, which included adding pictures from my week in Colorado, I had a serendipitous moment that told me I was absolutely on track with my writing purpose that day.

This is what happened, leaving me surprised and speechless:

I had just written out my writing goals for the day, which included completing the Black Forest Fire story. I then opened my FB account to search for a picture, and staring back at me was a picture of me and one of the main characters from Story #29-a lady I met a few days before the fire, and one I formed a special bond with, after fleeing from the fire together. Apparently, six years prior to the day of my writing, I had posted a picture of the two of us, that was taken at the airport, just before I flew home to Phoenix. In the post I told her I missed her. I posted the picture of the two of us five months after leaving Colorado. I had forgotten about the post, and I certainly had not intended on writing our story exactly six years later (or at all). Seeing the picture of the two of us confirmed I was doing exactly what I needed to be doing on the exact day I needed to do it. Special gift of synchrodestiny.  

Preview of upcoming interview: I am in the process of interviewing an inspiring family of five who recently left the security of living and working in Arizona to make a bold move to Hawaii. I look forward to sharing more about their journey, which to many, including myself, sounds like paradise. However, like all major moves, it hasn’t been without its challenges.

If you are receiving my blog through email, thank you for taking the time to follow my blog. 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 and pictures, thank you, the only you there is!

Have an inspired weekend! Michele

Picture 1: Sea Lion Cave, Florence, Oregon. An opening that revealed the ocean below and took my breath away. Picture 2: Sunflowers in my backyard Picture 3: Arizona sunset Picture 4: Me in Cottonwood, Arizona @ Dead Horse Ranch State Park Picture 5: Me at the Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix, Arizona

© 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.