Legacy of Faith

I woke up from a deep sleep thinking about you again.  This time it was different – not the usual “at peace” feeling I’m left basking in when you cross my mind.  From the moment I stepped out of bed I just couldn’t shake this deep sadness – a heaviness pressing down on me.  Feels like reminisce of a bad dream – the kind that cling and keep you in a series of dark flashbacks throughout the day. I throw myself into work, keeping busy – hoping the weariness would fade away.  Songs on my iPod continuously shuffle up your favorites; dragging me back to thoughts of you as the overwhelming heaviness tightens its grip. I close my office door to get control of my emotions only to have the confinement squeeze out what I tried to bury.  As the tears flowed I let out, “Mom – what are you trying to tell me?”

Since your passing seven years ago, you come to me through dreams and many days I feel your presence strongly surrounding me that I often sense you are trying to tell me something.  On that grief-stricken morning I could no longer avoid or deny that there was something I had to seek out. After spending time in prayer and silence, the answer was clearly revealed to me . “Did your faith influence and impact those you love?”

As I ponder over this powerful revelation, I can’t help but reflect on my younger years with having to go through the long suffering moments of “here she goes again with the preaching” as you aggressively express yourself with fierce intensity and a sense of urgency about the significance in having Jesus/God in my life.  Mom, I have to confess that during those “soap box” episodes I would tune you out but of course I would try to appease you by agreeing and saying, yes mom, I understand and know what I have to do. Then soon after you finish your sermons, I would go about my business and forget what you so passionately tried to fill me with. I’m sure in your heart you knew that I wasn’t paying attention and maybe there were times you just wanted to give up – but the radical believer in you would find the strength to continue to fight the good fight of faith for the sake of your family no matter what.

I watch the movie screen in my mind of your faith being put to the test. As it was well known, your temper often got the better of you, taking you on an emotional rollercoaster to complete exhaustion.  You would then collapse at the kitchen table with your head in your hands and cry out “Jesus help me”, then release a loud and long sigh as if you were being annulled from all that you carried.  After declaring those three all-powerful words, the peacefulness that came over you choked out the fear, worry and anxiety and you’d look up and say  “it is in God’s hands, only He is in control”.

No matter what crisis you were hit with – you would initially react then let go of the circumstance; lean on your faith, knowing that Jesus/God is taking care of the situation.   How strong and faithful a woman you were.

Mother, the fruit of your labor was not in vain; as the seeds of faith that you planted, cultivated and nurtured in me through the years finally produced a harvest.   Thank you for never giving up on me. Thank you for praying for me. Thank you for an extraordinary job of exampling your faith, teaching your faith and passing on the joy of it and the necessity of it.

Faith is the leaning of the entire human personality on God in absolute trust and confidence in His power, wisdom and goodness.  Colossians 1:4  Amplified Bible

Step Out To Find Out

Many of us will stay in our safe environments to avoid fear and worry. When you back off from experiencing something challenging – it will temporarily relieve the anxiety and discomfort. However, I want you to seriously consider the price you pay when you back away from life’s challenges. Not only will it impact your self-esteem and confidence – you will feel a sense of powerlessness, frustration and unfulfillment. You sabotage your chance at change, success and happiness. To be brutally honest – if you don’t allow yourself to step outside your comfort zone, you pretty well guarantee yourself an uneventful and mundane life. Is this a price worth paying for the temporary escape from fear and anxiety? Unfortunately, most of us are far too willing to pay this dear price, simply to avoid discomfort and possible ridicule from others.

One step at a time..

In all honestly, Life does not reward those who refuse to expose themselves to difficulty. The degree of accomplishment you attain in your life is related to your willingness to be uncomfortable and take risks. In order to succeed in anything (work or personal), you have to take action despite fear. Most people focus on the possibility of the negative outcome such as failure, ridicule or rejection. When you should focus on a positive outcome. When you adopt a different outlook when confronting an anxiety-producing situation you allow yourself to grow into a more confident person.

Every one of us has our own non-threatening comfort zone. These barriers are familiar routines and part of everyday life. When faced with any activities and situations outside of the safe barrier – we experience anxiety and become uncomfortable. We tend to make excuses and in the end, avoid the challenge.

As we know from past experience, the fear and anxiety that we build up before a new challenge is usually greatly exaggerated. When we do the feared activity, we learn that it is not as frightening or difficult as we had expected. We tend to go through life doing what is most comfortable for us and what feels safe – but how many opportunities are we letting slip by because we do not want to feel uncomfortable? We are unwilling to step out and take the risk in order to achieve our dreams.

When you push through temporary fear and anxiety by taking action in one area of your life, you will develop additional confidence in other areas. I encourage you to face your fears – step out and do something different today.

I DARE you…

DARE to dream BIG and fly high

DARE to push out of your comfort zone and take risks

DARE to trust the universe and open up to miracles taking place in your life

DARE to say “NO” sometimes

DARE to question your old beliefs and adapt new ones

DARE to quit caring about what others think

DARE to be outrageous

DARE to smile at the face of obstacles and see them as opportunities in disguise

DARE to admit it when you’re wrong

DARE to ask for help when you need it most

DARE to follow your intuition and listen to you inner voice

DARE to dig deep to the core of your soul and understand the real YOU

DARE to love, to care, to share, to give

DARE to make that really tough decision. Whatever happens you can deal with it

DARE to speak the truth even if it isn’t popular

DARE to walk where you haven’t been before – to face the unknown

DARE to surrender and let go of what you can’t control 

DARE to forgive the past and move on

DARE to refuse to listen to the voice of fear

DARE to view life as an exciting adventure

DARE to be less critical of yourself and appreciate who you are

DARE to be your authentic self

The Good Opinion

“We can be bad company to ourselves.  As long as it is seen, it can be fixed”

Sit beside yourself and take a good look at what you see?  Do you speak and carry yourself as someone who likes who you are? 

One of the most powerful influences on your attitude and personality is the opinion you have of yourself.  Your self-opinion is the most important opinion that you will ever have.  It plays an important role in how much or how little you value yourself – its the foundation of living a life that is worthwhile.

In order to value others, you have to value yourself first. It’s about appreciating your self-worth and taking pride in your abilities, skills and accomplishments.

They see you as you see yourself..

We all have faults and weaknesses, but we should never go through life being against ourselves.  How you see yourself  is your perspective lens for your world – showing others how to treat you.  If you constantly send out unworthy messages, you will receive unworthy responses.

Too many of us go around feeling low on the inside and not realizing that how we feel about ourselves affects how we’re perceived by those we come in contact with.

When you think good about yourself – you are putting a high value on yourself and your capabilities.

You owe it to yourself and those you love to take good care of your most valuable asset…YOU!

Living Free

 

I recently crossed paths with an old school friend who I haven’t seen in over 25 years.  We  worked together on a project, so during those few months we enjoyed reminiscing about the good ole days and catching up on each other’s lives.   After a few weeks of  spending a lot of quality time together, she said something that totally threw me off guard and surprised me.  Telling me that there was something different about me – something unique that she doesn’t usually see in other people.  Telling me that I appear to be Free – that I carry myself as if I’m weightless – no baggage or drama from my past.  Radiating happiness and appear to be content with my life, open/approachable and I don’t  seem to have any ulterior-motives or expect anything in return.

Wow, I was’t expecting that HUGE compliment and was really in awe by her observation of me and my life.  To be honest,  I never really put much thought into how I’m perceived by those I come in contact with.  But to have someone tell me that I appear to be “Free” is certainly a compliment that I gladly accept and appreciate.  I guess the last 15 years and counting of being on a “letting go to find Me” journey is showing its true colors and is evident to those who are open to see it.   

What I know for sure about Living Free:

  • You are not fully Free until you reach a point in your Life when you no longer feel the need to prove anything or impress others.
  • We make life more complicated then it really is.
  • Happiness is living a purposeful life and being true to your authentic self.
  • When you find yourself in a useless battle – you just simply walk off the battlefield.
  • To move forward and allow change, you must let go of old beliefs, habits and thoughts – unlearn the many things that you’ve spent your entire life learning.
  • Letting go of all anxiety, stress, anger, grudges and resentment means that you are Freeing yourself up for many Blessings that are in store for you.
  • You are what you think – your outer world becomes a reflection of your inner world.
  • You must Believe and have Faith that your present and future holds the best days of your life.
  • You attract what you put out:  Learn to release the need to “control” everything in your life. 
  • Let yourself become Spiritually open to allow all good things to flow into your life.
  • Trust in your instincts and God’s nature to guide you.  Stop trying to make everything happen according to what you think should happen. Let things happen and unfold according to the natural flow of life.
  • Living one’s life with an attitude of gratitude.
  • It’s not possible to move towards what you want when you aren’t grateful for what you already have.
  • Letting go of your hurts, pain, resentment & unforgiveness is one of the biggest gifts you can give to yourself and share with others.

Success and Simplicity

A few nights ago I found myself watching the Walton’s.   John (daddy) Walton was avoiding his upcoming 25-year high school reunion.  He reluctantly agreed to help out – rounding up the “not so easy to find” mountain men who were also avoiding the reunion.  It wasn’t said, but it was obvious that John and the other country boys were feeling a bit  “less then” because they chose to stay on the mountain, living their simple lives while the more ambitious classmates ran after success.  

Throughout the show, each classmate revealed his or her true colors.  One guy who competed against John in everything during their school years became a very successful politician/businessman and eventually showed to be a very lonely and unhappy man.   John’s childhood crush moved away and married rich….four different times and was on the search for her fifth husband, while trying to make sense of where she went wrong with her spoiled grown children who had no direction in life.  Another classmate who also did well financially, constantly fought with his wife as his unruly kids terrorized the Walton kids.  Each classmate showed that their lives certainly weren’t picture perfect outside Walton’s mountain. 

At the end of the reunion, everyone was sitting around the dinner table reminiscing about the good ole days and when it came time to name “who was most likely to succeed?”..it was John Walton.  The rich guy paid homage to John in saying that he had what all of them were chasing after: integrity, character, living life on his own terms, having a zest for life, sense of adventure, peace, joy, is generous, loves his family and is a a good father/ husband/son.  They all agreed that John was truly living an authentic and successful life. 

Sure, the Walton series is from the 70’s and based around the 1930’s depression, but the message is timeless and that is that we all have a different perception of what success is.  So how do any of us answer the age old question: What is the true meaning of success? 

Success comes in many forms and many definitions. It all comes down to what you are searching for in life. Often people identify success with having a lot of money, achieving fame, having a good career, raising a family, owning your own home, possessing all the things you ever wanted. But countless people have achieved these goals only to find themselves feeling unhappy inside more often than they thought possible. They wonder if there is supposed to be more to life than all those things, or if they just missed a secret somewhere along the way.

My two cents worth:

To me, true success is something that comes from within. It’s about loving what you do and feeling at peace with yourself.  Being true to yourself and not being afraid to express yourself in everything that you do.  It’s about being successful in your own way.

In the end, if you enjoy what you do and have inner peace, you will be happy and success will follow.

Believe in…You!

There are and will be days when things don’t go the way we hope they would.  Those are the times when you have to tell yourself that things will get better. There are times when people disappoint you and let you down.  Those are the times when you must remind yourself to trust your own judgment – to keep your life focus in believing in yourself and all that you are capable of.

There will always be challenges to face and changes to make in your life and it is up to you to accept them. Constantly keep yourself headed in the right direction for you.  It may not be easy at times but in those times of struggles you will find a stronger sense of who you are and you will also see yourself developing into the person you always wanted to be.

We are surrounded by people who go through life thinking they can’t do and be what they only dream about.   They fail to stay true to their ambitions and give up on their dreams as soon as they encounter an obstacle.  They do not believe in themselves.

Believing in yourself is being sure that you are going to do whatever you put your mind to – even if others don’t support you.  Usually, when you make the decision to take on a big challenge or do something they fail to do – you find these same people will try to talk you out of it or say that you are just wasting your time.  This should be all the more reason you need to remain focussed and believe it will happen, and then work to make it so.

When you believe in yourself – people around you will be forced to take notice and will also believe in you.

Tips To Help You To Believe In You…

Focus on the positive: Make a list of your best qualities. Keep them on your computer or in a notebook for handy reference. Knowing your own worth as a person will keep you balanced when things are falling apart around you.

Don’t give up, and don’t give in: Keep your dreams alive. Life is unpredictable and full of twists and turns. Fear of the unknown often causes us to halt our progress just when we are on the pinnacle of success.

We are all good at something:  Identify your strenghts.  List all the things you are good at doing and those things that come easily to you.  Take pride of the things at which you excelled.

Above all don’t give up on yourself: The future lies open before you and it is up to you to make the best of it.  Allow yourself to ponder the possibility of the limitless joys and exciting adventures that may yet await you.

It’s not what you are that holds you back, it’s what you think you are not. – Unknown.

Change is Good – Opportunity to Grow

Change is inevitable – at home, at work, and in the world.  People and organizations are constantly evolving and changing.  No one can stop change, as it is the only constant in life.  If you want to be happy or improve your life in one-way or another, don’t expect things to radically change unless you do something about it.

Fear of the unknown…

The fear of the unknown is what stops most people from ever making positive changes in their lives. This great fear of the unknown causes people not to take chances and to stay in situations where they’re not very happy. As soon as people think about change they start playing the “what if” game – What if I make a mistake?  What if it’s worse than what I have now?  What if I fail?

The worst part about being afraid of change is that you can end up settling for whatever happens – it seems less scary that way.  This is a far more frightening way to live because you don’t have the feeling of being in control of what happens to you and you live in fear of what might happen. Having the confidence to take action in the face of fear not only provides you with a sense of control – it will also provide you with a life full of purpose and joy.

Shake things up…

To change your life for the better, you have to “shake things up”. Do things differently and adopt a new mindset – be a different person.  By putting yourself in new situations you can stretch yourself in ways you never thought you could. You may discover talents you never knew you had or meet someone whose interests are different than yours. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and try new things.

So be brave, take risks and look at change not as a threat to your current situation, but as an opportunity to learn and grow.  When you accept and embrace change, it will give you a new perspective in life and allows you to see things in a different way. Change gives you hope and can be the very thing that you need to revitalize your life.

You don’t actually have to “conquer” fear. You just have to master it….

2011 – The Year of the Itsy Bitsy Goals

No more unrealistic, over the top, one BIG fat resolution for me this year.  It’s the year of  the “itsy bitsy’s” – setting small and aiming high.

I’m starting the year off by slowly integrating healthy eating habits back into my lifestyle, set out to find the perfect workout program that will kick-start my mojo, which has been lagging the last year.  Other little goals I plan to tackle: be more patient when things don’t work out as planned, commit to my promise of cooking a meal once a week (I guess my hubby does deserve a night off).  As days, weeks and months unfold, there will be lots more teeny weeny meaningful goals that will be added to my list of everyday simple changes that make a difference. 

It’s all about setting small achievable goals instead of one big “all or nothing” resolution that ends being a flop within the first few weeks of the New Year.

Small steps to big rewards…

Why is it that every year we make one big resolution on the first day of the year and try to convince ourselves that we can hold on and not break this one goal for the next 364 days?  We often forget that it’s the little changes that make the biggest impact.

Having one big goal in mind is great but it quickly becomes demotivating if it takes too long to get there.  By setting small achievable goals, it helps build a sense of accomplishment and provide incentive to keep moving in the right direction so it will be easier to claim the big prize.

This year make your goal setting easy and simple.  Instead of making that one big goal that you know will crumble within a few weeks, set up small goals that you can quickly and easily achieve.  Here are some samples: promise yourself that you’ll make an effort to become more health conscious, organize or redecorate that room in your house that you keep putting off or get the courage to go back to school to take those courses that will help you get that promotion you’ve been wanting.

By setting small goals this New Year your chances of success are much higher than having one large goal. Not only will you be able to measure how you’re doing, you can use the goals as a means to know where you are on the journey. 

Lets make 2011 the year of taking healthy and realisic baby steps to a better you.

The secret of success is learning how to use pain and pleasure instead of having pain and pleasure use you. If you do that, you’re in control of your life. If you don’t, life controls you. – unknown-

Presents or Presence?

Every year at Christmas time I make a conscious effort to trim a little bit extra from my yuletide consumerism. To me, Christmas is about spending time with loved ones, celebrating the Holy Season and giving to those who are in need.  I like to think of it as taking an holistic approach to the Christmas season –spending less and giving more.

Less is more…

Often times our joy gets lost in consumerism this time of year as it often overshadows the true meaning of Christmas.  So are you ready to take Christmas back?  Would you like to return the joy this holiday season by spending less and giving more?  Then why not give the gift of your time.  Time is the real gift that Christmas offers us and no matter how hard we look it can’t be found at the mall.

Christmas is a time of giving and most of us get in the charitable mood around the holidays.  Many organizations in your community are just as happy to have you help out.  So instead of writing a check out to your favorite charity or a church, why not consider donating your time instead.

Whether or not you have a lot of money or material possessions, its important to be a generous person with your time.  Look for ways to give the gift of your time: a church, charitable organization, soup kitchen or a nursing home.

This time of year is also great way to introduce your kids or grandkids to the great world of volunteering. Kids love the holiday season, so this Christmas season is a great time to teach them the joys of both receiving and giving gifts.  Its the perfect time to show a child how to spread that warmth by helping others. Yes, it’s great for the needy, but it’s even better for your child.  Children love being helpful (it makes them feel grown-up), and volunteering gives them the chance to experience the deeply rewarding payoff that comes from making someone else happy.  It makes them feel good about themselves knowing that they are making a difference.

Don’t wait until New Year’s resolution to start volunteering, now is the time to give the gift of your Presence.

The Power in Giving

The subway is a good place to sit and daydream – get caught up in your own little world as the commuters fight over seats and personal space.  One day I was feeling very down and depressed.  I didn’t enjoy my job, was mourning the recent death of my brother and was very concerned about the direction my life was taking.  I was broke and constantly worried about how I was going to pay my bills.  As I sit and stew in my misery, I happen to glance across from where I was sitting to see a woman crying as she stares out the subway window. 

As I continued to watch her, she’d rummage through her purse – digging out what looked like pennies.  She slowly counted the few coins as tears streamed down her face, then turn to continue staring out the window – trying hard not to attract attention.   I couldn’t help but wonder about her life.  Who was she? What events took place that got her here – among strangers who are oblivious to her existence?  I felt so much empathy for her – thinking to myself “I might be having a temporary setback in my life but there are lots of souls out there who have it tougher than I do.”

As she got up and stood beside where I was sitting, waiting for her stop – I reached across and shoved my last $10 bill in her hand.  Startled, she looked down at me with tears in her eyes and said, “I just left my abusive husband and I’m on my way to a shelter”.  I looked into her eyes, smiled and said, “Take care of your self.”  She smiled and said thank you and stepped off.

Here I am with not a cent in my bank account giving away my last $10.00.  Crazy? Yes, but I felt like I was rich because it brought me so much joy to give away something that will benefit someone else who was in need.  I did it because I wanted to – not because I thought I had to.

We often hear of the popular saying “It’s better to give than to receive”.  But do we really know the hidden meaning that lies within this self-less act known as “giving”?  When you give something from your “heart” without expecting anything in return, you release a powerful force that will trigger your good deed to “bounce” back to you in some amazing ways.

I believe that whatever you impart to others will come back to you a hundred fold.  You are doing yourself a big favor by helping someone in need.  Even doing the smallest acts of generosity without expecting anything in return will bring good energy into your life.

When you give without wanting anything back, it opens up your heart to an enhanced sense of Peace, Love and Joy.  Giving without expectations will elevate your personal awareness of others.  As a result you will feel filled with compassion and gratitude.

Give without any expectation of rewards.  Give unconditionally.  Give because you are happy doing it.

 

There is only today

I recently came across a survey in which seniors were asked: When you reflect back on your life, what is your biggest regret?  Surprisingly, the most common answer was “not taking risks – just going through life playing it safe”.

A  man lay on his bed at the end of his life waiting to die. His dream came to pay its last respects and bid farewell to the man who had never used it.

As it entered the room the man looked down in shame.
“Why did you not realize me?” the dream asked.
“Because I was afraid,” the man said.
“Afraid of what?” asked the dream.
“I was afraid I would fail.”
“But haven’t you failed by not attempting to use me?”
“Yes I have, but I always thought there would be tomorrow.”
“You fool!” said the dream, “Did it never occur to you that there was only ever today… the moment that you are in right now? Do you think that now that death is here you can put it off until tomorrow?”
“No.” said the man, a tear gently rolling down his cheek.
The dream was softer now, because it knew that there were two types of pain – the pain of discipline, and the pain of regret – and while discipline weighs ounces, regret weighs pounds.
Then the dream leaned forward to gently wipe away the tear and said, “You need only have taken the first step and I would have taken one to meet you, for the only thing that ever separated us was the belief in your mind that you couldn’t have me.”
Then they said goodbye and they both died.   – Author Unknown

“We get one shot at Life, with many opportunities but only a limited amount of time.  In the end, it won’t be about regretting what you did – it will be regretting what you didn’t do”.

A Life’s Portrait

 

“I dream my painting and then I paint my dream” – Vincent Van Gogh

Don’t just dream with your eyes – see it with your feelings.  Our senses come alive when entering into a new world of inspiration. It can lead you in a direction of painting a picture that you never thought possible or even imagined.

Life is like a painting – it’s within your power to create your very own masterpiece.  Like all true artists, different things on different days will inspire you – go ahead and let yourself brush up against inspiration.

Cover your canvas in endless hues of possibilities – there are no limits to what you can create. Paint in every direction and feel and see the larger sense of life, letting your imagination take you wherever you want to go. Be in awe of what you bring to life – in what you see and what you feel.

Live by your own definition

Most of us spend our lives playing it safe, staying within the lines because uniqueness is not always rewarded but conformity is.  It’s easy to paint by number – following someone else’s dream but what fun would that be?  Don’t undervalue your abilities – there are natural talents waiting to be discovered.  It’s time to move forward in creating your own original masterpiece.

Be careful who you reveal your paintings to – critics are waiting to tell you that your colors are too bright – that you should water them down.  Telling you that your painting is worthless and may even want to stomp on it.  It doesn’t matter what others may think  – it’s your interpetation of what you see and feel.  So challenge the direction that others try to force you to paint in when you know it’s not the path you should be on.

When you stand back to look at what you are creating, what do you see?  What do you feel?  Is it any good you may ask? Look beyond the paint and open your mind because our dreams are like works of art – there are no wrong answers.  What makes it good or bad, only you decide.

Eye of the Storm

My Big Dream has hit a wall – months of hard work and personal sacrifices just seemed to have crumbled down around me.  My plans didn’t roll out the way I expected them to.  Feelings of discouragement and disappointment overwhelm me as I lay on the couch, mindlessly flicking through TV stations, as I stuff my face with a huge bag of Doritos and a tub of rocky road ice cream. I just want the world to go away so I could wallow in self-pity.

Sometimes success seems so close that I can reach out and touch it – making me question whether this could all be just an illusion? 

Right now I am at a crossroads and I feel like I’m at sea in the “eye of the storm”.  I can give up, go back to shore and bury all the hard work that got me to this point or I can risk everything and just go for it.

If I chose to sail through the storm, there’s the possibility I could crash and sink and lose everything.  But if I go in prepared and navigate properly, there’s a much better chance I could ride the squall and come out on the other side, sailing into calm waters as victory awaits me.

Its not always going to be smooth sailing…

I allowed myself a few days to grieve the setback but now its time to pick myself up, chart a new course and set sail again.  Like all great captains, I’m committed to reaching my destination, no matter how many storms I still have to face along the way.

Strength of mind will see you through…

No one escapes challenges when it comes to pursuing your dreams. It takes courage, perseverance and patience to weather the storms that cross your path.  When the waves get high and crash down on to your shoulders, hang in there – don’t give up! 

Give yourself permission to greive the setbacks and then continue on.  Every storm carries with it a lesson.  Learning to navagate through rough waters is part of your journey – it builds character, inner strength and wisdom. 

When the seas get rough and you find yourself drifting off course, don’t be afraid to call out for help.  The boats’ communication system can be your lifeline to staying afloat.  You will find all the right resources, support and motivation you need to help keep you  moving in the right direction.

Getting to your final distination will test you to the very core of your being.  No matter the storm’s fury – you must remain determined, show endurance and have faith.  Victory could very well be waiting for you on the other side of the next  big wave.

Stay true to your inner compass – it is the blueprint to your soul.

Positive People = Positive Energy

I try my best to be a positive person.  I’ve been making a conscious effort since I was in my 20’s.  I guess my wake up call was when I was out socializing with a group of friends and I felt the need to talk negatively about a co-worker.  As I was spewing what I thought was an important message, one of my friends looked at me and said, “Do you ever have anything nice to say about anyone?”  I was dumbfounded and stunned by her directness.  Needless to say I was embarrassed.  Lets just say the rest of the evening was bust.  I couldn’t shake what she said.  I thought, “If a friend views me this way, then how am I being perceived by everyone else I come in contact with?”

Those few words hit me hard – as I knew it was time for an attitude adjustment.  In the early stages of my “I got a new attitude” journey, I’d take one step forward – spew some garbage – then take two steps back.  I remained diligent and committed to the quest of “the new me” and over time it became easier as the positive me overpowered the negative me.  I guess the saying “repetition is the mother skill” really does work.

I can’t stress enough about the importance of surrounding yourself with positive people.  Being around optimistic people will inspire and motivate you to make changes.  It will empower you to believe in yourself and set out to accomplish goals you never thought otherwise you could achieve.

Here are some tips that can help you on your journey to “I got a new attitude”:

Step 1: Admit that you are negative.  The first step to changing your attitude is to admit that you are negative and have negative thoughts. Whether talking about a coworker behind his/her back or believing you “can’t” do something; these contribute to a pessimistic lifestyle.

Step 2: Be Determined to be Positive.  Once you’ve admitted you are negative, or at least have some negative tendencies, you can resolve to changing the way you think. Become conscious of your daily thoughts and actions.  When a negative thought enters your mind – quickly turn it around.  Think and speak positively about people.  Eliminate the word “can’t” from your vocabulary and replace it with “can”.  Instead of “I don’t think I can do that,” think “I love a new challenge – I can do this no matter how hard it is.”

Step 3: Remove Yourself From Negative Influences.  Over time; your environment begins to reflect who you are.  Example: If you hang with people who are always griping about their job, how nothing every goes right for them or have a negative view about life and society – it is necessary to take steps to slowly weed out that group of people and seek out those who are positive influences. They are out there; and when you are consciously ready and open to postive changes – your new energy will automatically attract positive people. 

When you replace a negative environment with a positive one, you make huge strides in improving your lifestyle.  It also lifts your self-esteem and confidence.

Step 4: Spread Your New Attitude To Others.  Put your new positive thinking lifestyle into action. Practice spreading your “I got a new attitude” to others and it will grow.

When you are open to change and commit to a positive attitude, you will start to see it affect and shine through other aspects of your life.

“Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people do that, but the really great ones make you feel that you, too, can somehow become great.”
– Mark Twain

OWN Your Power

Some people think that being powerful is a negative thing.  Owning your power is having the courage to show up as your full and true self, without apologies, without holding back about who you are and what you want.

Finding balanced power…

Everyone has personal power, but many people choose not to use it or are afraid of it.  Accepting your personal power means being willing to accept personal responsibility for your life.  Any time we give our power away we limit our choices and ourselves.  Many of us believe that it is easier to just keep our mouths shut and go along with someone else’s program in order to keep the peace, but the truth is that you are giving all your power away to that person.

Embrace and nurture your personal power when you:

Speak your truth even if it isn’t popular;

Learn to say “No” and mean it;

Stand up for yourself, no matter what;

Stand on the courage of your convictions;

Find your voice – ask for what you need and want.

 

“You give your power away when you make someone or something outside of you more important than what is inside of you.” – unknown

Beat the Monday Blues

 

Looking forward to Monday morning is something that seems impossible for many of us. When we don’t want the weekend to end it’s easy to dread going back to work on Monday morning. If you are like most people, you probably go through life saying “Thank God it’s Friday” and then a few days later, like clock work, you find yourself saying “Good grief, I hate Mondays!” While we can’t change the fact that we have to go back to work, there are things that can be done to ease this pain.

Learning to love Monday mornings is a process of training yourself to look at things a little differently. Changing this thought process will take some time, but making the effort can really improve your productivity.  Accept the fact that Monday may never be your favourite day of the week, but also embrace the idea that it does come with a number of benefits. 

Begin by enjoying your weekend.  There is nothing worse than having to start a new week feeling like you didn’t do anything you wanted to do over the weekend. Regardless of what your job is, learn to take time on the weekend just for you.

Don’t Spend Your Weekend Thinking of Monday.  Half the problem of Monday is in the anxiety and worries we have over the weekend.  Enjoy your weekend and leave Monday for Monday.

Get An Early start – It may seem like a punishment to wake up earlier on Monday but when you have enough time to organize yourself, you’ll feel like you can conquer the day easier. If you can rise and shine as early as possible, you would be able to get yourself prepared for the day, not only in terms of preparation of clothes and working materials, but also, mentally and spiritually.

Get happy – If you start the week off right, your attitude will be better, and you may help others along the way.  Instead of greeting people with comments like, “Of course this happened, it’s Monday,” or, “Don’t you hate Mondays?” say, “Good Monday!” with a smile. What you say sets the mood for your co-workers.

Be Prepared – it is useful to plan on Sunday night anything that needs to be ready on Monday morning. Don’t let this take over your weekend, simply make sure that a few things are ready. This might mean having your clothes washed and out, having food ready to make your lunch, or having your to-do-list ready. You don’t have to get everything done,  just know what needs doing so you aren’t rushed when you wake up.

Wear your best – Its no secret that when you look good you feel good so make Mondays your look-my-best day and make it a point of wearing the clothes you like most.  You’d be surprise how much your clothes could affect the way you feel about yourself.

Start working – The thing about work is, it’s usually not the work that makes us tired, it’s the thought of starting work that makes us procrastinate and go into a cycle of unproductively. Quit thinking about starting work and just work instead!

Plan something special Monday nights – meet a friend for dinner, rent a movie or pursue a hobby Monday evenings.  The day will be easier when you have something to look forward to. So keep a list of opportunities to make your day shine taped to the inside of the mirror on your medicine cabinet. Look at the list and set some goals. If you plan ahead, blue might become your favorite color and Monday can be the best day of the week.

Now that you have some ideas to chase your blues – have a very happy Monday and remember the weekend is just four more days away!

Unbroken Spirit

Recently a young man turned up at my non-profit, “What do you want?” presentation carrying with him an unassuming confidence that’s rare to see in those who struggle in life.  After the show was over, a few of us sat around discussing Life and our dreams.

Not letting shyness stand in his way, Chris jumps to his feet and rolls out a few songs (poetry/hip hop) without skipping a beat.  Raps of poetry pour out from his soul – his songs are full of hopes, dreams and faith.  Also touching on the darker side of life that most of us will never fully understand – attacking social injustice, social inequality, poverty (especially women and children), violence against women, living on the streets, drugs, incarceration.  His songs paint a vivid picture of his life experiences and the state of the world.

As he was sharing his powerful messages with us – flashes of Tupac Shakur kept running through my mind.  He was a prolific poet/hiphop artist, who raised awareness for social and political changes through his music.

Quiting is not an option

Most people in Chris’s position would have given up long ago but he says he knows that God has a plan for him and that he’s destined for greatness. He shares with me that his road in life is paved with many mistakes – fueling him with wisdom, inner strength and perseverance to keep pressing on.

Chris knows the only way to gain ground, to move forward, to march on, and to turn his goals into reality is to learn from his setbacks and failures. He will never give up until he reaches his dream of one day making a difference through his music.

Within minutes of letting him know that I was going to share his story with my readers, he handed me a piece of paper with these words:

Listen closely
As these hopes stream from my pen
The road to success
Starts with just one step

Seek deep inside
Scream for your dreams to come alive
Every man woman and child
Has a weakness they try to hide

Those weaknesses become strengths
With an optimistic mind
Every day is a gift
Its time we Open our eyes

                                                                                                                        John Christopher Sangster

 

Take your dream out, dust it off and take action!

There’s always that one person who gets in the way of you and your dreams.  This person means well and thinks they’re protecting you from getting hurt or even worse, fail.  That person is YOU!

You are your own worst enemy when it comes to making your dreams come true. You procrastinate when You should be working hard.  You give up when you hit your first hurdle.  You make excuses and show resentment when things aren’t working out the way You expect them to.

Making your dreams come true is entirely up to you…you just have to get out of your own way.

Keep following your dreams, believe in yourself.  Every day ask yourself the question, “What can I do today that will get me closer to my dream?”

Make a Difference By Being Present

 

I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catchers mitt on both hands.  You need to be able to throw something back.  ~Maya Angelou

A few months ago a woman in my community rang in her 90th birthday by leaping out of an airplane.  Three generations of her family also took the plunge with her that day.  It was her intention to do two things to celebrate her birthday.  To create a memory that her family will never forget and to also raise awareness for a cause that she is passionate about.  In the weeks leading up to the big day, Olive raised $2,500.00 for the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

After hearing the story about this amazing and fearless woman I thought to myself “What can I do to make a difference?”  Sure, I give money and food to causes that are close to my heart but Olive’s leap for a cause forced me to face the truth about something.  “I give of my money but I’m not physically involved with any causes or special groups”. 

This stranger’s courage and commitment to a cause inspired me to take action.

Its time to get physical…

Every day over the last three years, I drive by a nursing/retirement home and it never fails, I say to myself “I should see about volunteering there”.  No sooner do I pass by the building my thoughts quickly take me somewhere else and I soon forget about my good intentions.

Shortly after being inspired by Olive’s story, I finally took action and am now volunteering a few hours a week at the same facility that I passed by every day.  I offer to do a variety of things – I read for some residences, take them to doctor appointments and help out on game/music nights. 

I hope that one day I will be half as brave as Olive and find the courage to leap out of a plane just because or for a cause.  But for now I took the first step and made a small jump by getting out of my routine and comfort zone to be present in volunteering my time to help make a difference in my community.  It is bringing me more rewards than I could have possibly imagined.

I want my OWN show, Eh!

“Shoot for the Moon.  Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” – Unknown

Early June I chased after my ultimate dream. I auditioned for my OWN show – Yes, that’s right!…I took a HUGE leap of faith in the hopes of working with my mentor, Oprah.  This was a once in a lifetime opportunity that presented itself and I jumped in.   

Some of you may know that I’m Canadian and wonder how the heck I managed to audition when the Eligibility rules say that I must be living in 1 of the 50 US states.  Well, after reading the list of requirements – Rule #X111 states:  Producer reserves the right in its sole discretion to change or amend any or all of the eligibility requirements set forth above at any time.  Bingo! This was the loophole I was looking for.  

Not being one to back away from a challenge and staying true to my non-conformist ways, I ignored the rules and went ahead and uploaded my audition using my brother’s zip code who happens to live in Hazelwood, Missouri.  To better my chances, I waited until June 25th, the day before the contest closed before submitting my online application – in the hopes that my audition would generate interest from the judges so they would “consider” bending the one rule that stands in my way.  Just to let you know…I don’t have a criminal record and I can legally work in the U.S.A.

My audition wasn’t full of bells and whistles..there was no special effects, music or grand lighting..just me pouring my heart and soul out to the camera.  I envisioned that I had Mark Burnett cornered in an elevator and he was giving me two minutes to pitch my show idea.

So did I get a call?  I think it’s best to leave it up to you to figure that one out.

Tune in January 2011 to the Oprah Winfrey Network to see the top 10 finalists battle it out for their OWN show.

P.S.  The finalists were not based on highest overall online votes.

Here’s the link to my audition.  http://bit.ly/aBTHrx

Riding The Dragon

“Whether you believe you can or can’t, you are right” – Henry Ford

Fitted with a rock climbing-style harness and strapped to a rope, I’m suspended high above the ground surrounded by trees – standing on a platform constructed into a tree canopy.  I hold my breath and nervously take my first step off, venturing into the biggest challenge I’ve ever faced – as I make my way across a series of planks that rattle and sway in the breeze.

Last month, I secretly planned and surprised a few family members to an Ariel Obstacle Adventure Course.  A variety of obstacles set high in trees – ranging from zip lines to rope swings, scrambling walls, hanging nets, wobbly bridges and suspended “surprises”.

This was an opportunity to spend a fun and challenging day with my family and I also did it for personal reasons – to face my fear of heights.  Not knowing fully what I was getting myself into, I subjected myself to 2.5 hours of complete physical and mental exhaustion.

A total of four levels – each taking me to a higher elevation as the obstacles become much more difficult and challenging. As scared as I was, I managed to keep my fears “somewhat” under control and eventually found myself getting into a rhythm, zeroing in and focusing on what I have to do to get through each task.

Every time I finished an obstacle I’d breathe a sigh of relief only to come face to face with one that was more intense and challenging. I kept pressing forward accomplishing each goal without taking any time to rest in between.  It was all about head down and plow through – try to remember to breathe and to take it one stair at a time instead of looking at the entire staircase.

After what seemed like eternity, I hit a wall. At this point, I have no idea what level I’m at or how far along I am on this never-ending path to hell.  Feeling completely exhausted, dehydrated and somewhat disoriented, I reach the mother of all obstacles – four separate logs, six feet in length, set up as swings and positioned in a zigzag method forcing me to switch body positions as I have to jump from one log to the other.

Without taking time to rest and work out a strategy as to how I could get through this challenge, I clamped on to the overhead rope and stepped out only to find myself overcome with shear panic and fear as the log swung out from under me leaving me dangling in mid-air only being supported by a small bungy cord.  There was nothing I could do..I had no other choice but to hang there and anxiously wait for the log to find its place back underneath my feet.

After finding my footing I somehow found the inner strength to stay calm long enough to make my way back to the platform.  Weak and feeling out of control, I fell to the bottom of the platform completely exhausted.  I was frozen in fear and felt that I reached my breaking point – I wanted out of this craziness.  I was ready to quit.

I shouted out for a guide to come help me and within minutes a young guy was standing below – yelling out, “Are you  ok?”  “No, I’m not…I give up..I can’t go any further..I’m finished..I want down from here..Now!”

“Are you sure you want to quit now – you’re so close to completing the course.  You just have to get through this obstacle and do a zip line and then you are done.” 

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing…after all the blood, sweat and tears I put into fighting my way to accomplishing this goal – all that was standing between me and victory was this monster of an obstacle.

Right there and then I had to make a decision – either walk away and be satisfied with how far I’ve come and live with the regret knowing that I gave up when the finish line was within reach; or I could dig deep to find the inner strength and courage to ride the final dragon to claim victory.

It was a bumpy and terrifying ride but I can proudly say  “mission accomplished”.

The long and winding road

Every goal we set is going to have obstacles. If goals didn’t have obstacles, then we wouldn’t have any trouble achieving them.  Obstacles are what make goals challenging and motivating.  Although obstacles can be frustrating, without them any goal could be easily achieved without motivation or effort. Without obstacles or challenges, life would be dull and boring and void of any excitement, drive or motivation.

You can either step forward into growth or step back into safety.

Lost In Transition

A few weekends ago I attended my first spiritual/silent retreat. 

Before venturing into this unknown territory, I made a conscious decision to purge myself of all my worldly possessions and distractions.  With the exception of a change of clothing, a few toiletries and a journal to record my thoughts – for 48 hours, Paulette Furey, aka – Pattie Parnips did not exist. 

For those few days I lived a poor and simple life while finding myself on a journey of self-discovery.  Taking stock of who I am, wherever I want to go and what’s holding me back.  Asking the question, “What is it that makes life worth living?”

With the exception of 5 –1 hour spiritual advisory lead sessions, the rest of the weekend was cleared for self-reflections, memories, thoughts and discovering passions that were long since forgotten about – that were buried deep into the muck of my everyday preoccupations.

By choice for the first time in my life I felt truly alone and completely with myself.  For a short while I was invisible – seeing yet not being seen.

Below is a beautiful Poem that was read out loud by the spiritual advisor during our last session.  I hope it touches your soul as much as it did mine.    

You start dying slowly

If you do not travel,
If you do not read,
If you do not listen to the sounds of life,
If you do not appreciate yourself.

You start dying slowly
When you kill your self-esteem;
When you do not let others help you.

You start dying slowly
If you become a slave of your habits,
Walking everyday on the same paths…
If you do not change your routine,
If you do not wear different colors
Or you do not speak to those you don’t know.

You start dying slowly
If you avoid to feel passion
And their turbulent emotions;
Those which make your eyes glisten
And your heart beat faster.

You start dying slowly
If you do not change your life when you are not satisfied with your job,
Or with your love,
If you do not risk what is safe for the uncertain,
If you do not go after a dream,
If you do not allow yourself,
At least once in your lifetime,
To run away from sensible advice.  Author – Martha Medeiros

My Lost Asset

A few weeks ago I did my usual saunter past my husband in my snug jeans before I headed out to meet with my friends for dinner. I do a little wiggle, then say, “So how does my ass look in these jeans?” He says, “Nice and flat”

“What? I’ll  have you know I was voted ‘nicest ass’ in high school.”

He laughed and said, “Are you sure you didn’t leave it there?”

Don’t get me wrong; my man loves my tushie. It’s just that we will do the banter dance whenever we learn something quirky about each other. It’s our way of keeping each other grounded. So in this case, he likes to throw it back at me whenever I mention my “high school badge of honor”.

I didn’t find out about this “label” until I was in my early twenties, while being out on the town with a few high school friends. Of course the conversation always goes back to the good ole days. One friend says, “I see you still wear your title proudly.” Puzzled, I said, “What title?” She laughed and said, “Don’t you remember being voted nicest ass in high school?” My other friend then piped up, saying, “Oh, yeah, that was common knowledge around school.” I was shocked at what I was hearing.

Sure, I’ve always had guys comment about my butt, but I didn’t know that a “best ass” stamp was branded on me during my high school years. 

Well, at least my rump made an impact, considering I never had a date during those years. I guess closely resembling Dustin Hoffman’s Tootsie would be a setback in anyone’s love life. With my tight curly perm, bad make-up and don’t forget the HUGE glasses – which I can now fondly look back on and refer to as being my form of birth control.

During those school years, it was standard procedure for us to find creative ways to paint on our jeans. My personal favorite was lying on my bed and using a fork to pull up my zipper. The motto back in those days was “the tighter the better.” It just didn’t matter how much discomfort we were in, just as long as we looked good in our second skin.

After finding out about this prestigious title, I thought it was only right that I wear it well.  So I did my very best to take good care of my most recognized asset – wearing all the right clothing to accentuate my curves and I welcomed the compliments. I exercised regularly – working hard at keeping my lovely lady humps plump. 

A few years ago, after stepping out of my morning shower – I caught a glimpse of my naked side profile, and that’s when my life changed forever. I quickly put on my glasses and wiped the steam off the mirror so I could get a better look at this earth-shattering moment that left me so crushed.

I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. The sizzle had fizzled!!! My once bodacious bubble butt had deflated. It seemed to have melted into the back of my thighs. What, when, why, where and how? kept spinning in my head.  It was like – one day.. “Baby’s got back” and then….“poof,” it was gone.

I did all the right things to keep it “up and out” but somewhere along the way it must of sprang a slow leak and left me as I graduated into my forties.

It’s easy for me to accept the inevitable – to see my boobs lose their shape and make their way south. With today’s bra technology, I can still create the illusion of my once perky breasts without considering surgery.

I also accept the changes I see in my face – skin not as plump, becoming dry, and the fine lines starting to creep in. But to lose my full backside…well, that just wasn’t as easy to accept. Maybe because it was a part of me that really resonated with my youth – having that special something that I won a prize for and I just don’t want to give it up.

Butt…can I get back what I lost?

I’m as curious as a cat so I had to investigate what options are out there for those who are looking for a little extra cushioning when exercising can only do so much.

There are “shape enhancers” – underwear with padding. I wonder if I can get padding the size of Jennifer Lopez’s humps? More than likely that would be a custom order.

The good news is, the pads are removable – wash and wear. Maybe I can do an “R&R” – rotate and recycle.  After the padding gets used and abused from covering my backside, I guess I can then use them as inserts in my bra for when deflation really sets in.

I also did a little digging about butt implants (or, to use the proper terminology, buttock augmentation).  I squirm in my seat as I write about this unusual surgery.

The incision is made where the cheek meets the back of the thigh, or down the buttock crease.  The doctor then creates pockets large enough to insert the butt implants. The recovery is very painful and can lead to a long healing time. There’s also the high risk of repetitive surgeries due to implant shifting or deflation.

After reviewing these not-so-natural remedies, I think its best that I just accept my “little” tushie just the way it is. I will learn to love and cherish it just as much as my butt from the past.

Now when I put on my snug jeans to go out with my friends for cocktails and dancing, its no longer shake my bon bon…it’s ..shake what’s long gone. Sure, I still get the odd compliment. But it’s no longer “you’ve got a great ass.” It’s more like “you’ve got a cute little butt.”  I figure that a compliment is a compliment – I’ll start to worry when I no longer get any.

Ageless Attitude

I recently read the book “I feel bad about my neck” by Nora Ephron. I chuckle as I study the cover and remember hearing about this book when it first came out in 2006. I guess it just wasn’t my time to read it until now.

From the first page, my laughter started and hit its peak when I read the line.   “If you want to get really really depressed about your neck, sit in the backseat of a car, behind the driver and look at yourself in the rearview mirror”. At that moment I collided with her words – it was a true déjà vu moment.

One week earlier before awakening to Nora’s “rearview mirror experiment”, I accidentally stumbled on it.  I was sitting behind the driver’s seat and within minutes of starting out on a road trip, I made eye contact with the person looking back at me through the review mirror.

I just wasn’t prepared what I saw – it was as if a stranger was staring back at me. The mirror opened a window to what middle age has in store for me – giving me a glimpse of a thinning and maturing neckline, eyes losing their luster, noticeable nasolabial folds and a sneaking presence of a softening jawline.

I sunk low in my seat and said to myself “What the heck am I going to do? I can’t possibly sit here staring out the window for the next two hours, avoiding the rearview mirror –  which I now refer to as the “evil eye”.  At that moment, I knew I had to do whatever it takes to get away from its wickedness. I switched seats with the person beside me, giving her the excuse that the direct sunlight was giving me a headache.

For someone who spent 10 years in the skincare/beauty industry, this is the first time I’ve been stumped in finding ways to hide the evidence of aging without the interference of injections and/or surgery.

I do everything right – use all the right lotions and potions, eat well, drink lots of water and get lots of sleep. Being an expert illusionist – I pride myself in knowing all the tricks of the trade when it comes to applying make-up. With a swirl of my brushes and some magic dust I can make anyone look like a superstar. But no skincare certifications, workshops or even my mother prepared me for the “crossover” from dodging my real age to suddenly looking my age.

I’ve now reached that reluctant pinnacle stage in my life when the mirror’s reality has slapped me across the face – blatantly letting me know that I’m no longer the fairest in the land. The ghosts from years of excessive tanning and late night celebrations are starting to carve their stories out on my face.

Acceptance: With or Without Grace

We worry about wrinkles because we view aging as a downhill road. Our faces sag, our bodies sag and we let our attitude sag along with it.   

Aging gracefully isn’t always easy, but having a positive attitude towards it matters greatly.  Maybe we should stop chasing after the past and look forward to the future and embrace what we see in the mirror.  

Here’s to looking at the bright side of aging…we may not have total control over the wrinkles that form on our faces but we can certainly control whether or not we let wrinkles take over our mind, soul and attitude. 

Commit yourself today to living life with an ageless attitude.  It’s more than half the battle and it makes a world of difference.

Love Thy Self


“To love oneself is the beginning of a life-long romance” – Oscar Wilde (Irish Poet, Novelist, Dramatist and Critic, 1854-1900)

I recently did a presentation to a group of young mothers (17 to 21) to encourage them to continue their education.  One young mom was ready to return to school last year when she discovered she was pregnant with twins.  She’s now 21 years old with four children.

After the presentation I spoke with an expert who organizes and facilitates programs teaching young moms parenting skills.  I ask her, “Why do you think young women have babies?”  Not taking time to think about the question she immediately answered “They’re looking for love.  They do not love themselves and are desperately trying to find it externally in the fathers and children.”

I was saddened to hear this but couldn’t help but think back to when I was their age and how I too felt lost and chased after love.   I may not have taken it to the extreme that these young women have but part of me understands where they are coming from.

It wasn’t until I was in my early 30’s when I realized that the void or emptiness I felt wasn’t going to be found externally.  What I’ve come to realize is that I’m the one I’ve been looking for. 

Invest In Yourself

Loving yourself is believing in your own worthiness and nurturing a healthy sense of self-regard.  Accepting and loving who you are means actively caring for every facet of yourself.

It  shows up in every action you take, from protecting yourself from those who hurt you to leaving a job that does not fulfill you. It’s really about tuning in to your own wants/needs and honoring them the way you want them to be.

It’s an inside job…

Learn to take the time to tap into the inner reaches of your heart and soul to discover all that you are worth – because what you see and often admire in others is what you should really be valuing in yourself.

Life’s Turning Points

A few days ago I received a call from a client who shared with me the great news that she has reached a Turning Point where she has decided to start a new chapter in her life by moving 4000 miles away from her comfort zone to live with her son and his family. 

The decision didn’t come easy to this 56-year old woman who has been living in a black hole for the last 10 years.  Tired of living in her misery and pain, she knew she had to make drastic changes in order to break out of her negative cycle.  She is longing to fill the gaping hole in her chest from many years of living in a state of constant fear, anxiety and panic. 

At the end of her rope and hanging on by a thread, she hit her rock bottom after sinking into a deep depression, the kind where there is no way to go but up.  Everything reached a turning point when she prayed for a way out.  She found the strength and courage to start looking at her life and search for ways out of her self-made nightmare. 

She still has a lot of work ahead of her but she’s back in the driver’s seat of creating her own happiness and is excited about her new beginnings.  She is ready to see what life will bring her. 

Forced decisions

Turning Points come to us in times of crisis whether it be medical, spiritual, financial, professional – to force us to make changes. They come to us when something in our world has gone so wrong that everything else seems to be out of focus.

They creep in when you begin to realize that you’re no longer content with your life.  When you say enough is enough and you are in a desperate state to make the choice/decision to change your life in some drastic way.

We all have those moments when clarity hits us and we know that what we’ve been doing, or haven’t been doing, is no longer enough.  It’s like you’re standing at a fork in the road, looking left then right, but not moving because we can’t decide which road to take.

Years of suppressed feelings, anxiety, fears eventually bubble up to the top – catching your attention long enough for you to feel discomfort and then you’d push them back down until one day everything ruptures like a volcano.  You can no longer ignore your restlessness that something has to change.  We don’t welcomes these moments – they make us feel uncomfortable and unsettled because it crashes into the path we’re so comfortable with.

These defining moments happen because it’s then that we are forced to listen to the little nagging voice inside us.  Knowing that a decision must be made to do something differently or to let go of something that’s holding us back from stepping into a new chapter of life.

Don’t wait for a crisis to hit to embrace a turning point.  Find the courage to break down the wall that stands between you and that relentless yearning that something great is waiting for you on the other side.

Never Too Late

“I’m too old to start over” is what I constantly hear from a 58-year-old woman who is currently taking GED (grade 12 equivalent). 

I recently met with Susan (not her real name) to help her figure out what career would be perfect for her.  With tears running down her face she says, “By the time I get my GED and complete college, I’m going to be in my early 60’s.  Who the heck is going to hire an old woman?” 

Up until last year, Susan was able to hide her dirty little secret of not completing high school.  Having an amazing career in the hospitality/food industry – managing hundreds of people and working directly with a well-known airline. A few years ago she had to give it all up because she was suddenly overcome with severe allergies and sensitivity to fragrances.

Not long after leaving a career she loved, she was offered a job in a field that was perfect for her new lifestyle.  She aced the interview and was one step from moving into her new career when the company asked for a copy of her grade 12 diploma. 

It’s only a number!

During our session I let her know that it’s never too late to make a career change.  I reminded her of the amazing and inspiring people who are well into their 70’s, 80’s and 90’s who are still going strong.  One example: 94 year old woman in Boston recently graduated with a Bachelor of Arts Degree and is ready to start a career working in a Museum.  She’s not letting her age stop her from living her dreams.

I keep things real and didn’t hold back in telling Susan that she must change the way she looks at her future and to not put her energy and focus on “being old”.  As the saying goes “You’re as old as you feel.  Sure our skin wrinkles with age but it doesn’t mean that we have to let our mind and soul wrinkle and get old.” 

By the end of the session she rediscovered a long lost dream that she hasn’t thought about in years – to be a flight attendant.  She has all the making to work in this field – well groomed, vibrate, articulate and bilingual but because of her illness she’s unable to go in this direction.  So what did we come up with for Plan B?  She’s looking forward to pursuing a career as a travel agent.

Keep looking to the future…

The thought of growing older is never appealing or easy. Not only do we feel bad over the physical changes that take place but with every passing year we look back and wonder what could have been. What could we have achieved if only we started getting serious about life when we were younger? What great things could we have done if only we had a good start?

How sad it must be to sit around and mope over lost time!  What so many of us do not understand is that age is just a number.  Life is life and if you are alive then you have the potential to achieve anything you set your mind to.  Age has no barrier to starting something new apart from your own “age” hang ups and negativity.  You’re only as old as you let your brain tell you, you are. 

It’s not the amount of years in your life that count but the amount of life in your years. So instead of thinking you’re too old just think of how young you’ll stay by pursuing your passions.

Walk In Courage

 The dictionary defines courage as “the ability to face danger, difficulty, uncertainty, or pain without being overcome by fear or being deflected from a chosen course of action.”

“I did it!  Today, I gave my landlord a 60-day notice that I’m leaving! I’m scared to death and don’t know what the future holds for me but I’m ready to face whatever comes my way.”  These are the words I heard over the phone from my brave sister who finally mustered up the courage to leave behind her big city life after more than 30 years. 

For the last three years, like a broken record, Sharon would tell me her plans about leaving Toronto to move 2000 miles to live close to her family.  Every time I’d bring up the subject, she would have excuses and quickly move on to talk about something else.  Why was she constantly changing her mind and avoiding the subject?  There was nothing holding her back from leaving.  There was no secure job tying her down – no real emotional connections to hang on to.  The city served its purpose and now it was time for her to move on.  So what was the real reason for her not taking the leap of faith? It was her fear of the unknown.

It took great courage for Sharon to look at her life honestly and reevaluate it – making necessary changes to move forward. This experience forced her to look at what she needs to release and reshape in her life in order to be truly happy and fulfilled.

I will walk in this journey with her – lending her strength and encouragement every step of the way.  I have faith that she will march through all of this more courageous and stronger. To be able to cope with life in a much more powerful way because of the lessons learned from this experience.  She now understands that courage is not living without fear, it’s having the bravery to stand up to it.

Courage is a Choice

No one is going to give you courage you have to find it yourself.  Courage is doing things before realizing what we did – then taking a deep breathe as you reflect, wondering what came over you.  Courage is having the ability to do what you need to do before you’re forced to do it. You will never know what you can do until you find the courage to step out in faith and do it.

Courage isn’t something that is given to us overnight. It’s a quality we cultivate regularly in the face of problems, hardships, disappointments, and loss. So instead of running from challenges, we need to embrace them and move through them.

The only difference between fear and courage is the ability to take a stand and believe in yourself and to act in spite of your fear.

“Courage is being scared to death . . . and saddling up anyway.” – John Wayne

Don’t Look Back….

I recently came face to face with my past. I was at a restaurant with my family when an ex-boyfriend sat down at a table directly in front of me.  Seeing him after 22 years brought back memories of a not so good time in my life.  The man before me is someone who I allowed to steal my power when I was 21 years old.  He physically and mentally abused me and long after the relationship ended, I hung on to the hurts from that time.  For many years I let my emotions hold me prisoner.  I could not move forward – to let happiness in and to know peace until I learned to forgive and let go of the past.

I’ll admit it, as soon as I saw him, panic set in and I just wanted to jump up and leave.  Instead, I took a deep breathe and quickly self-evaluated how I was feeling at that very moment.  Saying to myself  “That was a million years ago.  I have long since let it go and forgave him for what he did.”

Even though I could feel his eyes on me, I chose to tune him and those negative memories out and focus on what was important – being in the moment with my family.  There was nothing to prove to him.  I stayed true to whom I am and when I left the restaurant, I left behind that encounter and the memories from it.  It is now in the past.  

Past doesn’t equal the future

There’s no way to possibly move forward if you’re continually driving in reverse. Too many of us live in the past – dredging up things that really no longer matter.  Living each day trying to rectify mistakes or decisions we regret.

The past has no energy and serves no purpose in our lives at this very moment.  Remaining stuck in the anger of “what should have been”, “what was supposed to be” and “how that person did me wrong” dooms us to a bleak future filled with sadness and despair.

To move forward you must take control of your life and not let the past control you.  The hardest part in moving forward is to separate yourself from whoever or whatever hurt you and realize that the past does not define who you are today.

It’s important to acknowledge the past because it has played an important role in shaping who we have become.  Our past is used to draw lessons from – it is not to be lived in.   We are to take the lessons from the experiences and use them to build a happier and peaceful future.

It’s within our power to choose how to react to what has happened in the past.  It’s about controlling and constantly evaluating our thoughts and how we respond to them.  Gaining insight into what happened and choosing not to react to the past hurt but to remain in the present moment.

Make the best of your life and live it day by day – for your present and future will one day become your past.

Happiness Matters Now!

A person will be as happy as they make up their minds to be – Abraham Lincoln

I find myself in the midst of being in a transitional state of the unknown.  I’m literally hanging in limbo with absolutely no control over a situation and can very easily let it consume me and hold me prisoner.

I allow myself to feel and acknowledge my frustrations and anger but during this time of uncertainty I made a conscious decision to isolate the incident and continue enjoying my life’s journey without letting this challenge contaminate my happiness.

I’ve learned that no matter what life’s challenge crosses my path, I have the choice to either be happy or unhappy.  It’s that simple. 

Happy vs Unhappy:  You decide 

Happiness is a reaction to life. It doesn’t matter what the day’s events may be, you have the power within to choose happiness.

Our attitude about life and the things that happen to us each day can greatly impact our overall level of happiness.  Inside us lies the key to being content and happy right now..right at this moment..but few use it. We have the power to create our own happiness and choosing happiness is a way of life.  It isn’t a matter of luck – it’s a personal choice we make.

It’s so easy to become so caught up and consumed in life’s challenges and/or personal goals that we overlook the simple everyday things that we should be enjoying.

Often times, it’s not the big things that happen in life that keep us from being happy; it’s the small things. Little inconveniences like not being able to find your car keys in the morning or being in a hurry and getting stuck behind someone going 40 in a 60-mile-an-hour zone. So often, we let these little frustrations determine the mood that we carry for the rest of the day.

Be Happy Where you Are

We often talk about the importance of being in the ‘here and now’ but what do we actually mean by this? The problem is we often plan our happiness in the future.  If we get that job, relationship, etc, then we will be happy.  The problem with planning future happiness means it will always remain elusive.

We need to be happy now..wherever we are. Even in the most difficult of situations there are opportunities to be a little more cheerful and a little less frustrated. Don’t allow small things to knock you off balance. Don’t let temporary circumstances overshadow areas where you could find joy.

Being happy doesn’t mean everything is perfect. It just means you have decided to look beyond the imperfections.

Choosing The Right Path

Last September I was reading one of the gazillions  “Chicken Soup for the Soul” books, called Tough Times, Tough People.  Half way through the book I came across a short story about a 15-year-old girl who grew up in world filled with addictions and abuse. 

In the book she talked about the pain and anger she feels towards her birth mother, asking the question, “How could a woman who gave birth to me and my three siblings put us through the worst possible things that no child should experience?”    

She is strong in her convictions – telling us that she’s determined to take her life in a different direction then that of her mother and siblings.  In her own words, “Recovering from the abuse, I have grown stronger.  I am not going to follow my mother’s steps.  I’m going to be who I want to be, not who everyone else wants me to be. I can’t change anyone else but myself so I’m changing the path of my family history.”

After reading this heart-wrenching story I felt compelled to email the young lady who stole my heart.  I told her that her story is inspiring and that a stranger is rooting for her.  Hoping that she stays on the right track and becomes the success that I know she can be.

After sending the email, I often thought about her and wondered how she was doing.  To my surprise six months later I received an email from her.  She agreed to let me tell her story and also give an update about how life has been since being published in the Chicken Soup series.  . 

Alexis Ludeman who is now 17 and is all too familiar with how drug addiction destroys a family.  In the book Alexis describes how her mother, a Meth addict for over 25 years, would leave her and her baby sister behind in crack houses to fend for themselves because she would get so high and forget about them. 

Most of the time they were left to raise themselves.  Alexis, a child herself, took on the role as parent to her little sister making sure she had three meals a day – bathing/clothing, homework and getting them both to and from school every day.

When Alexis was 13 she was put in foster care.  After living in a few foster homes, she says she’s found her “true parents” – in a couple named Diane and Monique.  Saying that she has a great relationship with them but often bumps heads with Diane who is always getting on her case.  I explained to her that she’s very lucky to have someone who keeps on her – as this is Diane’s way of letting you know that she cares and only wants what’s best for you. 

Alexis was honest in letting me know that since her story was published she has given into peer pressure and experimented with drugs and alcohol.  She tells me that she’s learned her lesson is now getting her life back on track.  She’s currently volunteering a few days a week at a learning center working with elementary school kids.  She finds it very fulfilling and says that she wants to go to college to become a special education teacher. 

Alexis is learning from her own mistakes and from others.  She finds strength in seeing what she doesn’t want – in watching those around her (family and friends) living in addictions and where their lives have taken them.  “I don’t want to be like them.  I want to achieve a lot in my life.  Doing drugs is a cowardly way out – escaping life the easy way and hiding from reality because you can’t face it.”   

Even though she knows she can’t control the path her siblings take in life but she can’t help but worry about them.  She will never give up hope that one day they will chose to get sober.  She’s especially concerned for her little sister who is now 14 – who’s doing drugs and puts more energy into boys then she does in school.  Alexis knows that the only thing she can do is just live by example.  As long as she continues to chase after her dreams and stays sober she may one day be the positive influence and mentor they need to get clean.

Beating the odds…

Alexis has the making of a success story.  Will she make it?  It’s a choice that is totally up to her.  She understands that in order for her to stay on the right path she must surround herself with positive and strong influences and learn from her mistakes. She’’s seeing first hand what the power of a positive role model does for young kids because she is one to those she comes in contact with at the learning center.  I hope the experiences she recieves from helping others will continue to encourage and inspire her to keep reaching for her goals and to never give up.

What started out as an interview has blossomed into a friendship and even though there’s 4000 miles between us, I made it clear to Alexis that I’m just an email away whenever she needs advice or someone to talk to. 

Alexis, I believe in you and hope that this dedication helps inspire you to keep reaching for the stars.

Keeping It Real

 

“The true self does not need to be defended.It just needs to be expressed.”

As my clients walk into my office and sit at the small table, I pay attention to their reaction and body language.  Often seeing slumped shoulders as they shift nervously in their seat and stare at their folded hands rather than make eye contact with me.  

Within minutes of beginning our session, I start to see their transformation.  Bodies start to relax, shoulders go back, eye contact comes easily and enthusiasm slowly starts to show.  Why the sudden shift?  I begin each session with “Tell me about yourself? And,  What makes you happy? I ask these two questions because I truly want to make a connection with the person I’m sitting next to.   The questions catches people off guard because they aren’t used to having someone take such a vested interest in what they have to say. 

As they share their life stories with me, I lean in close, listening intensely to their every word – giving them my undivided attention.  In no time I learn about their dreams, pains, fears and vulnerabilities and in return I give them the gift in sharing with them the real me – understanding who they are and also sharing with them my fears and vulnerabilites.  By the end of our session together, I have earned their trust and friendships are established. 

I’m able to get people to open up and be themselves because I show them my true self.  By being real, I give others the freedom to be real and truthful back to me.  No pretenses, no smoke, no mirrors, no ulterior motives – just clean, clear communication from the heart and soul.

I have faith and trust in who I am – I never project something that I’m not.  To be real and true to myself means total freedom to be exactly who I am. I live my life speaking and acting in truth. 

Who we are speaks more loudly than what we say 

One of the most liberating things in the world is to know yourself, like yourself and be yourself. Being true to who you are is the ultimate freedom you can give yourself. It means that you are being clear about what you value in life. 

Being real means being present – open in vulnerable ways without roles or masks or expectations of any kind.  When we remove our masks, we then begin to tune into our true feelings, perspectives and passions in life. We discover with clarity what we want and don’t want.

It takes courage to take off the disguise protecting you and to let your true colors shine.  This is one of the most honorable and rewarding actions a person can decide to take in life. 

Be brave and speak your truth boldly; Deal with conflicts directly; Express your emotions fully.  Be vulnerable and real about what you think and how you feel.  By doing so gives you access to real freedom and power.

We can’t go wrong when we’re ourselves, because nobody does “us” as well as we do.

Power Up!

 

What do you do when the going gets tough and you feel like quitting?  Do you surround yourself with Power Words – positive affirmations to help you cope when you hit the roadblocks on your road of life?
 
Power Words (positive quotes/phrases) will help you stay focused, motivated, inspired and on track.  Whether your goal is to raise your confidence, live a happier and more fulfilled life, advance in your career, lose weight, etc – then it’s very important to surround yourself with encouraging words that will keep you moving in the right direction. 

Power Words nourish the soul and inspire you to strive for something greater.  Giving you the strength you need to carry on when you feel like giving up.   

Post your favorite Power Words around your house and at home – where you can see and read them everyday.  Stick them on your fridge, next to your computer, on your mirror, even write them down on index cards and carry them with you.  Over time they act as a best friend – giving you the support and encouragement when you need it most.

Lets Celebrate Girl Power!

Real change occurs – one determined woman at a time. 

This past weekend I had the privilege to attend my first ever International Women’s Day Luncheon.  I left all expectations at the door and walked into a room filled with women of all age, race and background – mingling with those who live in poverty to those who are of great power and influence.  We come together to celebrate the spirit of women – working together to bridge the gap in equality – social, economical, political and in health.

As everyone was settling in, I approached a table full of women I didn’t know and asked if I could join them.  It didn’t take long for me to feel as at ease and get engrossed in finding out who they were and what brought them to this event.  Most of the women at this table of eight were retired school teachers.  They might have been retired from teaching but they certainly weren’t retired from life – volunteering and dedicating a lot of their time to social and economic issues that affect women and children.

Five local women were honored for their contribution to making a difference in their neighborhoods.  They are leaders in their communities who work towards breaking down barriers and the stigmas that are often associated with impoverished communities.

Each woman shared her personal experiences – battling and overcoming addictions, abuse/violence and poverty.  Their stories were heartwrenching as we felt their pain – there wasn’t a dry eye in the room.  As each woman finished their speech and accepted their award, we leaped from our chairs – showering them with well-deserved standing ovations and praise. I felt so honored and proud to be part of this truly amazing celebration.

Why dedicate a day exclusively to the celebration of the world’s women?

Every year on March 8 is International Women’s Day. For the women of the world, this Day is an occasion to review how far we have come in our struggle for equality, peace and development.

In 1911, a woman named Clara Zetkin, a leader of the Women’s Office for the Social Democratic Party in Germany, tabled the idea of an international Women’s Day. She proposed that every year in every country there should be a celebration on the same day – A Women’s Day to press for their demands.

IWD (International Women’s Day) is now celebrated in many countries and in thousands of cities and towns. Some countries such as China and Russia celebrate IWD as a national holiday.

On this day we recognize that peace and social progress requires the active participation of women. This is also a time to acknowledge the contribution of those women who devote their lives to international peace and security.

In recogntion of this day, take time to honor the women in your life who inspire you to be strong and continue to forge ahead no matter what comes your way.   

Happy International Women’s Day!

Do you have a plan?

Recently, I interviewed a 67-year-old woman who wants to get her GED (grade 12 equivalent).  I asked, “Why is this so important to you?  She said, “Because its the one thing in life that I want more than anything.” 

Leaving school in the seventh grade, Maggie (not her real name) has lived her entire life in poverty. She worked odd jobs in her 20’s and 30’s as a dishwasher in restaurants but gave up because she couldn’t escape the constant abuse and harassment that followed her everywhere she worked. 

Every day over the last 10 years, Maggie would gather her battered and beaten old school books and walk a few blocks to a local women’s shelter – where she sits at the dining room table and practices math, reading and writing.  Without knowing how to move ahead, Maggie’s commitment to learning has kept her at a grade five level.

After seeing my presentation, she somehow found the courage to take the first step in asking for help in how she can achieve her dream.

The thing that stands between Maggie and her GED is “planning and commitment”.  I’ll help her define her goals, give her the right tools and resources to set her up for success but it will be up to her to follow through to cross the finish line. 

You can’t hit a target you can’t see

Think it’s too late for your dream?  Setting goals to get there is a process that can start at any age and at any time.

Most people travel aimlessly through life without a map – no real direction..just figuring things out along the way.  Having goals are an important part of life. Without them you lack the inspiration to better yourself and your life.

Not reaching a dream has nothing to do with ability – it really comes down to lack of planning, goal setting and commitment to follow through.

All or nothing…

The reason why most people give up on or not even attempt to pursue the one thing that they dreamed about is because they feel that it has to be “all or nothing”.  This is a sure way of getting nowhere fast.  Without a plan of action, you will give up before you even get off the ground.

Ask yourself:
· What dreams have I put off forever, that I know are achievable?
· What attitudes are holding me back?
· What small steps can I take today to move towards achieving my dreams?
· Who can help me?  What tools do I need to succeed this time?

The benefits of goal-setting is that you get to control the direction of change in your life. Setting goals, working toward them every day and ultimately achieving them is the key to happiness in life. 

You have a choice to make…are you going to take a step in the right direction by setting a plan of action or are you going to just watch others pursue their dreams?

Distractions

Please forgive me, for I have been very lazy.  Its been two weeks since my last post. I accuse myself of finding comfort in mindless distractions.

While drudging my way through an unavoidable “family” distraction – I found solace in getting lost in “time wasting” distractions that take me away from my commitments and goals.  So instead of making time for writing and other things that I need to focus on, I’d spend all my spare time watching TV, surfing the Internet – chasing after celebrity gossip, chatting online, texting and Skyping family and friends. I was doing whatever I could to avoid doing the things that required discipline, focus and concentration.

In no time I was sinking further and further in the black hole of “wasting precious time” and the more I played into it – the harder it was to pull myself out.  At the end of each day, I’d go to bed feeling like crap because I got NOTHING accomplished – only to fall back in the hole the next day and do it all over again.

Is it a time out or a time waster???

Time wasting distractions clutter our mind and squander precious time – leaving us sidetracked, unproductive and unmotivated. No matter how focused and determined we are – we still let the little attention grabbling things draw our attention away. Pulling focus away from the things that are important.

Indulging in a little mindless distraction is healthy – to take a break from every day stresses.  But there’s a fine line between taking a  “time out” and “wasting time” – so you have to stay alert and know when to pull back before you get sucked into the black hole of no return.

It’s getting harder and harder to stay focused on the things we say we want to accomplish because there is so much coming at us that it gets in the way.  We understand what needs to get done but the doing can be such a chore. By letting time wasting distractions consume you – every aspect of your life can suffer because of it.

There’s no possible way to eliminate all distractions but its so important to find a healthy balance and schedule around them.  Don’t let meaningless distractions eat up your precious time that should be used towards chasing after all that you’re meant to do and be…

Living Free

I recently crossed paths with an old school friend who I haven’t seen in over 25 years.  We now work together and it’s been great getting reacquainted with her all over again.  Having fun reminiscing about the past and exchanging our life stories.  After a few weeks of spending lots of time together, she said there’s something different about me now that never showed before.  She summed it up in one word saying that I was “free” – carrying myself as if I’m weightless – there’s no baggage from the past.  I appear happy and content with my life, open/approachable and I don’t  have any ulterior-motives/not expecting anything in return.

I never really  put much thought into how I’m being perceived but to have someone tell me that I come across as being “free” is a compliment that I gladly accept.  I guess the last 13 years of being on a “letting go” journey is showing its true colors.

What I know for sure about living free

  • We make life more complicated then it really is. 
  • Happiness is living a purposeful life and being true to your authentic self. 
  • When you find yourself in a useless battle – you just simply walk off the battlefield.
  • To move forward and allow change, you must let go of old beliefs, habits and thoughts – unlearn the many things that you’ve spent your entire life learning.
  • Letting go of all anxiety, stress, anger, grudges and resentment means that you are freeing yourself up for many blessings that are in store for you. 
  • You are what you think – your outer world becomes a reflection of your inner world. 
  • You must believe and have faith that your present and future holds the best days of your life.
  • You attract what you put out:  Learn to release the need to “control” everything in your life.  Let yourself become spiritually open to allow all good things to flow into your life. Trust in your instincts and God’s nature to guide you.
  • Stop trying to make everything happen according to what you think should happen. Let things happen according to the natural flow of life.
  • Living one’s life with an attitude of gratitude. It’s not possible to move towards what you want when you aren’t grateful for what you already have. 
  • Learning to let go is one of the biggest gifts you can give to yourself and share with others. 

I’ve practiced letting go long enough to know that it feels a whole lot better than not letting go. It has brought me much needed peace, joy, and happiness.

Turn Fear Off

 

I recently fell into a part-time job that I love, Love, LOVE.  A childhood friend and myself are working with local schools to promote education.  Our goal is to reach out to adults who have fallen through the cracks after dropping out of middle school or high school – help them overcome their barriers/fears so they can start back on a path of building for a better tomorrow through education. 

Our research is done; we have the support from community leaders who will help gather our target audience.  So now comes the hard part,..speaking in front of groups of people.

I can no longer hide behind my computer and bang out information, or stay in the comforts of creativity – now that our inspirational power point presentation is ready to be rolled out.  Behind the scenes was the easy part but now I have to face and wrestle with my fear of public speaking.  Am I scared?  YES!!!  Will I give in to “believing” the fear-based tales that keep trying to creep into my thoughts?..such as, “you’re going to make a fool of yourself”, “you don’t have what it takes to keep the audience’s attention”.  No,  because I refuse to let the poison seep in and destroy something that will bring me happiness and help make a difference.    

I’m prepared and ready to face what’s in store for me when I get out there to do my first presentation.  I will be feeling uncomfortable, anxious, nervous, fidgety, and more than likely stumble over my words as I do the best that I possibly can to get our message out to those who need it.

These fear-based feelings are nothing new to me because I’ve been through it many times before.  I acknowledge how I’m feeling and push through it away.  These are normal imperfections that come along for the ride every time I venture into unknown territory.

I know that as long as I believe in myself and keep the faith – everything will work out and fall into place.     

FEAR = False Evidence Appearing Real  

If you befriend Mr. Fear and let him be your constant companion, he will always set you up for failure.  Every time you get close to making a change in your life – those scary signals always show up…anxiety, nervousness, stress, panic, worry and indecision..and thats when Mr. Fear will make his move.  Just when you’re about to take a leap of faith, he will whisper in your ear, “your wasting your time”, “you don’t have what it takes” “we don’t like change – lets just stay where we are..its safe”. 

Fear will work its way into your soul, manipulating and crippling you – keeping you frozen in a constant state of indecision.  Wrapping himself around you – putting you in a chokehold as you gasp for air, fighting and struggling to get free.

Fear is the enemy – he plays the role of antagonist in the story of your life. Robbing you of happiness and forcing you to stay in mediocrity.  He stomps on your confidence making you afraid to begin things, robbing you of your power – destroying ambition and steals your dreams.  

Fear stops people from taking so many right paths and causes them to take that all together wrong path. 

Feel the fear and do it anyway

Conquering fear starts with a choice to be in faith.  When you are confident in your faith there’s nothing that can stop you.

So many people today are living in a “just existing” state because they’ve allowed fear to stop them from pursuing their goals/dreams. When faced with something new, its normal to have feelings of nervousness, anxiety, and sometimes feeling downright terrified. It’s part of taking risks –growing, evolving and moving ahead.

If you’re ready to make changes – don’t let fear rob you from opportunities for living a happy and sucessful life.  Choose to  face your fears and overcome them by having faith and believe that everything will unfold in a positive way…..

The Gift of using your Imagination

It’s that time of year when employees from all around the globe are discreetly picking names for the upcoming Secret Santa exchange.  This annual fun event is a tradition at most companies as it’s a good way to get into the Christmas spirit, bond with co-workers, eat lots of treats, have a few laughs and see what your mystery Santa has bought you.

There was a time when I boycotted this fun event – not because I’m a scourge or my taste was so expensive that I would never be satisfied with a gift under $20.  I avoided it because I just got tired of receiving gifts that were picked out of “last minute desperation”.   I would get gifts such as Christmas mugs filled with chocolate or some Christmas wall hanger that looked like it was pulled from the bottom of an old storage bin – cleverly disguised behind pretty paper and a bow.  This is what I call the “no effort – no imagination syndrome”.   I’m sure a lot of you who are reading this are laughing because you too experienced the “wait until last minute and pick whatever I could find at a 24 hour convenience store” gift.

You gotta do a little digging

No matter whose name I pick – I would make an effort to find out my co-worker’s likes and dislikes.  Ask fellow coworkers if they knew anything about the person so it would help narrow my search for a nice gift.  I check to see how she decorated her office or desk and take the time to ask her about her interests without being obvious that I was her Santa.   I’d stick to the rules and stay within the dollar limit of $15 to $20.  In the end, I use my imagination to pick gifts that people liked.

I know it’s not always easy to pick a gift for someone you hardly know but if you’re going to participate in this event, then I suggest you put in the effort, do your homework and use your imagination.  There are many simple and affordable ideas waiting to be explored.

Santa’s Box of Surprises – Under $20.00

You can find amazing little things at your local Dollar Store or Bargain Shop.  First pick out a good size Christmas gift box for less than $2.50, which is perfect because it can be reused.  By the time you finish walking through the store you will find plenty of things to fill the box with.  Examples:

Picture frame
Candles and candleholders/plate
Small photo album
Small decorative flower vase
Journal (for those who like to write)
Address book
Christmas Potpourri
Recycled novels/how to books
Lotions, soaps and bath products
Fuzzy socks/slipper socks
One size fits all gloves
Lip Gloss
Make-up sponges/Eye Make-up Remover Pads
Christmas chocolate

By putting a little thought and imagination into picking a gift – you’ll not only put smile on a co-workers face but it will certainly leave them with a lasting impression.

We can all use a little help

Fridays are my  my usual day for volunteering at the local nursing home,  so I welcomed the nice change in having a day out on the town.  It was an afternoon of taking some of the residents on a scenic drive with a stop for an old fashioned home cooked meal at an old school diner that was 20 miles away. 

We had a bit of trouble getting one of the new residents to join us but with a little additional coaxing we won her over.  She’s very nervous about leaving the safety of her surroundings – understandably, considering that she’s 93 years old, in a wheelchair and is 90% blind.  We soon won her trust after reassuring her she was in good hands and she would be well cared for every step of the way.  After everyone is secured in their seats on the van,  I sit beside my new friend and immediately got her lost in talking about her family.  It was obvious that she was starting to feel at ease and ready to enjoy her outing. 

Arriving at the restaurant and as we get seated aroud the table, I make sure I was sitting beside my new friend.  I help her with her order and when her food arrives, I let her know where everything is – rearranging things on her plate as she makes her way through the meal.  As we’re getting ready to leave she says, “I had the most amazing day, thank you for your help, you made me feel safe and relaxed.   I look forward to going out on many more road trips.”

I was taken back by here words because helping her just came so naturally to me – I just wanted to do what I could to make sure she had a good experience. 

As I drive back home and reflect over the day, I thought about my new friend and how this experience has taught me something about myself. 

I have difficulty in accepting help from others when its being offered.  When its reversed, I gladly do things for others without any thought or reservation. 

I need to learn to not be afraid to accept help – when the truth is, people love to help other people.  It gives them a sense of satisfaction to know that they made someone’s life a little easier.  We get so caught up in the fears that come with asking or accepting help that we don’t realize the joy that most people would receive from lending that helping hand.

As Barbra Streisand sang it so well…“People who need people are the luckiest people in the world.”

Say YES to the small stuff

I recently watched the movie “Yes Man” starring Jim Carey.  He plays a character that lives in his own little world – just existing and habitually saying the word NO to everything.  He refuses all invites and isn’t willing to step outside his dull routine – finding himself feeling bored and lonely as he sits home night after night watching TV.  His life changes after he attends a “Say YES To Everything” motivational conference.  Going to the extreme, he says YES to absolutely everything and everyone who crosses his path.  Of course he gets himself into some very funny predicaments but in the end he figured out how to find a healthy balance, which set him on a course to living a richer more fulfilling life. 

After watching this movie I got thinking about my own addiction to saying the word NO to the small stuff.  Its so easy to stay focused on my goals and what needs to be done in a day that I don’t put much thought into whats actually being asked of me.  I now realize that I’m missing out some great opportunities whether it be meeting new people or trying new things.  This movie was my wake up call to “say YES to the small stuff”.

Where can YES lead me?

I was in my PJ’s and getting ready to settle in for the night when my sister called to invite me to a seminar that was starting within the next hour.  My initial reaction was to say NO – thinking I can’t be bothered getting dressed again and rush out to hear something that I’m not really interested in but then I quickly remembered my self-promise.  I said YES to the invite and ended up meeting the person who was put in my path to help take my business to the next level. 

Sunday’s are all about me, me, me….a time to reflect and catch up on my reading and writing .  After last Sunday’s church service an acquaintance invited me to her house for lunch.  Before I decided to commit to “say YES to the small stuff “, I would have politely refused saying that I had errands to do but no sooner did she have the words out of her mouth, I found myself quickly saying YES to the invite.  I  got to see inside the lives of a wonderful family that  provides a safe haven for the neighborhood kids who have no where to go.

YES opens doors…

Saying the word NO can be our safety net as we often prefer to hold on to what we’re already familiar with.  Saying NO to the small stuff might not seem like a big deal but we are closing ourselves off from endless opportunities that can change the course of our lives  – personally or professionally.

Say YES to attending a social networking group; say YES to a get-together with friends or co-workers; say Yes to joining the neighborhood book club; say YES to the blind date.  Say YES to the little stuff – it’s all about taking small steps to see what you can find off the beaten path.

Memory Making Opportunities

Last month I spontaneously made a trip to visit my dad who lives 1500 miles away.  One morning I was talking to him on the phone – that afternoon I booked my flight and two days later I was sitting in his living room.  It was easy to make excuses as to why I shouldn’t go..life is busy, it costs too much..blah, blah, blah. 

As I get older I’m realizing more and more that  there is never a perfect time to make time for those we love.  I’m also learning that spontaneity often open doors to creating the most magical memories.

I seized the moment and knew that I was about to embark on some heartfelt “memory making opportunities”.  The week went by in a blink of an eye – it was also one of the hardest goodbyes but it was certainly “time well spent” with my dad.  Spending quality time with him has created my most cherished “daughter/father” memories that will be with me forever. 

It is my intention to find ways every day for the rest of my life doing great things to remember.  To look back at yesterday, last week, last month, and last year, knowing that I have created amazing, happy and positive memories so they will override the not so great memories. 

Opportunities are everywhere…

It’s easy to get caught up in life and not be aware that every day we come face to face with positive “memory-making opportunities”.  Memories are what fill our souls with the “good stuff.” 

Its important to be open to creating special memories for those who cross our path whether a child, sibling, friend, spouse or total stranger.

Give yourself permission to be more spontaneous – live in the moment and seek out memory making opportunities..they’re all around you.  Don’t hesitate when your instincts are telling you to JUST DO IT!!! 

Here’s to a lot more wonderful memory-making opportunities!

Letting go of Expectations

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There used to be mornings when I’d wake up filled with expectations but in a matter of hours I would quickly feel anxiety, frustration, worry and angry because things didn’t go according to my plans.

It was always easy to get upset and frustrated when my expectations didn’t roll out the way I intended them to – only to end up feeling miserable and letting my misery fall on those around me. 

Expectations I put on myself was always a struggle, constantly fighting to find a healthy balance.  There’s now a strong need to search for some sort of a middle ground.  

To not make plans or put expectations on myself feels foreign to me.  To let go of the controls makes me feel as if nothing in my life will get done.  I fear not ever experiencing that sense of accomplishment when an expectation does work in my favor.

I’m learning that it’s normal and healthy to set expectations but to not beat myself up whenever Life doesn’t follow my plans. 

Change of plans…

Living without expectation is not living without a plan – it’s about moving through Life with a good sense and humor when expectations don’t work out – knowing that nobody cares about my plans but me.

Living without expectations is not about being irrational and irresponsible – it’s about being realistic.   To let go of expectations doesn’t mean you are abandoning plans for the future – it means that you’re letting things happen and unfold as they may.  Giving up trying to control the unseeingly promise of the future.

Living without expectations is taking care of yourself and doing the best you possibly can at this very moment and letting your life unfold, as it will.

Keeping Life in Perspective

stillness

A few weeks ago I was hit with some devastating news that really took the wind out of my sails.  In that moment it felt as if my life came to a screeching halt.  The initial shock and anger overwhelmed me as I roamed through the house with my head in the clouds – dazed and in a trance-like-state, wondering how I was going to get through this. I just kept reviewing the scenario over and over in my mind, asking myself, “What went wrong? Why did this happen? Where do I go from here?

Days went by before I was able to wrap my head around the depth of what occurred.  And as painful as it may be, I was able to minimize the problem, look at the big picture and say, “Things could have been a lot worse”. 

To me, its all about keeping Life in perspective – yes, I have a dilemma hanging over my head and I’m doing my best to get through it but I refuse to let it be my mind’s focus and let it fill my life with doom and gloom. 

When one thing is going wrong, I need to keep in mind the many things that are going right in my life.  My health is good, my family is safe, I have a healthy and wonderful relationship with my husband, I have great friends, I have a warm and safe house to come home to, I have money to pay my bills…and the list goes on and on.

It  can be very easy to let myself be consumed with this one dilemma that tried to spiral me into a dark place but I chose to shift my attention away from the negative and focus only on the positives in my life.

Its time for a PEP talk

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Every morning I start my day with a “PEP talk”.  The conversations I have with myself are full of Passion, Enthusiasm and Perseverance.

These daily “self-talk” are important because they keep me grounded and focused on the important things in my Life. Giving thanks for all that is good; they keep my thoughts in line – defending me against the negatives that try to tackle me; and they tell me to to keep striving – to make the necessary changes within so I will always be a winner in the game of Life.           

Most days, I manage to plow my way through with feelings of peppiness but there are some days when I feel completely defeated and at a loss.

During the times when I’m not on a winning streak, I’ve learned to not give up and quit – when my inner coach’s speech doesn’t give me the get up and go I need when I’m faced with a challenge.  During these down times, I go over the “instant replay” in my mind to figure out what I did wrong and where I need to make changes.

I’ve learned that no matter how much positive influences I surround myself with, if I don’t do my part and listen to my inner coach, then I’m not going to perform to the best of my ability each and every day.  

Practice makes perfect…

We can’t always look to, depend on and wait for people around us to give us that pat on the back or a hug saying, “You can do it” or “Hey, you did your best – everything is going to be alright”.   Take it upon yourself to practice – train your brain to work with your inner coach so you can give yourself the PEP talk you need.  

You will also come to understand that sometimes in the game of Life, you don’t always have to be physically involved in the game – there are times when its best to just sit on the sidelines –  to observe and learn from others.

Learn to become your biggest fan and cheerleader – in giving yourself encouragement and to keep your spirits up even when you lose a game or two.

 
         Think You Can

If you think you are beaten, you are,
If you think you dare not, you don’t
If you like to win, but you think you can’t,
It is almost certain you won’t.

“If you think you’ll lose, you’re lost
For out of the world we find,
Success begins with a fellow’s will—
It’s all in the state of mind.

“If you think you are outclassed, you are,
You’ve got to think high to rise,
You’ve got to be sure of yourself before
You can ever win a prize.

“Life’s battles don’t always go
To the stronger or faster man,
But soon or late the man who wins
Is the man WHO THINKS HE CAN!”

 author – C. W. Longenecker

Out of touch with a modern love

I’v been Blogging for just over a year now and I think its time that I come clean about something.  I’ve been hiding a deep dark secret that’s been weighing on me and I think its time that I purge it.  I suffer from a prejudice and it really affects how I interact and socialize with a certain group of people.

This narrow-mindedness that I’ve been covering up is “my lost of interest towards modern music”.  There I said it!!!  Now I can start the healing…

When I’m playing designated driver – chauffeuring my 15-year-old niece and her friends around town – I cringe every time because I know the time has come to “tolerate” something that I despise more than anything – having to listen to their music.  Blah!!!  

Sure its my car and I could very easily say..hey, hands off my radio..I will play Barry Manilow all I want and there is nothing you can do about it.  But I won’t do that to them because I have an image to uphold – being known as the “cool aunt”. It just wouldn’t be good of me to do a smack down on their musical tastes. 

For that short time while driving them around, I put “my wants” on the backburner – so they can happily sing at the top of their lungs as Lady Gag Gag is up on bust.  I just suffer in silence as my head throbs to the beat of the music.  I keep that smile on my face, bob my head and pretend to enjoy the crap. 

As they file out of the car, I say my good byes with a smile on my face, as I reach over and CLICK the radio is off.  I then drive all the way home in complete and utter silence. 

For a person who used to love music, I’ve become a bit of a bore in that department.  I welcome the lightning speed of the ever-changing world of technology but I don’t have it in me to take on any new music.  I honestly think that part of my brain is full with a flashing neon sign saying “sorry no more vacancy here”.

Back in the day – music was my life.  It was my drug of choice and the louder the better.  Now, when I’m in the mood to listen to my grooves, it plays in the background like elevator music. 

Music is where the heart is…

Here’s some interesting statistics I dug up – there are anywhere between 27,000 to 35,000 albums/cd’s released each year..and that’s just in the US.  (sorry couldn’t find anything more details)

Just think about all the music you heard so far in your life and if you’re over the age of 40 – more than likely you’ve have taken in 10’s of thousands of songs (your music, your parents music, your grandparents music, etc..you get the picture)  Not just the songs you like but also the ones that you despised.  They are all lodged somewhere in your brain and can be triggered at a moments notice.  You might go 30 years and not hear a song – but when it’s played – you will remember it. 

I give power to the people who are my age and older who welcome new music in their lives.  I’m in awe of those who still go to concerts to see the latest and greatest musical artists and I give praise to the ones who know every word to Lady Gag Gag’s new song. 

Sure, I know I’m missing out on some great new bands and wonderful thought provoking songs but I’m sure that anyone worth hearing will survive without my support.

The music must go on but it can continue on without me….

I now leave you with a song called Method of Modern Love by Hall & Oates who I got to see in 1997 at an outdoor concert during one of the worst wind and rainstorms ever.  By the end of the concert there were only about 20 of us freaks left.  Even though I was soaked to the bone and my make-up closely resembled Alice Cooper’s – it was still worth every penny and raindrop.

Making a difference by being present

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A few months ago a woman in my community rang in her 90th birthday by leaping out of an airplane.  Three generations of her family also took the plunge with her that day.  It was her intention to do two things to celebrate her birthday.  To create a memory that her family will never forget and to also raise awareness for a cause that she is passionate about.  In the weeks leading up to the big day, Olive raised $2,500.00 for the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

After hearing the story about this amazing and fearless woman I thought to myself “What can I do to make a difference?”  Sure, I give money and food to causes that are close to my heart but Olive’s leap for a cause forced me to face the truth about something.  “I give of my money but I’m not physically involved with any causes or special groups”. 

This stranger’s courage and commitment to a cause inspired me to take action.

Its time to get physical…

Every day over the last three years, I drive by a nursing/retirement home and it never fails, I say to myself “I should see about volunteering there”.  No sooner do I pass by the building my thoughts quickly take me somewhere else and I soon forget about my good intentions.

Shortly after being inspired by Olive’s story, I finally took action and am now volunteering a few hours a week at the same facility that I passed by every day.  I offer to do a variety of things – I read for some residences and help out on game night.  I used to be a make up artist, so I take great pride in dolling up the ladies for when they’re expecting visitors.

I hope that one day I will be half as brave as Olive and find the courage to leap out of a plane just because or for a cause.  But for now I took the first step and made a small jump by getting out of my routine and comfort zone to be present in volunteering my time to help make a difference.  It is bringing me more rewards than I could have possibly imagined.

I know my presence is making a difference because every time I knock on a resident’s room door – I’m greeted with a big smile and an “I’m so happy to see you today”.

Life Saving Gifts

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I wish to share a true and personal story that a friend’s mother recently wrote.  She is an organ recipient.  My mission in posting this message is to bring awareness to the importance of organ donations.  As delicate as this topic is – it is a necessary discussion that we should have with our “mature” family members.

My personal connection with organ donation is – if it weren’t for a donor, my husband’s grandson, Sean would not be with us today.  A young man’s sudden and unexpected passing saved five lives.  We are forever grateful to his family for passing on the gifts of life.

Here is Bonnie’s life changing story…

My husband and I recently attended a Organ Donor reception in Auburn, Maine.  The purpose of this reception is to honor donor families across the State of Maine.

During the reception, serveral organ recipients shared their life saving stories.  There was a candlelight vigil ceremony in honor of donors and recipients and a heartfelt moment of a slide show presentation of pictures of donors of all ages – from tiny babies, to older men and women. The event was a whirlwind of emotions and a time of reflection but I still couldn’t help but wonder if my donor’s family was somewhere around me – in this room full of several hundred people.

For the most part, donors and recipients don’t usually meet, for many reasons.  Some recipients just can’t put into words to write a letter to the family of the donor.  Those who do find the courage to write don’t always hear back from their recipient for one reason or another. I’m sure because it is just too painful for them after their loss.

As the program ended, I quickly visted the ladies room before leaving the building.  As I was washing my hands, I noticed the woman beside me was the same person who was standing on the podium as they read out the donors names.  I smiled and said “You are a donor family, correct”? She said “Yes I am”.  I told her I am an organ recipient. 

She told me that she recently received a beautiful letter from her son’s liver recipient. She expressed how grateful her family was in receiving this letter.  I quickly replied “I am a liver recepient and I too sent a letter to my donor family.  I then asked, “How long ago did you lose your son”? She said “I lost my son on September 23, 2008”. My heart skipped a beat because my transplant was on the September 25, 2008”.

I asked her where she was from and she said, “Bangor”. My heart raced and I started feeling really nervous because I knew my donor was from the Bangor area.  I then asked, “could you tell me what the name is on your signed donor letter?” (recipients are only allowed to sign donor letters with first names only). When she said “Bonnie”…my heart nearly stopped.  I blurted out, “That’s me, I’m Bonnie, I have your son’s liver”. 

We both immediately grabbed on to each other and started crying. She put her hand on my right side, where my liver is and we both continued sobbing. I told her that I am forever grateful because I’m alive today because of her son. Through my tears I just kept saying thank you..over and over.

I never really thought I would actually meet the family who saved my life.  I know that God’s hands were on us – he lead us to each other so we could have closure and find some sort of peace.

In the letter that I wrote to my donor family, I made them a promise that I would always honor my donor.  I would do everything in my power to take good care of my body and my health.  That I would continue in my journey, spreading the good word about the importance of organ donation.  I want to tell the world that I’m alive and healthy today because of someone’s loved one.

Every day when I stand in front of the mirror and see my huge scar, I think of my donor and I honor him for the gift of life that he gave me.

A lesson in Humility

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A humble star knows that shining is what it does well and is generous with its light – unknown –

To be humble we must acknowledge that we are flawed.  Humility is about the willingness to learn and correct oneself.  Acknowledging our mistakes and having the courage to say – I am wrong, I am sorry.  These few words are often the most difficult to muster up and admit to.

Humility or humbleness is a quality of being courteously and respectful of others.  It is the opposite of aggressiveness, arrogance and egotistical. Rather than it being, “All about me first”,  humility allows us to say, “No, you first, my friend.”  Humility is the quality that lets us go more than halfway to meet the needs of others.

Acting with humility doesn’t deny us of our own self worth. A person who walks in humility isn’t lowering themselves – they rise up and lift others with them.

A humble person understands everything can be taken away in a heartbeat. They give thanks in what they have been granted with and use it to help others. They bring value to others – not take it away.  They understand that there is so much more to life than one’s own accomplishments. To not feel threatened – to stay neutral instead of falling into the competition of life.

If we look closely we can see humility in the eyes of those who can understand the pain and suffering of others. They are those who have suffered in their own life and have learned what love is all about. Someone who is humble is someone who is filled with the love.

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