Starting Over From the Middle

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We’ve all experienced it.  We’ve all faced challenges that have changed our lives forever. Sometimes I like to call them:

  • Road blocks                                                       
  • Hic cups                                                        
  • Set backs

One thing is for certain though – in order to survive we have to find a way to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and start all over again.  But this time, think about it as starting FROM THE MIDDLE.

So many times I’ve heard people say: “I have to start all over again.  It’s like I’m back to square one.”  But if you really step back and take a hard look at your situation, you’ll realize that you learned a lot in the process.  Whether it’s a:                                                         

  • Halted career
  • Sick child                                                           
  • Lost love

Or anything else in between. You are definitely not the same person as you started so you cannot go back to the same place from where you came.  Because of your experiences, you are now smarter, stronger and more resilient.  Mostly, you know that you can survive the hic cups in your life because you’ve done it before.

So the next time life throws you a curve, take a deep breath, acknowledge all that you have learned and start over again – but this time, start FROM THE MIDDLE.

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Are You True to Yourself?

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“Why are you trying so hard to fit in, when you’re born to stand out.” Ian Wallace

There are so many times in my life when I was afraid to stand out; when I conformed to be like everyone else.  And in the process, I lost myself.  I no longer knew who I really was.

It’s taken many years of experiences, triumphs and challenges to finally be comfortable with the person I am today.  Through that journey, I have learned to embrace my flaws and celebrate my strengths.  And  isn’t it funny – they have both changed over the years.  Those traits I viewed as flaws in my twenties have suddenly become my shining moments today.

When I was much younger, I did not take criticism well.  In fact, I got quite defensive, annoyed and aggravated.  But today, I actually seek it out.  Of course, I’m talking about constructive criticism.  Actually, with my business as a Professional Speaker, I need to know what my flaws are so I can get better and better in my profession.

Now I’d be lying if I said it was as easy in my personal life, but I am much more accepting of what people have to say, both good and bad.  The key is to always take a hard look at WHO is giving the advice.  Then I take a moment – or two – to absorb it and decide if I agree.  Maybe I’ll use their advice, and maybe I won’t.

Today, I still work hard at remaining true to myself.  Most of the time I can feel it in my gut.  You know what I mean; you can usually tell if something is right for you.  That’s when I picture the little ducks in a row and see the one that stands out.  I like to picture myself as that true-to-yourself person, no matter how hard it may get.

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You’re Just Like Your Mother???

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There was a time when I felt insulted when someone said: “You’re just like your mother.”  It usually came from an old boyfriend – or husband – who was trying to ruffle my feathers. And they were usually quite successful at annoying me with that one sentence.  But with time, I have come to realize and appreciate and be humbled by all that she did for me; by all that she gave up for me.

As long as I can remember, my mother worked the midnight shift in a factory.  She often told me stories of her co-workers losing a finger because they reached too far into the machine she called a punch press.  It happened so often that the company had to figure out a way to solve this problem.  And you know what they did?  They chained everyone’s hands to the table so they couldn’t reach so far into the machine.  Can you imagine being physically chained to your desk for eight hours each day, every day?  Obviously, this was before the days of OSHA.

Well, because of my mom’s feistiness, her co-workers voted her to be the shop steward so she could fight for their rights.  And because of her, definite changes were made to make it a better workplace for everyone.

To say that she had a strong personality is putting it lightly, and because of that I have become the strong and independent woman I am today.  So now on those days when I feel a bit of a setback, and it sometimes feels like the walls are falling in around me, I draw from her feistiness.  I can honestly say that I am proud to be her daughter – to stand up and say:

“Yes, I’m just like my mother!”


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The Possibilities of Aging

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One way to ruin a compliment is to follow it with the words: “for your age.”

     “You really look great – for your age…”

     “You’re a great dancer- for your age…”

     “You have a lot of energy – for your age…”

What scares me the most is that several of my friends are buying into the theory that they can’t accomplish certain things because of their age.  They truly feel that they are just too old to even start.

Well, did you know that Laura Ingalls Wilder, the famous American writer who wrote the Little House on the Prairie series, began her writing career when she was 65 years old.  She was surprised at her success and told an interviewer after writing her first book: “I thought that would be the end of it.  But what do you think?  Children who read it wrote to me begging for more.  I was amazed because I didn’t know how to write.  I went to little red schoolhouses all over the West and I never was graduated from anything.”  Yet she didn’t let her age stop her from writing her first book – then another and another and another. 

And then there was John Glenn.  His mission of almost nine days on the space shuttle orbiter, Discovery, launched when he was 77 years old.  It made him the oldest human to venture into space.  He didn’t stop and think – I’m too old for this.  He just followed his passion without any regard for the number attached to his age.

And the list goes on.  There are so many more people who experienced success far into their “twilight” years.  So the next time you are feeling that you can’t do something because of your age, think again.  Maybe this list will give you some inspiration:

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Reduce Stress AND Help Others? How???

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What can teach you new skills, reduce stress and keep you mentally stimulated, yet only 25% of Americans partake in it???  Hmmmmm, now that I think of it, there can be several answers to that question, but the one I’m referring to is Volunteering.

Yep – volunteer work can have enormous benefits to you, your family and your community.  The right match can help you find friends, learn new skills, combat depression and even advance your career.  Yet with our busy lives, few of us follow through and actually do it.  But volunteering doesn’t have to involve long-term commitment or take a huge chunk out of your day.

Just yesterday I was invited to teach two classes, only 45 minutes each, to high school students who were selected to partake in a program called PEOPLE (Precollege Enrichment Opportunity Program for Learning Excellence).   Coming from low-income families, these students are the first in their families to potentially attend college.  This program helps prepare them to apply and be successfully admitted to the University of Wisconsin in Madison, helping them build study skills and explore their career interests.   

Working with 24 students gave me a sense of accomplishment, knowing that I helped make their life a little easier; a little brighter. 

That’s what volunteer work does.  Not only does it help those who need a hand to pull them through the darkness, but it also gives us a sense of worth – knowing that we truly made a difference in someone else’s life.

So, if you only have an hour here and there, and you just can’t make a long term commitment, try one of these links to volunteer for any amount of time you can spare.  You choose.  Do you want to work with children, older folks, animals, plants???  Do you have just one evening, a full day, or longer???  No matter what you decide, the rewards are endless

Volunteer Match: 

One Brick:

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In This Crazy Hurry Up World

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Inspirational quotes have helped me through some extremely difficult times.  When I lost everything I owned a few years ago, and was humbled and horrified at the turn my life had taken, I had to find a way to ease the pain, if only for a little while.  So I began to tape quotes all over my home.  I put them on my refrigerator, my bathroom mirror, even on the steering wheel of my car.  Every day I could read the motivational quotes to help me through the mess my life was in.

Very few, however, ever touched me like the one below:

And every day, the world will drag you by the hand, yelling, “This is important! And this is important! And this is important! You need to worry about this! And this! And this!” And each day, it’s up to you to yank your hand back, put it on your heart and say, “No. This is what’s important.”
~ Iain Thomas

What a powerful reminder!  Now my life has been rebuilt, I am surrounded with love and happiness.  Actually, it’s the same love that was always there but I had lost sight of it.  A love of friends and family and a supportive husband who wouldn’t give up on me.   

So as I go from my computer to my phone to my tablet each and every day, trying to keep up with all the emails and texts and everything else that is thrown my way, this quote is a strong reminder to just STOP!  A reminder to look up from that screen, look around, and smile at the people sitting beside me.  A reminder to take time for the important things that truly touch my heart.

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I Still Remember the Roses – And My Father’s Love

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It was over fifty years ago, yet I can remember it as clearly as if it was yesterday.

My father had a green thumb, and although we grew up in the city of Chicago with a VERY tiny back yard, he would have flowers blooming everywhere.  I can still see the bright yellow marigolds, the deep red geraniums, and the dark purple rooster cones.

But the most amazing flowers of all were the roses.  Two beautiful rose bushes that crept up the stone brick garage wall.  Every year, when the first rose bloomed, my Dad would gently cut it, put it in a glass and place it on the kitchen table.  In his beautiful handwriting, he would prop up a note saying: For My Princess.   He would do the same thing – same glass and same message – when the last rose of the garden bloomed.

When he died, I placed two roses on the pillow where he laid his head.  And to this day, I still leave a rose on his grave every time I visit him.

And now, in five days, it is Father’s Day.  I never realized what an impact he had on me when he was alive, and I never had the chance to thank him for all he sacrificed for me.   I only hope that I was able to bring a deep joy to his life, and that somehow he knew how deeply I loved him.

It’s amazing how we can impact another person’s life.  My Dad passed away in 1990 and I still remember how much he loved me and how safe he made me feel.  I was certainly one of the lucky ones to have such a loving, kind and amazing father.  Happy Father’s Day, Dad.

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Being an Extrovert in a Work at Home World

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Most of us have heard about the book titled Quiet made famous by Susan Cain.  She talks about the trials and tribulations of introverts in a “World that Can’t Stop Talking.”

Well, I’d like to bring attention to the flip side; to all the extroverts out there and the challenges we face in today’s “work at home” culture.

Just about every day someone comments on how lucky I am to work at home.  They envy me and wish they could do the same.  It sounds so inviting to set your own schedule, take a break whenever you want, and even work in your pajamas all day if you choose.

But the reality is – for me – it’s torturous!!!  It’s terribly lonely!

You see, I’m an extrovert in every sense of the word.  I thrive on companionship, interaction with other people and conversation.  To be alone all day with no one to speak to is definitely not a good match for me.  It’s taken me a few years to figure it out, and slowly but surely I’m learning  to deal with this “work at home” lifestyle.

If you should find yourself in the same situation, here are three tips that have helped me survive:

First: Plan your day the evening before.  Know exactly when your energy needs a pick-me-up and head out the door for some interaction with people.  I head to the nearest library or coffee shop.  Even if I don’t know anybody there, the new atmosphere and the buzz of the people surrounding me keeps me energized and on task.

Second: Identify your favorite escape places.  It could be a park, café, coffee house, or anyplace you can go whenever the boredom begins to set in.  When I need a quiet place to write my blog or a speech, I know which libraries have quiet rooms and/or lovely views.  When I need more commotion around me, I often try one of the new coffee houses in town.  I actually keep a list in my car so I can pick and choose which location is best for me that day.

Third: Stop making excuses.  For years, whenever I told anyone that I don’t like working at home, they would look at me like I had three heads.  I immediately went into defense mode – often thinking that something must be wrong with me.  There’s nothing wrong with me!  I just happen to be an extrovert who loves being around people.

So what are your thoughts on working at home?  I’d love to hear how you survive the loneliness.

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Making Your Performance Look Easy is Hard

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It happens to all of us.  We get scared to death whenever we have to speak in front of a group of people, whether it’s leading a team meeting, teaching a class or giving a toast at your best friend’s wedding.  How do we get to the point of “never let them see you sweat.”   How do you look relaxed, connected and in the moment when your mind is searching for the nearest exit. 

Well, if you should ever find yourself in this situation, here are three tips that just may help:

  1. Do exercises before your presentation – simple ones that take your mind off the task at hand.  I’ve seen people do jumping jacks, running in place, or dancing.  For me, deep breathing really helps.  Don’t underestimate this one.  I simply breathe in through my nose and fill my belly with air.  It’s important that the air goes to your belly and not your lungs – for some reason this really helps.  Then slowly exhale through your mouth.  I do this as many times as I need to before I take the stage.  Some days it can be as few as five breaths; other days I’ve lost count.  It truly calms me.
  2. Practice your presentation, whether it’s in front of a live audience or behind your computer screen for a webinar or Facebook Live.  Always be prepared and practice, practice, practice.  And when you feel that you have practiced enough…Practice again.  This will help you internalize your information.  Do NOT memorize – it’s only when you internalize and feel your message that you can handle any distraction that comes your way.  Internalizing your material will also help to calm those nerves.
  3. Do not look at email, texts, or your phone before your presentation.  I know this sounds hard, but I’ve learned from experience to focus on your topic and ignore all other distractions.  When I performed at the Second City Training Center in Chicago a couple of years ago, I innocently checked my email before I entered the building.  I had received an annoying email and it took some time to get it out of my head so I could concentrate on my performance 

So the next time you’re called on to deliver an important message, try the three simple steps above and I guarantee you will be able to concentrate on your message and not your nerves.  They work every time.


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Powerful Words for All Ages

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Have you ever heard of this – The Blessing of the Hands?

It was one of the readings at a wedding I attended this past weekend.  The words are so powerful that the woman reading it had to stop as she began to cry.   I was also frantically searching for a Kleenex as my own tears began to stream down my cheeks.  The last line especially tugged at my heart.  Just in case you haven’t heard it before, I’d love to share it with you.  It’s a powerful message and one that will make an impact no matter what stage of life you find yourself.

Blessing of the Hands (Author Unknown)

These are the hands of your best friend, young and strong and full of love for you, that are holding yours on your wedding day, as you promise to love each other today, tomorrow, and forever.

These are the hands that will work alongside yours, as together you build your future.

These are the hands that will passionately love you and cherish you through the years, and with the slightest touch, will comfort you like no other.

These are the hands that will hold you when fear or grief fills your mind.

These are the hands that will countless times wipe the tears from your eyes; tears of sorrow, and tears of joy.

These are the hands that will tenderly hold your children.

These are the hands that will help you to hold your family as one 

These are the hands that will give you strength when you need it.

And lastly, these are the hands that even when wrinkled and aged, will still be reaching for yours, still giving you the same unspoken tenderness with just a touch.

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