May You Always Find Reasons to Believe

At seven years old, I sat on Santa Claus’ lap and I believed in him and all he stood for.  So many years later, I still believe.

I believe we can…

Wonder at everyday life

Delight in our own uniqueness

Stop and listen to the music in our heart

Celebrate our strengths

Be kind to ourselves

Find time for joy

As I write this list, I can’t help but think of the movie The Polar Express and the theme of believing.  As Santa Claus takes the bell and hands it to the little boy, he says: “This bell is a wonderful symbol of the spirit of Christmas – as am I.  Just remember, the true spirit of Christmas lies in your heart.”

It doesn’t matter what holiday you celebrate, or what faith you practice, the power of believing keeps us all strong and hopeful and alive.  During this holiday season, I raise a toast to you and all that you can accomplish if you choose to believe.

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How To Tame a Negative Nellie

Thanksgiving is the day after tomorrow and everywhere I look, I see articles on gratitude.  Now don’t get me wrong – I’m a HUGE fan of gratitude.  Keeping a gratitude list actually helped me turn my life around several years ago when everything was crumbling around me.  In fact, I wrote a series of five blogs on the topic of gratitude and being thankful.  If you’d like to read them, start here then scroll through the next four:  They’re pretty insightful.

But today I thought of a little twist.  What about all those people who aren’t moved by gratitude – don’t know what it really means, how to use it or even care about it.  Do you know anyone like that?  Maybe someone who complains a lot, or isn’t aware of the amazing things that surround them.  Do you sometimes have to share the day, whether it’s a holiday or not, with a Negative Nellie? 

How do you handle that?  How do you keep from getting sucked into their bad mood?

Here’s an idea – give them a compliment!  Yes, you heard me right.  In the middle of all their complaining, moaning and groaning, tell them you like their shoes, or you like the color of their shirt, or the cake they brought is absolutely delicious.  Derail them!  Make them stop in their tracks and figure out how to absorb something good in their life.

I’ve tried this a few times and it works!  Maybe not all the time, but when it does, it’s amusing to see the look on their face.  It’s a good feeling to know you’ve turned their attitude around, even if it’s only for a moment or two.  You’ve made them stop and take notice.  Besides, it keeps you from reaching for the aspirin. 

Try it – what have you got to lose?  Watch the impact you can have on someone else.  Then you can go back to having a lovely day of your own. 

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Here’s a Toast to You

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Today is Valentine’s Day.

Some may love it – and some may hate it.  But it is here to stay.  It will return again next year and the year after that.  It’s very persistent!!!

This year I’d like to think of it a little differently and see it as a day to celebrate love. ALL love.

Over many years I have celebrated Valentine’s Day in so many different ways.  Sometimes I’ve enjoyed it with a boyfriend, sometimes with a spouse, sometimes with my parents and sometimes with my friends, but I never once took the time to celebrate with myself.  That’s right – myself!!!

I didn’t always see the good in myself.  There were times when I was scared and disappointed and felt crummy about my life.  Loving myself did not come naturally.  But now I realize that life is a circle.  There were times when my heart was singing, other times when it was broken, sometimes even shattered, but it always found a way repair itself.  This cycle will be repeated again, and now I know that my heart will survive.

No matter what was happening in my life, I always found a way to get out of bed in the morning and put one foot in front of the other.  As hard as it was some days, I did not give up on myself.  And for that I celebrate!

So today join me in raising a glass of wine to celebrate love – past, present and yet to come.   Here’s to believing in yourself and always finding your way.  Here’s to loving yourself unconditionally.

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One of the Greatest Lessons I Ever Learned!

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Who would have guessed that I learned my eighth lesson from a 90 year old woman!

As I was trying to rebuild my life and figure out who the “new me” was, my good friend, Asha, suggested that I volunteer.  I couldn’t comprehend that I had anything of value to offer anyone.  I was so distraught and beaten down that I felt worthless.  Who could I possibly help?  Who would want me?

Then, as fate would have it, I heard about an elderly woman who needed company – someone to read to her, talk to her, or play a game with her.  And I thought: Well, I can do that.  No matter how badly I felt, I can still find the time to visit someone.  So I signed up.

And into my life entered Geri Franklin.  A 90 year old, six foot tall, 80 pound ball of energy.  My life would never be the same.

She had adopted a stray cat that she named Lambchops and they were inseparable.  Every time I came to visit her, she would greet me with open arms, give me a great big hug, and call me her angel.  I loved spending time with her, and it wasn’t long before I didn’t feel so worthless anymore.

One evening, as we were sitting in her living room, Geri reached into her purse and pulled out a dollar bill.  It was new and crisp and fresh.  She looked at me mischievously and said: “Do you want it?”


But as I reached for it, she crumpled it up in her hands.  When she straightened it out, she asked:

“Now that I’ve crumpled it, do you still want it?”

My answer was the same: “Sure!”

But now she threw the dollar bill on the floor and smashed it in the ground.

“What about now.  Do you still want it once it’s been smashed in the ground and dug in the dirt?”

When I answered: “Sure!”  she asked: “Why?”


And that, my friends, is the greatest lesson I can share with you:

There will be days when life throws you a curve, and you will feel like you’ve been crumpled up and dug in the dirt.  But remember – no matter what happens, no matter what comes your way, you never, NEVER lose your worth!

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That’s All Folks!

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I didn’t expect it.

But there I was, standing in line at the Starbucks in the Washington DC airport. And I begin to cry. People around me must think I’m crazy. But it’s a minor breakdown – and it will pass soon.

The Toastmasters International Speech Contest is all over now. Out of 30,000 speakers competing, I’ve advanced to the final 98. Yes, I’m left standing with 1% of the greatest speakers in the world. We all started this journey over six long months ago. There was so much hard work, so many rewrites of my speech, and so many people who gave their time to me. But that’s all behind me now. And I don’t have a physical trophy to show for this last round of the contest.

Yes, I already know all the encouraging words that people will say:

You are a winner for getting this far
You did a great job and we are all proud of you
You are a better speaker and a better person because of this experience

My head knows all that. But my heart feels tired and rejected. You see, it was more than just a contest to me. It was exposing myself to the world, stepping out of my comfort zone and risking failure. It was accepting help from so many people and wanting to make them proud. It was taking a chance to see if I was “good enough.”

At first I try to hold back the tears and rationalize what has happened – and why it happened.

Then I decide to just let it be. You know what? I’m sad and I’m disappointed and I’m discouraged. And I decide to feel all those emotions and any others that may surface. I decide to embrace them and just let them happen. With time they will pass and I will rise, once again, stronger than ever.

Over 20 years ago, I saw a banner that said:

Feelings are neither right nor wrong, they just are.

20 years ago!!! And I still remember that saying today. So I decide to put it into practice. I will wrap my arms around all those crappy emotions, let the tears fall, and just plain feel. And I will be ok.

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What is Your Fight Song?

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It’s finally here!

Today I leave to compete in the International Speech Contest in Washington DC. It’s been six months of preparing, practicing and sometimes panicking to craft the perfect speech and deliver it all in seven minutes. If I go just one second over, I am disqualified. And that would be the greatest loss of all – to beat myself.

So I practice and practice and practice some more. And when I feel like I can’t do this speech one more time, I practice it again. My goal is to be the best I can be. I’m not even thinking about my competitors because it’s not about them, and it’s not about me – it’s about my audience. This is my chance to make them laugh, to inspire them, and to make a difference.

I will share the stage with some of the greatest speakers in the world. And when I do feel that self-doubt creep in, I take a deep breath and tell myself this is where I am meant to be. All the stuff, good and bad, that has happened in my life has brought me to this moment. My goal is to stay “present,” to have fun, and to enjoy this new experience.

It’s not easy. I am stretched beyond my comfort zone. But I once heard that every time you do something new, it becomes easier and easier with time. The task has remained the same, but YOU have become stronger.

This is my chance to become stronger. It’s my time to pay back all the people who have supported me, helped me and loved me. I am here because of them.

And as Rachel Platten says in her song:
This is my fight song
Take back my life song
Prove I’m alright song
My power’s turned on
Starting right now I’ll be strong
I’ll play my fight song
And I don’t really care if nobody else believes
‘Cause I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me

To be continued……

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This Sign Says it All

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Has there been a time in your life when you felt like jumping in with both feet, not even thinking about the outcome?

What stopped you? Fear of failure? Fear of not being perfect?

It’s like this sign says: Should I stay or should I go?

No one really knows the answer – not even you. Sometimes we just need to take the plunge and see what happens next. We need to take that leap of faith. Faith in ourselves and knowing that we will be ok no matter what comes next.

I got paralyzed by fear several years ago when I lost my home. I didn’t know where I was going to live or what would happen next. But it was during that challenging time that I discovered the most important thing of all – it’s not where I lived, but who was in my life. It was during all that craziness that my family, friends, and sometimes even strangers, gathered around me to say:

“You’re going to be ok.”

Through that experience, I learned that the only thing we can really do is enjoy the ride. It’s during these crazy times that we begin to prioritize and figure out what is really important to us.

So back to:

Should I stay or should I go?

You won’t really know the answer until you try it. So do something – anything. Pick one. Then be brave and bold and give it your all. Don’t let fear of failure hold you back. Not ever! Scream to the world: “Here I am, ready or not, and I will enjoy every minute of this crazy experience we call life.”

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A Sincere Thanks

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I am so overwhelmed by the outpouring of support I’ve received from my family, friends and strangers.

I started my journey to compete in the International Speech Contest last February. Yes, that’s over five months ago. Since that time, I have delivered my speech to over 25 different Toastmaster clubs for their feedback. With each group, my speech got better and my message got stronger.

People I don’t even know gave me their time, their good wishes, and in some cases, even gifts. One lovely lady gave me a four leaf clover pin to wear for good luck during the competition. Another friend actually made me a card with my name and World Champion of Public Speaking right under it. Absolutely amazing!

Since my Toastmasters club is a three hour drive – ONE WAY – from my home, I have to figure out where I’m going to stay for the night. And in most cases, I stay several evenings to make the best use of my time.

That means my husband spends a lot of time alone, my brother graciously opens his home to me each and every time, and my friends adopt me for an evening so I can enjoy some much needed “time off”.

Why do I tell you all this? For one reason only…

This whole experience has changed me in a way that I never saw coming. I started this journey to win a contest – that’s all. In the process, I have met some amazing people who have warmed my heart. I’ve gotten closer to the people I love, and have made friends out of strangers. People I never really knew before rose up to help me.

In the process, I have become a better friend – even to those who don’t really know me. I have stopped saying: “sorry, I’m just too busy now” and replaced that with “how can I make your life easier”. It’s made my life lighter. That’s right. I actually feel like I can breathe easier, and smile from my heart.

So I guess there’s no real “lesson” for you in this blog post. Just a huge thank you for your support, for reading my blog, and for being a part of my life.

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Iron Pours and Ideas – What Could They Possibly Have in Common?

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Iron pours and pit-fired pottery. I had absolutely no idea what this meant, but there it was, right in front of me. The magazine ad said I could experience this at the Midwest Fire Fest.

I’m in! I LOVE new adventures, so this was right up my alley.

My husband and I jumped in our car and headed to Cambridge, Wisconsin. Never heard of this town? I’m not surprised since it only has a population of 1,457. But there they were – hosting this Fire Fest that totally intrigued me. Not even the steamy temperature or the threatening storms could keep us away.

Standing outside, we watched men and women dressed in fire protective gear throwing chunks of iron into this huge caldron, sparks flying everywhere. When the iron was so hot that it melted, they actually used large ladles to pour the hot iron into small sand molds previously designed by people attending the festival.

Do you see a similarity here?

Think about your ideas and your dreams. They start out in huge chunks, just like the iron. They are unshaped and in raw form. As you begin to move forward, fitting the pieces of your idea together, sparks begin to fly. You get excited, ecstatic and emotional as those pieces begin to mold into one form, one shape, one final idea. Wearing the proper “fire protective gear” is essential so you can tune out all the naysayers and keep moving forward, no matter how many people may tell you “it’s just not possible”.

As I move forward in life, creating and molding my own ideas and my own dreams, I was moved by the words of Flavia Weedn: “If one dream should fall and break into a thousand pieces, never be afraid to pick one of those pieces up and begin again”.

When your idea, your dream, is finally realized, those around you will be amazed by your tenacity. Many times, you even amaze yourself; seeing your sparks fly everywhere.

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Yell “Yippee” to the World

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Waking up one morning, I walked onto my front porch to water the plants. There, buried beneath the leaves, I found a bird’s nest with six small eggs.

Some of you may already know this story because it was the topic of my last two blog posts. I can’t help but be amazed by this experience.

It was a riot watching the babies as they developed; mouths opened wide every time I talked to them. I saw them get bigger and stronger each day, until one day they were gone.

Now the nest is empty. Not a sign that anything ever happened there.

And I started thinking…

This is the same cycle we go through every time we have a dream or set a goal.

First there is the egg, or the beginning of an idea. It’s the birth or realization that there is something you’d like to accomplish.

Next come the babies, and like your dream, they are hungry to move forward. You have to feed that dream every single day.

Last, with dedication and vision, your goal is accomplished; your dream is realized. That empty nest is a reminder that you set out to do something specific, you conquered it, and you succeeded.

It’s time to celebrate. It’s time to bask in your glory. Call a friend who will be happy for you, sip some champagne, and yell “Yippee” to the world. Pat yourself on the back. You deserve it.

Too many times we jump into our next project. We think: Well, now that I’ve accomplished that goal, what’s next on my list. What else is expected of me?

Well, I’m here to remind you to celebrate your success along the way. Take time to enjoy what you have accomplished. Take a deep breath, look back, and see how far you’ve come. You will amaze yourself!

Please share your successes. I’d love to hear about them.

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