Proud Momma Moment

She Really Does Absorb the Wisdom I Impart

Child #1 prepared the night before school by making lists, but what was most impressive was note she left for herself: Make it a great day.The first day back to school after winter break was a proud momma moment for me. Child #1, a high school freshman, prepared the night before by making lists of things to remember to bring, what to pack for lunch, and what things she needed to do after school (which included laundry!). This was impressive to me. It showed great organization and foresight. But what impressed me even more was the fact that she also wrote herself a positive affirmation: Make it a great day.

Our Family Mantra

This happens to be the mantra I say to all family members as they leave for work or school each morning. I’ve been saying that to them for years, and have even had a child come back into the house after leaving if I’ve forgotten to say it: “Mom! Aren’t you going to tell me to make it a great day?!”

You may notice I say make it a great day and not have a great day. Many years ago I saw an interview on a morning news show where someone pointed out the psychological difference between telling someone to make it a great day and have a great day.

It’s about control.

Have a great day implies that you are at the mercy of what the day brings: bad weather, traffic, spilled coffee, or flat tire can lead you to a rather rotten day. But to make it a great day implies that you have control on how you view the day. So even if all those bad things happen, you can choose to still find some good in the day; perhaps the cafe had your favorite muffin or you found $10 in your coat pocket or you simply are thankful that the day is over and tomorrow is another day. I can’t control the weather, but I can control how I react to it.

After my daughter left for school, I glanced over her lists again. Below the “Make it a great day!” she had written: “Hope you had a great day today.” It certainly was for me.

Strength and Willpower Not Always Enough

Disconnect from History

I always thought it takes great strength and willpower to survive whatever atrocities life throws our way, and then I met Nesse, a Holocaust survivor.I accompanied my 13-year old daughter and a group of her friends to the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC as part of their 8th grade field trip. Although they’d been studying World War II in history and literature classes, there was a disconnect for them. It went beyond imagining “olden days” before technology. It was taking them to a place that was beyond their imaginations; a place so horrific that it seemed as real to them as a B-horror movie. These are girls who have never been touched by tragedy. They were only infants when 911 happened, and even then were isolated by being tucked away in a rural farming community.

I know the history of WWII and the Holocaust and the plight of the European Jews. I read Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl when I was in grade school and was profoundly effected. More recently I’ve read The Book Thief and Once We Were Brothers. I’ve seen the movies, each with a unique perspective on the war: Schindler’s List, The Pianist, and The Boy In The Striped Pajamas to name a few. And the words and pictures, as horrific and unsettling yet moving and inspiring of hope all paled when I got to meet Nesse Godin, Holocaust Survivor.

There aren’t many survivors left. Nesse is 87 and was a young girl when Hitler’s forces invaded her native Lithuania. She works as a volunteer at the museum and was on hand to tell her story. At age 13 (the same age as our group of 8th grade girls), she and her family were rounded up and sent to one of the Jewish Ghettos. She survived there and was then sent to a concentration camp. She survived there only to be herded into a Death March of women, a last ditch effort of the Germans to kill as many more Jews as possible before the Soviets liberated the camp. Nine hundred women and girls died on that march; only 200 survived.

Strength and Willpower?

It is hard to imagine the strength required to survive the Ghetto – with barely any food and poor living conditions. It is harder to imagine the determination required to survive the concentration camp, where not only food, but clothing and heat were scarce. It is hardest to imagine that after four years of starving and freezing the amount of perseverance required to survive a march that you know has the sole purpose of killing you. But Nesse survived.

Nesse Godin, Holocaust Survivor
Nesse Godin, Holocaust Survivor

“How?” I asked, tears welling in my eyes. “You must have had so much will to live.”

“No,” Nesse said. “I wanted to die. Many times I wanted to die. But Jewish women kept me alive. ‘Why do you cry little girl?’ they would ask. ‘I am hungry,’ I would say. They placed tiny crumbs from their own meager rations in my mouth. ‘Why do you shiver so?’ they would ask. ‘I am cold,’ I would say. They showed me how to wrap myself in straw. Who knew you could gather warmth from straw? They would tell me, ‘God doesn’t want you to die. He wants you to live. You must promise that you will share your story so these terrible things never happen again.’ So here I am.”

Her story left me in awe. I always imagine that it takes great strength and willpower to survive whatever atrocities life throws our way (and none in my life even come close to what Nesse went through). But she gave me a different perspective: perhaps it is not strength we should seek, not determination we must muster, but rather surrounding ourselves with loving support and selfless kindness that can carry us through life’s storms; that the giving souls, who had nothing to give, still gave and cared for a soul more lost than their own.

I hugged Nesse. Blessed that I had heard her story. Thankful that I could share it with others. As I hugged her I told her I was so glad she had survived. She chuckled and smiled, “Me too, my dear, me too.”

[Note: Book and movie links are Amazon affiliate links. I receive a small percentage of the sale should you make a purchase on Amazon using one of the links. This does not effect the price you pay. Thank you for supporting me!]

Hope is a thing with feathers

Emily Dickinson’s famous poem, “‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers,” is often quoted. Usually just the first verse is referenced, but there are two other verses. Here is the poem in its entirety:

Hope warms our souls on the coldest of days. We have only to take a moment and listen for its song to reassure ourselves that there is hope.“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –

And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –

I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.

I thought it quite telling in the last verse that the poet points out that Hope never asks for anything from us, but is content to sit by us through the storms of life, singing its sweet song constantly. Hope warms our souls on the coldest of days. It is always there, and we have only to take a moment and listen for its song to reassure ourselves that there is hope.

Although I don’t make my future dependent upon hope, I do hold hope quite dear. I have hopes for my children to be productive and contributing members of society. I have hopes that humanity can find the good in every situation. I have hopes that the future of the world is bright and beautiful. I can’t control any of these things myself, but I can make my small contribution.

I can teach my children that it is important to be responsible, caring citizens in their community. I can find the good in a situation and help others see it and find good for themselves. I can do my part to provide a brightness and beauty to the world; for me, that’s through writing and art. Emily Dickinson certainly did her part, in reminding us that hope is always there.

No Hope for Me

It’s Not That I Don’t Have Hope

I believe in hope insofar as its meaning that what is wanted can be had. I have hopes and dreams, & I’ve been putting those hopes and dreams into action.I really thought it would be easier to write about hope than it proved to be. I wondered why that was. I consider myself to be a hopeful person, yet there was no hope for me.

I believe in hope insofar as its meaning that what is wanted can be had. I have hopes and dreams, but in the last year or so, as I’ve explored what those were specifically and more concretely, I’ve been putting those hopes and dreams into action.

I used to be more of a daydreamer. Lots of thinking about “what if…” and “if I had this, then….” type of mind ramblings. Now I frame my future with “what can I do now to make that happen?” Hope, in the sense of maybe one day it will come true, no longer has appeal. That’s the kind of hope that makes me feel powerless; that I don’t have control over the outcome. I’m no longer that person.

Taking Action

Now I take the bull by the horns and charge forward with a plan. Well, maybe not charge – most days I tiptoe cautiously forward, but definitely with a plan. So for my own personal goals and dreams, I know that I control the journey to get there. I still have hopes and dreams and goals, but I’m not waiting around for them to appear in my path. I’m actively taking steps to see them to fruition. Sometimes I stumble and make mistakes, but that is all part of the beautiful journey.

The Kindness Bracelet

Tracking Kindness with the Kindness Bracelet

It's easy to dwell on the negative, but when a friend gave me a Kindness Bracelet I started tracking acts of kindness daily and every thing changed.Last year for Christmas, a friend of mine gave me a Kindness Bracelet. It was a lovely thing with 12 beads and a charm strung on cording and a little card that explained how the bracelet worked:

When you are kind or kindness comes your way, slide a bead toward the Kindness Charm. As you slide your beads back each evening reflect on the kindness you experienced that day.

I was intrigued and starting wearing the bracelet almost every day. People would ask me about it and I’d get to relay the story of how it works. Of course, I moved my beads as I took notice of acts of kindness I witnessed or took part in. I was so moved by the effect this had on my day that I purchased several to give as gifts.

A few months ago I attended a women’s business luncheon and guess who was in attendance? The woman behind the Kindness Bracelet, the original: Grace Foxwell Murdock. I knew she lived in the area, but I hadn’t expected to ever run into her. Several women in attendance rushed up to her afterwards to share how the bracelet has affected them or a loved one.

The philosophy behind the bracelet is that by acknowledging small acts of kindness, we create a brighter, more positive space around us. The idea for the bracelet was born out of a very dark time: after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Sandy Hook, Connecticut. The outpouring of love and support for the families and community of Sandy Hook came from all over the world, and Ms. Murdock wanted to help people focus on that hope and love and kindness rather than dwell on the tragedy.

You can read more about the Kindness Bracelet and even order one from their etsy shop. But don’t wait to receive a bracelet to perform small acts of kindness, start that today!

Update: I found this great video on YouTube of Grace making Kindness Bracelets. Enjoy!

[Links are not affiliate links. This is just a product and story I think are really great]

Are you being kind to yourself?

Not with Rewards

Are you kind to yourself? Stop saying negative things to yourself and start affirming the positive. You ARE awesome. Start saying it!Oh sure, you reward yourself with a piece of cake or a new piece of jewelry once in a while. But those are rewards, and while it is nice and kind to do something “extra” for yourself, the real question is: are you kind to yourself every day?

Kind Self-Talk

“I’m so stupid.” Do you say that to yourself? Know this: it’s not true. Perhaps you poured OJ into your coffee instead of milk. That doesn’t make you stupid, it just means you weren’t paying attention at the moment. In most cases, when you tell yourself you’re stupid, you are reacting to a situation in which you’re not performing at your best. You may have done something stupid (and I’d prefer to say you did something not so smart), but that doesn’t make you stupid. So stop saying it. I hear people, particularly women, say this aloud about themselves all the time. Take notice if you’re doing it, and stop.

There are other phrases of unkind words we say to ourselves: I’m fat, I’m not good enough, I’m ugly, I’m a bad mother/wife/partner/sister/friend. Stop it. You have the power to change your reaction to whatever situation is causing you to say those things. And you can start making that change by changing how you talk to yourself.

Instead of saying “I’m fat” try:
– I am in control of my health.
– I am choosing to be healthy.
– I am awesome.

Instead of saying “I’m not good enough” try:
– I am a winner.
– I am successful.
– I love myself for who I am.

Instead of saying “I’m ugly” try:
– I am my own unique self.
– I am comfortable with who I am.
– I am special.
– I am beautiful.

Instead of “I’m a bad (insert relationship here)” try:
– I am patient and kind.
– I am a source of love and inspiration.
– I am loving and passionate.
– I am love, loved, and loving.

These alternatives are all positive affirmations, short positive statements that are true (or you want to be true). Repeating them aloud or writing them down every day instills the affirmation into your subconscious and it will change the way you think about yourself. For those who doubt this and think it’s some New Age hype, let me just remind you that all those negative things you’ve been saying have gotten you where? This is basic human psychology. So make a concentrated effort to write down three positive affirmations and say them aloud every morning for a week. See if you feel a difference. I know you will.

If you’d like more information on positive affirmations, including over 300 more affirmations covering everything from finance to creativity, then check out my book, Positive Affirmations.

Kindness Matters

I think that people are inherently kind. I also think that even though people are essentially kind they find it easy to squelch that impulse. And so sometimes we have to make ourselves be kind. Not that we want to be mean or hurtful, but we have to make an effort to be kind, or perhaps I should say, kinder.

Kindness matters. Even the smallest act of kindness has the potential to make a big impact on a person. So make an effort this week (and always) to incorporate one or more of these five small acts of kindness into your daily routine:

  1. Smile. Smile when you’re talking on the phone. Smile at strangers. Smile at your family and co-workers. Smiling releases endorphins (natural painkiller) and serotonin (natural antidepressant) in your brain. When someone sees you smile, their brain releases serotonin too. If they smile back at you – double whammy for you, because you get yet more serotonin! That feels really good.
  2. Tell those you love that you love them. Every day. Has it been a while? Feeling a bit awkward about it? Start small. “I love the way you are always looking out for your brother” or “I love that you take the time to ___.” If saying the word love is hard, use appreciate: “I appreciate you.” Work up to saying “I love you.” Once you get there, say it every day.
  3. Pay compliments. Make them sincere. If you don’t have something nice to say, try harder to think of something. Still stuck? Try completing this sentence: “I really appreciate the effort you are making to ___.”
  4. Stop complaining. Stop complaining about others; stop complaining to others. If you find yourself caught up in a hate-fest, then take the initiative to say, “Stop. I’m trying to be more kind. Can we change the subject or find something that we are grateful for about this person/situation?”
  5. Say “please” and “thank you.” You know you were taught this as a child, but are you still doing it? Get back in the habit if that’s a habit that you’ve let slip.

These simple things can make you and those around you happier. Start today. Start right now, actively practicing kindness.


6 Ways to Relieve Stress

Stressed to the Point of Implosion

Does hair-pulling, shoulder-tensing stress have you wadded into a ticking time bomb? Diffuse that stress with these 6 easy tactics to relieve stress.Does hair-pulling, shoulder-tensing stress have you wadded into a ticking time bomb? Diffuse that stress with these 6 easy tactics to relieve stress.

I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that money issues often stress me out. Two-thousand-fourteen had a whopper of those. I closed a retail business at the end of 2013 to start my coaching practice. I had enough in savings to get me through the year while the new business got started. Unfortunately two roofing issues and some major house construction (a result of the roofing issues), ate into that savings quite a bit. To further add to the mix, my husband’s job was no longer as secure as it was six months ago.

6 Techniques to Relieve Stress

Without the techniques that I’m going to share with you, I would be a nervous, tense, sleep-deprived wreck at this point. Such a state would certainly hinder any momentum to move forward, both personally and with the coaching practice. Thankfully I began implementing several of these techniques even before the stress factors kicked in full force.

  1. Breathe. Slow, deep breaths. If you are a regular reader, you know that I preach breathing. I am aware of when a situation is causing my blood pressure to rise or my muscles to tense, and before I react in any way, I breathe. Three slow, deep breaths. Try it right now. It’s very calming.
  2. Drink water. If you’re dehydrated your level of the stress hormone cortisol increases. Aim to keep your base stress level as low as possible, and water will aid you doing that.
  3. Meditate. If you don’t have a regular meditation practice, start out easy: five minutes of quiet deep breathing. Alternatively you can listen to soothing music, practice yoga, or participate in a relaxing aspect of a hobby or sport (gardening, knitting, singing, cooking, drawing, dancing, running, kayaking, swimming, etc.).
  4. Be aware of what you can control and what you can’t. Staying up all night worrying about things I can’t control isn’t going to solve any problems. Believing that I will find a solution to any problems that arise, and getting a good night’s sleep so that I can be clear-headed in the morning is much more beneficial. Not always easy, but certainly a  calm and rested mind can make better decisions than one that is fraught with worry.
  5. Say positive affirmations every day.  This has helped me so much that I wrote a book on the power of positive affirmations and how to use them. Here are a few to help you if you are feeling stressed:
      • I am responsible for the success I achieve.
      • I am confident, competent, and calm.
      • I am capable of any task given to me.
      • I deal with problems immediately.
      • I live in an abundant universe.
      • I invite and allow money in my life.
      • My days are rich with opportunities.
  6. Express gratitude. I wake up and think about three people for whom I am grateful. Before bed I think about three things for which I am grateful. The day before Thanksgiving 2013, I stood in my basement surrounded by 12 large plastic tubs that were gathering the gallons of water pouring in from our roof issue. I stood and cried, not because of the water coming into my house, but because I was still going to be able to spend Thanksgiving with my husband and children. A pastor’s family in our community was not. That same day a man set himself on fire and ran into a local church, setting the church offices on fire. The pastor didn’t make it out of the building in time. So be thankful for what you do have, and make a conscious effort to think about people you are grateful for every day. Go beyond just thinking about the people, actually express the gratitude: write a letter or a short note, give the person a call, or if they’re no longer living, write about them in your journal.

Practicing these techniques has given me a safe and calm anchor point. I can find that anchor at any given moment which helps me keep things in perspective. I’m less likely to overreact and more likely to make rational decisions based on fact and not emotion.

Try to implement one of these techniques today (I’d start with the breathing). Continue practicing that technique daily while adding in a new technique every couple of days. Do you have any techniques you already use to help you cope with stress? Please share in the comments or on our Facebook page.

Awareness of Influence

Who Are You Spending Your Time With?

“You are the average of the five people you spend most of your time with” says Jim Rohn, renowned businessman and motivational speaker. Are you aware of who you are spending most of your time with?

Take a moment to write down the five people with whom you spend the most time interacting on a regular basis. Perhaps it’s co-workers, your spouse/partner, or friends. Now rate how much of a positive influence that person is on your life. Do they help and support the goals you are trying to achieve? Or are they usually sabotaging (even if innocently) your efforts for self-improvement? You can assign each person a numerical rating on a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being most positive influence or makes you feel most uplifted), and take the average.* Are you happy with the result?

Who’s Opinion Influences You?

I would go so far as to say it’s not just the amount of time, but even more so the person’s influence on you. How much do you rely on this person’s opinion and character in making your decisions? You may only spend 20-30 minutes a week conversing with your mother (and in contrast spend much more time each week with co-workers). If your mother is always putting you down or being unsupportive of your goals or questioning your relationships, you may place more value on her opinion than you do a co-worker with whom you share a cubical, and spend 40 hours with every week. Your mother is, after all, your mother. So now go back to your list and revise to include those with whom you may not spend an exorbitant amount of time with, but whom have a strong impact on your decision making process – positive or negative. Add no more than two or three, and it’s possible you aren’t adding any as they may have already been included in your original list. Rate the new people added, but don’t average them in.

Now compare their rating to your average; is the rating higher or lower than your average? If lower, than you will want to lessen the amount of time (further) or lessen the amount of influence that person holds over you. If it is higher, than you will definitely want to spend more time with this person.

You Influence Others As Well

It is important to be aware of what influence your interactions have on others as well. Are you supportive and inspiring with others? Are you contributing to the negativity? Strive to be helpful and positive. Your gestures don’t have to be grand, as many small actions can add up. Improving and growing yourself will in turn help others to improve and grow.

Take time this week to really think about who you spend most of your time with. Are these the people that are going to push you UP or drag you DOWN?

* add the five ratings and divide by 5 to get the average.

Becoming Aware of Who You Are

Your personal growth is greatly enhanced by becoming more aware of who you are as a personPersonal growth is the process of improving oneself through activities that develop talents and potential, which in turn make you more employable, enhance your quality of life, and lead you to realizing your dreams and aspirations. Your personal growth is greatly enhanced by becoming more aware of who you are as a person.

In order to develop your talents, you have to be aware of what they are. Your awareness cannot stop there, you must also realize the best way for YOU to develop that talent and potential. Your method of learning may not be suited to someone else.

There are a multitude of online “tests” that will give you insight into the type of person you are. It is best to use these results not as a definition of who you are, but rather as a way of understanding why you are the WAY you are. I always like to read over the results to see with what I agree and disagree. Lots of insight can be gained just from that! There are links at the end of this article to some of the personality tests you may find insightful. Remember, no one personality type is better than another.

Action is born out of awareness

Actions that you take, particularly positive and forward-moving actions, are a result of your being self-aware. If being around crowds of people makes you anxious, and you are aware of this, then you know what actions you can take to avoid or minimize your interaction with crowded situations. I don’t go shopping at the local mall between Thanksgiving and Christmas because I don’t like crowds or the noise or the rush. This means that in order to get my Christmas shopping done, I have to shop early and/or shop online. Do I miss out on some great deals? Maybe. But I keep my sanity, and for me, that is worth more.

As you start to think about your goals for the coming year (you are starting to think about them, right?!), you will better be able to set up actionable steps if you are aware of what works and doesn’t work for you. If you have consistently failed to reach goals in the past, it may not be the goals themselves that are the issue, but rather the actions you are taking to try to achieve them.

How self-aware are you?

The definition of awareness is “knowledge or perception of a situation or fact.” Self-awareness is not just about being aware of what you are doing; you need to be aware of what you are eating, who you are associating with, and how you react to stress and other emotional triggers. Being fully aware is minimizing the amount of time you spend functioning on autopilot.

I’ll be spending this week posting about awareness, particularly self-awareness in the aspects of eating, personal associations, and stress triggers. The discussion is ongoing over on our Facebook page and on Twitter. Please join us and share! Sign up for our mailing list to receive links to all the Awareness Posts.

Links to online personality type “tests”:


Big Five (I found this one quite insightful, even though I didn’t agree 100% with my results)

Ayurveda (more about body type, but insightful to personality traits are well)