Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Best Gifts to Give this Season!

I just came off the road of a 10 city TV tour where I thrilled news audiences everywhere with the hottest trendy gifts of the season! Wherever I went, I became known as the “chocolate lady” because I surprised people in airports and in airplanes with truffles from Lindt Chocolate. To see the faces of people light up is a wonderful gift and it was so fun, I continued it throughout my journey.

The clock is ticking down to the Christmas but my ideas will get anyone over the hump of what to buy that special person or what to buy the person who you want to do something for, but just don’t have the right gift idea! My suggestions are simple, time effective and will be loved upon receipt.

We’ve all done it, and it’s perfectly acceptable and actually a wonderful gift idea. Gift Cards! They could be thought of as impersonal so what I suggest is that you go for Gift Cards that are widely usable. Two that I find that bring a whole experience to the table are Starbucks and Blockbuster.

I like the Starbucks card because it comes in a cute felt card carrying case that looks cute hanging on the tree or in a stocking. The festive cards come in blue or red and have a great feature that makes it the gift that keeps on giving. You can go on line often and use the automatic reload system, and fill up the card monthly or whenever the balance falls below a certain level. Today I was in Starbucks and the manager seemed baffled because there was an article in the Orlando Sentinel because people are memorizing the number on the back of the gift card and apparently calling it in and using it to reissue a card by saying they lost it. What they didn’t know, is that on www.starbucks.com, you can register the card with your name and information and if the card is stolen, Starbucks will freeze the account until another card is reissued. Just to be on the safe side, pick a card from behind the pack, and register it immediately upon returning home.

The Blockbuster card is like giving the gift of Entertainment! I like to put a gift card together with a movie theme, like “Chick Flick Night” or “Scary Night” , and put the gift card in a basket with popcorn, the movie, some candy and a drink and away you go! The idea is that you’re giving a whole night of fun. The Blockbuster cards come with different themes, from holiday themes to the recent movie releases like Happy Feet, Cars or Ice Age. They come in dominations of $15 and $20 for the new release gift cards and the holiday cards can be loaded up to $500. It can be a whole year of entertaining fun!

For families or for people far away, I love giving food and wine for gifts. The reason is that there is no color restrictions, one size fits all, and they’re not going to even think of returning them! For starters, my favorite this year I purchased on line at www.omahasteak.com . When I tell you that you can’t believe the enormous ice chest that is delivered right to the recipients door step chock full of Filet mignon, Steak Burgers, Sirloin Tips, Stuffed sole, baked potatoes and even 2 chocolate cakes, I mean, you can’t believe it! It even comes with a cutlery set and a cutting board, just for kicks. But the clincher is that the whole gift probably delivers several meals to a family of 3-4 and is only $60. It truly is a deal that can’t be beat and if you haven’t had the pleasure of trying an Omaha Steak, you’re missing out. I may be a bit partial, because, after all, I was born in Omaha! But I promise, you won’t be disappointed!

Did you know that it’s been estimated that 50% of American families will be serving wine at the holiday dinner this year? That’s right! We’re finally catching up and actually surpassing the French in our wine consumption! And, you don’t have to be super sophisticated to enjoy a good wine. Napa Valley is truly respected internationally and you can visit a store to read up on a few of the decent labels if you don’t have time to peruse Wine Enthusiast Magazine. You can always ask the clerk at the liquor store as well. I selected a few Cabernets for the trip this year, and my favorites were Sterling Vineyard and a BV Wine. The Sterling I loved is an elegant and refined cabernet, and it was just voted by Wine 7 Spirits Magazine as the top Cabernet by the glass in their restaurant poll. I’ve seen it sold anywhere from $21 to $25. The other Cabernet is from a winery that is an original California Cult Classic, Beaulieu Vineyard Georges De Latour Private Reserve 2003. I had the wine at dinner one night with friends and was hooked. The bottle is sold anywhere from $79-$95 and would be a great addition to anyone’s collection or a nice bottle to share for the holidays with friends and family. Lastly, I brought along a Chardonnay for the white wine drinkers and the Edna Valley Paragon is a nice wine at $12 that anyone would love.

If you plan on sending corporate gifts or goodies this year to anyone, just make sure that you’re purchasing something that is high quality. That way, you don’t have to go overboard, but you’re sure that whatever arrives, will come in a fine style. I have had great luck with Lindt Chocolate. I had a lady debate me in the airport whether it was better than Sees Chocolate but she didn’t seem to turn down the truffle I offered and I must say she enjoyed it immensely. The truth of the matter is, is that there are many fine companies that produce great chocolate but there is something about having a SWISS chocolate be delivered. I went this year for the assorted green box Collection, the truffles, of course, and a gift basket for $150. I have to say that I’ve gained a few pounds on the road this year by having to continue to test the truffles. They come in several flavors and I kept getting confused about which flavor was in which package, so I kept trying them and trying them and trying them. You get the picture, I just wanted to keep eating them. On one of the planes flying to the west coast, the people in the second class cabin where I was got a huge whiff of the smell of warm chocolate cookies which were being baked and delivered for the first class cabin. Low and behold, I took out my truffles and made the people in the surrounding rows around me just as happy!

Last but not least, if you’re planning on decorating cookies this year I have a few tips. You can get a cookie press to save time and mess and I found that Wilton has a great one that is easy to use and fun for kids. Wilton is the company that has all of the flavored tubes of icing and sprinkles, which of course are fun for decorating. The other thing to do, is that you can go to the bakery and buy sugar cookies that are already cut out, to save more time. The fun is in the decorating after all!

This year, I hope that you find these ideas are easy and fun and well received. If you get stuck, if it’s a woman, you can always buy accessories and I have my favorites there as well! But I’ll save that for next time, and in the mean time, happy shopping!!! And if you’re smart, you’ll do it on line before Dec. 20, which is the last day that UPS/FED EX will guarantee that your shipment will arrive to its destination!!

Happy Holidays!!!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Life Changing Movie. Warning! Will Create Miracles!

Okay guys, you know I’ve been into motivation for a long time. But it’s been years since I’ve seen a product that has literally swept a nation like the one that I’m about to tell you about has. Many of you at this point have seen this movie or you happened to see several of the people in the movie on Larry King last week.

I first heard of the movie, The Secret in one of my coaching classes at Coach U a few months ago. Someone mentioned that you could see it on line or order it so I visited the website and thought it looked interesting. I didn’t purchase it at that time but was hoping that I could find someone who had the movie and borrow it from then. Less than a month later, a friend of mine mentioned the movie and I jumped at the opportunity to see it.

I watched the movie over and over and what began to happen in my life was mind boggling. I’ve always known about the concept of the Law of Attraction, but I didn’t always put it into work. The concept is that you first must know what you want, then visualize it, and then take the jump or leap of faith and start feeling like you have it and live in a place of complete gratitude for what you have attracted. That’s the hardest part, but the movie describes how our thoughts are sent into the universe with vibrations and that we’re like a magnet, so we get back what we put out there, for good or for bad.

I started thinking about my TV show that I’ve wanted to host and produce for so long. Within a matter of 1-2 days I received an email from a former executive at a very large production studio in Orlando, requesting that I be linked into his contact base through the internet networking tool. I checked out his other contacts and they were very prominent people in the world of TV. I wrote to this guy and asked if he was SURE he wanted to be linked to me because I was now doing speaking and coaching and wanted to do TV but didn’t have a show right now. He wrote back and suggested we get together for coffee. That meeting has now launched my TV pitch which we’re doing together in January.

Days later, I received an email from my former boss who would be in town although he probably didn’t have time to get together. I suggested a time and low and behold, the time worked out. Within a week, I was now sitting down with one of the top celebrity agents in our country. My show happens to be a celebrity driven show.

Out of the blue, a few days ago, I received a call from a friend who I used to work with at QVC. He and his wife now live in Florida and work with HSN and were looking for TV hosts, contacts, etc. I happen to be traveling to Tampa in a week on my TV tour and promised to call so we can get together.

So many coincidences! I didn’t have to reach out to these people at all. They contacted me. That is the highly unusual part of the whole thing. It was created by my intense belief that this is what I’m supposed to be doing and I’m excited about it and I know that I’m supposed to live my dream.

At this point, there is a convention happening in DC for cable companies and I’m feeling like I should be there with my production team. I’m now considering fund raising, to share my vision for my show and allow them to help me produce this show. It’s a show that will help millions of people and I know that I’m the one to host this show.

Other things are happening, but these are the ones that are happening the fastest. Life is getting more and more exciting, and I’ve now told tons and tons of people about the movie called THE SECRET.
The movie is available at http://www.thesecret.tv/ for $29 and it’s worth every penny. I’ve watched it several times and I’ve ordered one for me now and have bought it for a few people for Christmas. I believe our whole world would change if people would watch and apply the secrets learned in The Secret.

Please email me if you order the film and let me know what sorts of miracles start turning up in your life. I’m excited to know that each of us has a mission and a purpose that drives our dreams and that we are here to serve the world in that capacity. Mine is to do a TV show that will help people get connected to God, to build their self esteem and to help others in the process. But that’s just one of the ways that I’ll do my purpose of helping people. My true role here, as with any of us, is to love and to serve. I just happen to love the venue of Television.

May God bless you on your search and when you watch The Secret, you’ll see what I mean. I can’t wait for your miracles to happen and for your dreams to be brought forth to reality. It is an exciting time. A truly rewarding and exciting time.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

The Importance of Self Care

Big week. Very big week. I had some larger than life meetings with some people who can actually help me make my ultimate career dreams come true. It’s exciting and can be overwhelming, but I’ve realized the importance of one thing.

I need to step back and take care of myself when I’m busy. It’s the best thing I could ever do for myself.

Take a client of mine who recently had a launch of her new product. There were the parties and the fund raisers. There were the meetings and the press events. There was excitement, and the fulfillment of a dream that she had been working on for many years. After the big event, she was sick for a month. Colds, flu, congestion, aching, you name it, she had it. And as soon as she got well, she jumped on a plane and did a tour promoting her product. She ran and ran and ran herself into the ground and it’ll be no surprise to anyone to hear, she got sick once again.

Another client I work with dealt with another stressful event which ultimately caused her illness. This lady is a manager and had to cover during work for a few employees who were out with pregnancy and a surgery. My client is completely capable and able to do the jobs of her co workers well, but the stress got to her. She ended up caving and fell ill at the end of her ramped up time. She ended up missing several days of work in a row as a result, which ultimately did not help the department. As a matter of fact, it COST the department. It slowed down the work because of the several sick days.

What these two clients had in common was that they put their work before themselves. They put the goals of their company before their own, and sacrificed over and over until they made the sacrifice of their health. They ended up having to take off a lot of time from work after the fact and their work probably suffered while they were there because both of them worked while they were sick.

Putting ourselves first often sounds selfish. It sounds like we’re self important or too good to work too hard. Nothing can be further from the truth. If we value the company or our work, we’ll value ourselves first. If we take care of ourselves, we’ll be strong for our company. If we take care of ourselves, we won’t get sick after the busy time, or stressful times.

Taking care of ourselves means different things to different people. To me, it means getting in exercise several days a week and eat healthy foods. It means getting lots of down time, to be alone and to read and write. To me, it means getting to spend time laughing and playing with my son and reading to him or drawing with him. To me, it means connecting with my husband and getting to hear about his daily events that take place. It also means, connecting with my family and my friends via phone or in person. Lastly, it means that I have prayer time, and complete quiet time where I can just listen.

I find when I do these things, and take great care of myself, and have a lot of time just alone or being with my close circle of friends and family, I feel more productive. I’m more creative, and I’m happier. I feel more centered, and more balanced. I lose the anxiety, and the stress. I can also handle more stress because I feel stronger.

It’s taken me years to find the formula that works for me. I know immediately when I’m out of balance. I start losing things and my clothes pile up in my closet. My desk gets overly cluttered and my house looks messy. I start getting a bit pudgy and my clothes feel tight. My nails and my hair start to look worn and I don’t feel the inner spark that I love to share with others.

So like today, in the midst of my excitement, I took the morning off to spend with my dog. She needed me. She had a cough. So I took her for a walk. I read my bible and I wrote in my journal. I spoke with my mom a few times and emailed and called a dear old friend. I spent time out on my porch just reading and soaking in the sun shine. Later, even after work, I felt good. I handled some “parental stress” that is a part of a working mom’s day such as dinner, bath time and assisting getting a splinter of a screaming child's hand. I handled it all with grace and ease. I felt fine that even though there was a bit of chaos around me, it didn’t affect me. I was in the flow and it felt right.

When we finally get this lesson about taking good care of ourselves, we’ve usually already done it wrong for a good many years. I sure did. I used to live on adrenaline and was a complete junky. As a result, I never felt really good. I was overweight and out of shape. And, I’d prefer to not go back there.

So to challenge yourself, just review for yourself what YOU need to do to feel good about yourself. Do you need exercise? Do you need a special meal? Do you need to bask in the sunlight or get a massage? Whatever it is, make it happen. Trade massages with someone else if you have to, but figure it out.

Your body will thank you. Your mind will thank you. And ultimately your life will thank you, and reward you, just for taking care of yourself.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

When Someone Misjudges You or Treats you Rude

Okay, I know that first impressions are important, but I also know that I’ve grown enough in my self esteem to let my hair down every once in a while and let my own inner confidence say that I’m okay with myself. Usually, the fact that I’m able to speak up and talk with anyone is an asset, and people tend to respect me and are friendly back. Today, I wasn’t so lucky and I got to feel what it feels like to be ignored, and to be treated rude. And I was incredibly fascinated by my response.

Today after a slow 3 mile run with my running team, I ran into a gal that I swam with back in high school. This particular gal and I were on the same team but she was a few years older so we weren’t really friends. I don’t even remember what she was like at all in high school really, I just remember her always being cute, trim and fit.

I have seen her once since moving back to my home town and I only waved to her from my car when I stopped and said hello for a quick minute. Today, we had about 5 minutes together and from what I could see, she could barely stand it.

Let me just set the scene. Today I woke up with a massive head ache but decided to run anyway. I didn’t feel like putting on any make up because I felt horrible and it was asking a lot of myself just to get out there and even attempt a run today. Usually, I do put on a bit of make up, and try to look decent, but today was a bit different. I just didn’t care. I’ve also been off for over a week with a muscle injury, so I knew I’d have to go slow today. Still, I did the 3 miles, and finished up happy.

This gal was with two other ladies. They were all decked out in their cute running attire and looked like models on the run way. I quickly admired their “look” and wandered over to say hello to my former swim team mate. I think she took one look at my non botox head and my colorless lips and was horrified to acknowledge in front of her beautiful friends that she might actually know this gal without botox! Within minutes, in my usual friendly way, I had pulled her, although reluctantly, into a small talk situation. She politely answered my questions but I could feel her anxiousness of wanting to move along. At one point, I knew that she was trying an intimidation tactic of ignoring me, so I threw a little zinger in there and told her friend, “yes, we swam together in high school, but she was SO much older than me.” I said it playfully and with a smile. Her response? “Ohhhh, WHATEVER”. Hardly the nice response!

So, I then laughed and asked, “so, do you work or are you leading a lovely life of luxury?” Again, I asked with a smile and in a friendly way, knowing now that I was going to force her to either be 100% rude to me, or to snap out of it and be nice. She answered what she did and when I asked if she knew a friend of mine, she answered, “there are a lot of us here”, and trying to get her friend to help her out of this awful conversation!

At that point, her friend picked up on something I had said and started talking to me about her husband and his swimming and how he got burned out. She and I had a nice exchange, which told me, I probably didn’t have mascara smeared all over my face and that it probably wasn’t anything about my “look” that was disgusting.

That was the break that we needed and then the conversation was over. I left feeling sorry for this gal, who had no idea what I had blossomed into as an adult and I assumed she was still judging me on who I was to her in high school. I didn’t even mention that I do TV or speak or anything of that nature, because that would look like I was trying to win her approval, when really, all I was attempting to do was to be polite for the 2-5 minutes of our conversation.
I have no idea how she judges others, whether she was having a horrible day, or if she’s just not a nice person who has no tolerance for people outside of her circle. It’s possible that because I’m a part of a life she’d rather forget, that she may ignore and treat all of the former swimmers with distain. It’s possible that because I wasn’t my usual cute self and she assumed that I was the type of gal who didn’t take good care of myself, that she didn’t’ feel the need to be nice. I suppose I’ll never know.

But what I do know, is that are small, very short interactions with other people are important. Because if we’re having an off day, and we treat another person rudely, the other person is going to notice. And they’re probably going to fell bad and question what happened? I did. I’m at the point in my life that now I can take that situation and learn from it and share the experience with others. While I did wonder what it was about me that repulsed her, I also know that it doesn’t matter. It could be my “look”, my clothes, my outgoing personality, my lack of botox, my reputation, or her annoyance of me from high school, and it really doesn’t matter. I know that there are some people that we will like, and others, we don’t. I am not taking it personally. But if I am to live with the Golden Rule as my motto of “Do unto others as you would have done unto you,” I’d have to say I’d probably want the person to realize that I was having a bad day, and that I didn’t mean it and it was about me, and not them.

Also by knowing your purpose, it’s easier to blow it off or to forgive someone for an indescretion. I now know my purpose, and my purpose is to bring joy and to bring encouragement to people every day. That doesn’t mean only the people that I love, but just whatever people who I come in contact with every day. Even the ones who don’t like me. And the Bible also teaches to “Love your enemies as yourself”. So now I have to ask myself, how could I have brought my “enemy” joy or encouragement? Can I say a prayer on her behalf? Could she really be living a joyful life herself if she’s treating others rudely? What could I have done or said to help her understand, that life is short and we’re supposed to live life fully and abundantly and that people come in and out of our lives to teach us something? What could I have done or said to make her life better? These will be questions that I will have to contemplate, and practice and hopefully, one day, when I’m treated rudely again, I won’t pass automatic judgments but I will ignore it, and love them anyway.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

A Defining Moment in My life

Watching Oprah on rerun tonight was a great reminder that all of us have defining moments in our lives. Oprah highlighted Glamour Magazines’ contest of Reel Moments, by Real Women and showed the Hollywood actors and famous women who directed their first films. She showed clips of many of the short films about the contest winners life changing moments.

Of course we all remember major events such as when we met our spouse or when we had our babies, but what about the moments that were ours and ours alone? What about the moments that challenged the very core and the every existence of our being?
I recently had such a moment.

I have lived much of my adult life running from event to event, from moment to moment. I prided myself as being one of the fastest walkers in NY when I lived there, which meant that I was beating all of the other Type A’s when racing to the next meeting. I’ve lived with constant anxiety and stress and lived the life of cramming as much in a day as I could, often at the expense of my family. I was an email junkie and got that adrenaline rush like a junkie who needs a hit when emails arrived. I suppose in my mind, I thought that the emails from friends were little messages that told me that I was important or that someone cared. That addiction took me away from the people who really cared, mainly, my family. Thank God, I had a miraculous intervention!

I believe that there are some people in life that you’re supposed to meet at a certain time. My only regret about meeting Inevette was that I didn’t meet her sooner. But God’s timing is perfect and He must have known that I was supposed to hear the message that His messenger was to bring me.

A few weeks ago, Inevette and I made an appointment to walk on a Friday morning. On that particular Friday morning, I had the weight of the world resting on my shoulders. Every decision I had to make was earth shattering, and I didn’t feel I had the strength to deal with all of the issues that were facing me. On our walk, I tried not to trouble Inevette with my worry and my frustration, but in our natural course of talking, the real story tumbled out. I shared with her what was going on in my life and my husband’s life, and with my son. I shared everything with her because I knew somehow, she’d understand and perhaps offer a word of encouragement. What I got instead was a suggestion that we go walk in the local cemetery.

As we turned into the gate, she spread her arms out and told me to take a look around. I stopped and took in the sights of the thousands of plots with flowers covering the gravesites. What she said, shook me to my core. She said, “Mary? All of this running you’re doing? Well, here is what you’re running to. We all are. This is where you’re going to end up. Sooner or later, you’re going to end up here.

At that moment, it was like I got the wind sucked right out of me. I started to say something but no words would come. I just looked at the plots and realized, she was right. And who knew when my day, or anyone’s day for that matter, would come. One day, I’ll probably be buried right here in the Glen Haven Cemetery. What a shocker THAT was!

She continued to challenge me. Are all of these things I’m obsessing about really important? Is it really going to matter in the long run if I make a wrong decision or not? No! What really matters is how I live my life, and if I’m living with all of this stress, the only side effect is that I’ll be hittin’ that ol’ gravesite a heck of a lot earlier than I’d have to otherwise.

As we continued to walk and talk, I felt the stress release from my body. I made a decision to relax and enjoy the ride a bit more. I knew that the real me wasn’t supposed to be so stressed. I’m a gal who enjoys laughing and having fun. I’m the girl who can make a party out of waiting in line at the grocery store or dry cleaners with a bunch of complete strangers, and I had let a lot of that girl go and had replaced her with a stressed out, anxiety ridden, wound up working mother toting around all of the weight of the world.

How I’ve changed since then? I’m choosing to have faith instead of being flustered. I’m calmly walking through life and have chosen to and AM laughing more. Today I took the whole day and played with my 6 year old son, and found that he has the most amazingly delightful and hysterically funny personality. Today, we played store together, went bike riding, and swimming, and just enjoyed spending time with each other. Of course, I deeply regret, the many years he’s experienced of me as a stressed out mama. But, I’m now hoping I can make up for lost time and I’m dedicated to spending more quality time with him, to be a better helpmate to my husband. We’ll still honor the work we do, and do the best we can, with the best attitude we can. And, we’ll have fun in the process!

Walking through the cemetery changed my mind, my focus and my attitude. I woke up and realized.. I WANT TO LIVE!!! I’m here on earth to live abundantly, and to live my life fully. And now, I want to share that message of living life fully and completely, with the world.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Hitting the First Milestone of a Goal: How Good it Feels!

A few weeks ago I sheepishly walked by a bunch of talkative, happy people who all had great legs, cute running shorts and shoes, and who genuinely seemed to care about one another. I longingly looked at the group and remembered how fun it was to be a part of a group like that. I was a Masters Swimmer up until last year when I lived in Charlotte, NC; and while I loved the camaraderie more than the practices, I continued to show up and eventually got in shape.

This group was different! They were runners! This was the type of group that has always intimidated me. But still, I wanted to belong and I knew I wanted to run.

That day, I happened to ask one of the trainers at the YMCA who that group was, and rather than just tell me, he WALKED me out to find the Founder of the group. Within seconds, I was being invited to join in on the fun. Of course, as with any goal that a person sets, there is a certain amount of fear involved, so of course the next day when I showed up, the intimidation welled up inside of me and I quickly ducked my head as I walked by John, the coach, and sauntered into the Y so I wouldn’t be noticed. As anyone who is crying out for support, I emailed John that day and explained my fear through excuse after excuse. “I’m not good enough, I’m out of shape, You’re all so fast, yada, yada, yada”. John, in his ultimate wisdom and brilliant coaching style, gently coaxed me into just showing up and doing what I could. But, he made me PROMISE to show up, and that was exactly what did it for me. I showed up! Now I was hooked!

The first few weeks have been hard. My body hasn’t worked this hard in a long time. I’m tired, but in a good way. I’ve even sweat so much that I had to ring out my clothes after I ran. I am starting to feel the strength build, and I have the desire to start eating better because I’m starting to notice how my body feels now. It’s strange, but when you aren’t in shape, you just don’t notice your body that much in how it moves and how it feels. When you start to notice it, and start to notice that the muscles are being worked, you start to believe that if you work it harder, it’ll continue to get stronger. So you push just a little more every time.

Over these past few weeks, I’ve had to face the disgusting fact that I let myself get out of shape. I have had to admit it to myself that I’ve succumbed to the horrible American diet which is carb based and that my body is probably not as healthy as it could be. I’ve realized that I’ve been lazy but I also now see that I can get support when I’m weak and when I’m around people who are better than me, who have achieved more than me, there is a certain hope that begins to emerge. After a few of these runs, just getting a “good job today Mary” from my coach keeps me eager to strive for more. When I hear from the other runners “keep going Mary”, I want to do better! It’s been their encouragement that has kept me going, even when I knew I was by far the worst runner in the pack.

This helps me understand how absolutely important that it is for each of us, as parents, to never criticize our kids when they really aren’t living up to our standards. We have to share with them that they can keep going, they can do it, they’re strong, and they’re going to be great. I understand now, because it’s the faith of others in us that literally carries us when we have absolutely no belief in ourselves.

My goal is to run a ½ a marathon. My coach believes I can do more. I’ve seen his faith and encouragement carry me to new heights already because today I ran a longer distance than I’ve ever run in my life…. even without walking!!! I ran with two amazing women, Juliette and Susan, (AKA, Grinner and Fluffy), who ran a slow but steady pace, but we ran just over 5 miles, which had been my previous record. We ran 5.3 miles today.

So today, I’m feeling great. I’m moving towards a goal that has always intrigued me, but terrified me. I knew in my heart that I wanted it, but that I didn’t have the mental toughness to do it. What I didn’t realize, is that I can borrow the faith and toughness from my new friends, and just count on my legs to do what my friends tell me they can do.

Today, I’m moving towards a personal goal and it feels great. I’m starting to have a tiny bit of faith on my own now, that I can continue to grow stronger and will be able to achieve my goal. I know that many hills, muscle aches and sweaty days are ahead, but if today is any indication, so are many inspiring conversations, goals being achieved and the incredible richness of having good friends.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

How a Young Death Can Transform a Life

Two young men, at opposite ends of the country, gone. Both were complete champions in life, the type that everyone loved to be around, they were the type that were successful at everything they did, and were champions in their sports and in their hobbies. Both of their deaths, shook the very core of the communities in which they lived, and now the parents, and their friends are left trying to piece their lives back together.

These two young men have transformed my life. I’ve learned more from their deaths about how we are supposed to live, than any other event that has occurred to me in a long time.

One of them, Nathan Timmes, was a 20 year old Eagle Scout, and the nephew of a high school friend, was a motorcycle racer, mountain climber, pilot, sky diver, white water rafting exciting young man who was studying aviation in college. He died earlier this year in a car accident. This young man lived his life completely fully. He did everything by giving 100%. He loved his friends, his hobbies and his family with complete intensity. At the funeral, they displayed dozens of pictures of him on top of mountains, jumping out of planes, on motorcycles, with his friends, always experiencing out door adventure, above everything, he lived without fear, and always, loving life. To remind me of how I should live every day, I’ve kept his picture from the funeral on my bulletin board. This young boys’ life, which I found out by because of his death, transformed me.

The other boy, Dan Lunger, the son of a high school friend, was a state champion swimmer who had just made junior nationals. He was also an eagle scout, and the type of person that loved life as much as anyone could. His dad, Howard told me on the phone from Colorado yesterday, that his son had experienced true love, the gift of friendship, the gift of being a champion and that he wasn’t afraid to give his dad a hug in front of his buddies. At the funeral, dozens of kids who knew this boy Dan, went up to his parents and told them story after story of how friendly Dan always was and how he always took time to say Hi and to care about everyone, even if they weren’t in his circle of friends. He attracted the “Jocks to the Goths”, and everyone, everywhere, was touched by his zest for life. This 16 year old boy, who I never met, has affected my life in ways I never knew he could.

Yesterday, I spent 45 minutes on the phone with my friend Howard, and as he told me the stories of his son Dan, and how an undetected heart ailment stole his young life within minutes. While on the phone and hearing the tragic story, I got a glimpse of his extraordinary life in Colorado. Howard told me how many, many lives were touched by just a friendly “hello” every day, or by the easy attitude he had about his grades, or even about his sport that he loved, swimming. Dan didn’t get weighed down by the normal stresses of life, and he attempted to bring a friendly conversation or a little comfort to whoever he met, whether it be in class, or at a swim meet with his biggest competitor.

I don’t know if the parents of these boys will ever understand how God could allow their incredible young lives to end so suddenly. It’s got to be the most painful thing in the world to see your child die. But both families, somehow, were given amazing grace, to stand up and speak with each person who told them of how their son personally effected their lives.

My friend Howard told me that no one will ever get a true glimpse of a person’s life, until they die. People that he’d never met came to the funeral to share their stories of Dan and his life and what he meant to others. Over and over, Howard and his wife were just stunned of the impact that their 16 year old had on others. He lived the way we’re supposed to live.

When I think about my life, of how I’ve worried about the smallest things, or have obsessed over my career, or about the car I drive or the clothes I wear, I realize that I’m wasting my precious energy. I believe that God has us here on earth, to love others. Period. That’s our job. We are to do that through our work, and by being a good neighbor, by being a devoted wife, mother, friend, spouse, sister, brother, or whatever the different roles that we play. It’s the people that are important. It’s the people’s lives that we touch that are important. We are supposed to live life fully, by going out and experiencing it and not being fearful of it. We’re supposed to support one another, to we are supposed to tell others that we care for them. We are supposed to love our neighbors as our selves, and we are supposed to love and serve God above all else. To me, that means to serve Him by serving others. It means that my attitude at all times, is the most important thing going on at the moment. If I encounter a stressful moment, the most important thing is the attitude of peace and comfort that should accompany that stressful moment.

None of us are promised another day. A car accident or an undetected heart problem or something else could take us from the earth on this very day. And what would the streams of people say at our funerals? Would they say that we were well loved and always seemed to bring comfort or a kind word to others, or would they say simply to the survivors, “I’m sorry for your loss?”

How are we affecting the people we meet each day? Are we meeting others with a smile and a kind word, or with a stressful glance as we hurry on by. Are we taking the time to share with people or are we too busy to care? Are we saying “I love you” to our friends and families when we walk away or hang up the phone? Or are we consumed with how much extra weight we’re carrying around or what outfit to wear to an upcoming reunion?

I’ve been guilty of having the wrong attitude and have focused on the wrong things. But I see these two young mens’ lives, and now deeply understand the truth about my own life. We all have a purpose. We’re here to love, and to serve. Through our serving others, we glorify God, and by sharing ourselves deeply with others we give each other comfort. God uses us to help others, and we in turn are inspired by others. We’re all connected. That’s the way it’s supposed to be.

Today, these two young men, continue to live on in our hearts and minds. Their lives gave love to many when they lived, and in their death, they give hope. I pray that their families know that their lives served a great purpose, even in their deaths.

Their untimely deaths, inspired many to develop a new life. Their deaths encourage us to live a life without fear, and lives filled with adventure, fun, happy times, acceptance, calmness, friendship and love. It all seems so familiar now. It’s happened before, and perhaps this was a current day reminder. Two thousand years ago, God the Father, gave his Son to die for our sins, so that we might have a new life and that we might have it abundantly. Even today, he shows us how to live our lives. It all makes sense to me now.

As we are reminded of their lives and deaths, we can chose to live our lives fully, and we, can be free.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The Feeling of Terror: The Start of a New Goal

I admit it. It terrifies me. I’ve committed to a new goal.

This shouldn’t be so difficult. After all, I’ve visualized this for years and years. I saw this person in my mind that could do this particular activity well and was in tip top shape to do it. Yet, the other day, when I showed up to do this particular thing, I chickened out, and was intimidated by those around me who made this thing look so easy, and they had no nerves about them at all. They were laughing and joking like it was the most natural thing in the world, and I stared at the group, and then slowly slipped by them into oblivion. I admit it, I didn’t have the guts.

But now? I’ve faced my fears. I told the coach that I really wanted to do it but was nervous about whether I could really do it and he has convinced me that I can; and now? I’ve done it. I’ve actually done it.

I’ve joined a running club!

I know, I know, I can hear you now! What’s the big deal? Grab a pair of running shoes, hydrate your body and go for a run. I know, I do it all the time too. But what I have just committed to was regular coaching, time trials, regular workouts, and a team of other runners who will keep me going even when I want to quit. And if I know myself, I know that might be more often than most.

I have always prided myself on being an athlete. I was always one of the fastest kids in elementary school and had trophies to prove it! I was a competitive swimmer and made it to state meet in high school and placed in the top 12 of my stroke. I was on a nationally ranked medley relay team and actually swam in the lane next to Tracy Caukins, the amazing All- American swimmer in the 80s. (I said in the LANE next to her, not NEXT to her!)

Even now, I feel athletic. I go to the YMCA and do my workouts several times a week. I was a member of a masters swim team for a few years and diligently showed up at 5:30am practice 3-4 days a week. And I go for runs in my neighborhood to break a sweat.

Why is this different? Well, have you ever looked at something with those wishful eyes, knowing in your heart that it could be you, it should be you, yet there is something holding you back? Have you ever seen someone accomplish the exact goal that you set out to do, but something happened that didn’t allow you to complete your goal? Did you feel the jealousy? Did you feel the pain? Did you feel the envy? Or how about the anger at yourself for not doing it! Then, come the excuses and then, nothing. For me, it’s always been a lame attempt to achieve a goal that I thought just wasn’t meant to be. I did a few small races, and trained for some triathlons, but never ran in a race where I was really competing. I didn’t feel like I could do it well, so I didn’t even try.

Years ago, I remember standing in NYC on the first New Years Eve that we lived there, watching all of the runners dressed up in crazy costumes, ready to do the midnight 5K run. They had groups of people from all over the city, office workers who banded together to support one another on this wacky and fun night, all running together. I stood by many times watching the NYC Marathon runners, and the ones that brought tears to my eyes were the ones that finished 12, 15 and 20 hours later. They were the ones who were walking with prosthetics, or were blind, or walking to prove that they could still compete in the existence we know as life. I watched with utter respect, amazement and awe, and always wanted it to be me.

I stood on the sidelines, wishing.

And now? I’ve committed to give it my best shot. I’ve committed to show up and run with this committed group of runners a few times a week, even if I’m the last one to finish. My coach is an avid runner with such enthusiasm for the sport and for other people, that he makes it even sound fun! He won’t stand for an attitude of anything but positive, so I’m now recharging my thoughts with positive messages that I’ll call upon when I’m in pain and want to quit.

Today, I’m facing the terror. Tomorrow I face the stop watch.

And one day, I’ll be writing the day before my first race. By then, I’ll have hopefully put in many miles on my shoes, and I’ll be facing my nerves from a different place. My body will be ready to meet the miles with strength and endurance. My goal of a ½ a marathon may turn into something more.

But now, its one day at a time. I’m facing the fear and doing it anyway.

This time, it feels good.


Tuesday, September 12, 2006


Yesterday was the 5th year anniversary of 9/11. As a former New Yorker who was in NY on that awful day, I can look back with the sadness that has filled every one of our hearts, but also with great awe of some things that happened that day. The day was also filled with thousands upon thousands of stories of miracles and people who knew that they were saved from disaster.

Remembering back to the day, I was watching Katie and Matt on TV when the whole thing happened. The first thing I did was to call my husband who was in midtown working for Morgan Stanley. I told him to turn on the TV and when they did, they all knew within minutes that thousands of other workers from their company were in the towers and watched in horror knowing that some of them could have perished. My own husband had an offer to work in the towers for Morgan Stanley in a different department. Somehow, he ended up in the mid town offices instead. That decision may have saved his life.

I regularly was a trainer for a Wall Street firm who held our trainings at Windows of the World. I wasn’t working that day, however, I had a friend, Monica, who was supposed to be at a writers conference that morning at Windows of the World. She decided not to attend the conference that day. That simple decision probably saved her life because most of the people who were at the conference perished.

Days after the towers collapsed, nearly everyone I spoke with had a similar story. I spoke with one man, Bill Throurlby, the original Marlboro man, who said a guy came up to him and said, “Mr. Throurlby, you saved my life! I remember hearing your words that morning in my head from an earlier speech you gave, that ‘successful people are busy people’ so I left the Towers and went to a meeting about 10 minutes before the disaster. Had I stayed, I could have died.”

Another friend was frantically looking for his roommate that day but he decided to be late to work that day and never even made it in. That decision probably saved his life.

There were literally thousands of these stories from people who were supposed to be there that day, and for some reason, they didn’t go to work, or were going in late. The numbers of death could have reached 20,000, yet somehow, only 2700+ died. It is 2700 too many of course, and we’ll never forget the terror of watching the towers come down. We’ll never forget hearing the voices of the scared workers who were trapped in a burning building and we’ll never forget the firefighters who gave their lives saving others.

I’ll never forget the thousands of flyers posted at Grand Central Station, trying to find the men and women that were missing, or the millions of flowers that were placed at the fire station around the corner from our apartment. I’ll never forget how thousands of helpless people ran to stand in line at the Red Cross to donate blood, hoping to help someone, somehow, during this meaningless tragedy.

That day will forever be scarred in my memory. Upon seeing my friends appear at the apartment grounds and the scared look in their eyes and the dust on their clothes, I remember feeling gratitude and thanking God that they were alright. I remember feeling loved and prayed for when hundreds of emails flooded my mailbox from friends all over just checking on me to make sure I was alright.

Since that time, a good friend who volunteered day and night to pass out food to the workers has now developed cancer. She’s one of many that probably has lingering physical effects of that day, whereas most of us endure the emotional scars.

As I reflect back to that day, I pray for all of the victims’ families who are left wondering why their loved ones didn’t make it back safe. I pray that God will bring them comfort and that one day, they’ll feel that there was a bigger purpose at stake, but we must never forget to pray for their comfort.

9/11 brought sorrow, tears and pain, but it also brought gratitude, comfort and joy to others who somehow made it out alive. We’ve all changed since then. We’re not so na├»ve, and we’re not so blind to the evil in the world. We’re stronger because we know that we have to fight for what we believe in, and with that belief, comes sacrifice.

9/11, forever in our memory, and in our hearts.

May God Bless America.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

The Employee with a Chip on His Shoulder… Harms the Whole Company!

Every once in a while you come across an individual who has an entitlement attitude. They feel that they’re blessed with unusual ability that far exceeds the rest of God’s creatures and that the people they’re forced to deal with are just mere servants that should be catering to them. If this sounds familiar to you, you’re not alone.

This week I was calling upon a new customer and he had been used to dealing with our president and so speaking with me seemed to be lower than low. He cut me off in the conversation numerous times and kept telling me that I was making assumptions that weren’t correct. He was condescending and arrogant and I kept thinking to myself how his attitude wasn’t going to gain any bonus points with me!

My tactic was to slow down and listen to his opinions with as much intensity and understanding as I could possibly muster up. But even before that, I apologized for stating to him that some of the information that I needed to gather from him was administrative in nature and that anyone could deliver it to me. That’s when the hairs on the back of his neck must have flown up because he came back to me and said, “and you think that I’m an administrative person?” I quickly apologized and said, “no, of course not! I’m just saying that some of the information I need isn’t complicated, and that anyone can get it to me.” It was that statement from which he judged me going forward and from that moment on, he was unbelievably difficult to deal with as a person. He obviously viewed life from a place where he felt judged, so he treated me like I was judging him. I was not, I was merely asking for assistance from him.

Each of us have had momentary encounters with other human beings that are just not that great. We’ve all been in a place where we aren’t in the best situation and our attitude isn’t the best. Perhaps we didn’t take our Noni juice or Stress B Gone juice that morning, and we’re not the most “happy go lucky” individual every moment of the day. Or perhaps we are stressed and just too busy to stop and be personable with every person that we meet. Unfortunately, when we have about 3-10 seconds to create a first impression and the impression isn’t a good one, then we have to make it up by spending about 2 ½ positive hours winning that person back.

This individual who spoke down to me is a customer. That means that he deserves my respect and my courtesy. But that does NOT mean that he can run all over me and pound me into the ground. I’ve given him the first round and was gracious and promised to provide a wonderful service. But at this point, I see what sort of “stellar” human being he is and it’s not that pretty! He’s the type who is unable to just get a job done, regardless of what his title is. He’s caught up with his own impression of himself that he is too important to pitch in and help where the help is needed. This sort of attitude is hurtful for his company. He’s likely to lose a good vendor because of his condescending attitude, and certainly any of the perks that could have come along with having a great rapport. He’s also unlikely to receive any price breaks if there are any, or to receive upgrades that we might give to our valued customers.

People with chips on their shoulder should know that people are watching how you treat your vendors. People watch how you treat service individuals and whether or not you treat others with respect. People are watching you on the job, and they can tell if you’re a hard worker or just getting by with the least amount as possible. If you’re lazy, talking too much on the phone, spending too much time on the internet or emails, or if you won’t jump in when work needs to be done, you’re not going to be respected much, and you’re not going to be well liked by your co-workers even if they act like your friends. Trust me, they’re talking behind your back, and planning your demise. You’ll also lose business, which translates into money, which can translate into freedom. And hopefully, you’ll lose your job and continue to do so until you wake up and learn what makes a good employee.

I want our company to be known for its incredible service. I want to have a product that is second to none and I want our customers to be raving fans. It’s taking hard work, long hours and some personal sacrifice, but I’m excited to be a part of a team who cares enough to make our company great. One day I’ll have enough customers who want to work with us that I won’t HAVE to take everyone that comes along. And that is when I’ll be in the position to tell those customers who don’t quite fit our profile that they’d be better served by someone else.

Until that day, I’ll suck it up, make nice, and focus on the many customers I have who are delightful and respectful and who make me get up in the morning. Those people are great and make my job fun.

And in the meantime, to all of the “Mr. and Ms’ Chips on your Shoulder”… get off your high horse, crop a good attitude and work hard. You’re in the way of many productive and great people who want to do a good job and serve the company. You’re a drag to your employer and to many people around you.

You can make changes by deciding to work hard when no one is watching. You can decide to make each day count and you can decide that you want to serve others to make their lives better. You can decide to think about others instead of just yourself, and you can decide to sacrifice your bad attitude for the benefit of the company at whole. If you do this, you’ll quickly become a valued member of the team, and then we’d welcome you back with open arms.

Please Mr. Chip, you can make the changes. Decide right now that you’re making a change. Each day will get better and better until you realize, that you have changed. And that is when you have become a valued member of your company, your industry, and of our world.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Florida: Before the Storm

Central Florida is preparing for a hurricane. The stores have stocked up on water and the newscasts are updating their weather reports every hour. It’s a nerve wracking time for a newbie so I thought I’d jot down a few observations.

I moved back to Central Florida last year after being away for 20 years. We haven’t had any hurricanes as of yet but it seems that we are facing the possibility of one now.

Preparing for a hurricane is like getting ready for a crazy aunt that is going to visit. You have to get special food, and set your house up just right so she doesn’t inconvenience anyone. You have to get the yard fixed, extra food and do all of the laundry just in case you’re busy entertaining and can’t do any when she comes.

The attitude of our neighbors greatly differs depending upon who you speak with at that moment. When I was in a local news station the other day, there was buzz of the impending storm and with any “news” that might hit at any moment, the whole newsroom is thrown into an unusual amount of chaotic activity. Let me just say, if you aren’t an adrenaline junkie, then you shouldn’t work in a newsroom. They thrive on intense situations and all seem to be cool under pressure. That’s when they’re at their best.

As for me, the new gal in town, when I heard about the storm, I dropped everything and headed to the store. I stopped to ask my neighbor if she needed anything and she nonchalantly mentioned that they had plenty of everything and didn’t need anything. When I’ve talked about hurricane’s before, I’ve heard that our neighborhood gets together for hurricane parties and has a ball. The neighbors across the street own an electrical company so they provide anyone in the neighborhood with power if they have an extension cord that is long enough. It relieves the stress about having no air conditioned during the tropical heat that the fall season brings.

When I got to Walmart, I didn’t feel the electricity that you sometimes feel before some tragedy, or massive event. I did see lots of people possibly getting ready for the storm and lots of them were buying water and paper products and canned goods, but there was plenty of regular shopping going on too. One gentleman casually asked if I was preparing for the hurricane. It didn’t seem to be a surprise to know that I was “new” in town. I guess I had more of that look of, “I’m going to fight this thing come hell or high water.” Generally, most of the others who have probably lived here longer than me, weren’t as worked up about it.

My own mother admitted that she’s praying that no one gets hit this year. She’s painfully aware of what hardships they went through a few years ago during the summer of 2004 when they were hit back to back to back. They went without electricity for over a week and she doesn’t want a repeat of that.

I spoke with my good friend Debbie Benton who left Central Florida recently to go back home to New Orleans after they lost their home last year and she said that they’re all feeling that one hurricane could just send them all over the edge mentally. I’m sure many of them are praying like crazy too. Come to think of it, if all of us pray that we all get a break this year, perhaps that extra focus on keeping us all out of harms’ way will encourage the Good Lord to spare us all this year.

Hurricane season isn’t the most fun but our life here is pretty glam outside of the pending weather. Florida is destined to become the third most populated state in the next 10 years and I certainly see the attraction. It’s got great weather 11 months out of the year, beautiful beaches, a laid back attitude and even decent shopping.

So this week, keep us in your thoughts and prayers. Even though the natives are used to these alerts, I think they’d rather not have the visitor this year. Three crazy aunts that visited a few years ago are about three too many!

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Performers Regret

Tonight I watched a documentary on Jerry Sienfeld by Jerry Sienfeld. It was an inside look at the inner turmoil of a comedian. It documented the struggles of the comedians to write new material, keep it fresh, try it on audiences and then to perform in a one hour + show. It was cool to see Jerry forget his line or his joke and freeze on stage. It was insightful to see the other comedians give him advice or commiserate with him over his feeling that he didn’t quite have it any more. He wasn’t in the flow of the material much of the time and it was such a relief to hear them admit that to one another. He was admitting how long it took to get the gig right, and to make it look easy.

In the TV news field, people rarely have a bad day. They’re always perfect and say everything correctly. They have perfect make up and have memorized their lines and after they’re through, go on to their perfect lives. Okay, I’m just joking! I know it’s not true, but it’s rare to hear a talent admit to anyone that they were off or not exactly “on” that particular day so my own doubts about my performance don’t find a voice.

This week I appeared on one of the local TV stations commenting on the recent story of whether working women make lousy wives. I was excited about the topic because of course I have lots to say about it. I could extemporaneously speak about this topic for an hour and still be excited to express my wealth of wisdom on this topic I know so well. (YES.. sometimes we DO make lousy wives… but not all the time, and most of the time, we’re working hard to please everyone!)

During the newscast, I was squashed in between a plane crash, some local crime buzz, and some other hard news stories. I’m used to getting about 3-4 minutes on a news segment and forgot to ask before I went on the air. So without me knowing what hit me, my segment was over in about a minute thirty, and I was DONE. OFF the air. Finished. Caput. Gone. Adios. You get the picture. The anchor ran back to the news desk, with my jaw hanging down to the ground.

Okay, I’m being a bit over dramatic. I was fine…. for a minute. But after I regained my bearings, I realized that I had just bombed the segment! I was ticked at myself and angry that I didn’t say more brilliant tips on how to survive a current marriage. I was horrified that I didn’t give the advice about making the time people have with their kids’ quality instead of quantity. I was upset I didn’t dazzle the anchor, and have her tell me that she’d love to get together with me to chat sometime, like they often do. Not today. As soon as we closed the segment she was gone in a flash, and I left thinking that I bombed.

A bit paranoid you say? Perhaps I am, but at this point, I’ve done enough TV segments to know when I hit a home run and know when I’m average and know when I stink. I didn’t stink today, but I just floated above average today. My hair and makeup checked out fine (according to my mother who loves me no matter what I do and who called 19 of her friends and told them to watch), and the segment did manage to look like we were having a friendly chat, but I didn’t pull off the goal of the segment, which was to offer solid tips for the viewers. The anchor who was the consummate professional, was lively on the air and acted like I offered some great wisdom.

Needless to say, this inner turmoil that I now feel will feed me to better prepare and practice for my next time on the air. I’ll get the call inviting me to be on the air. Then I’ll write an article on the topic that they request, probably a few hours before show time. Rush to get dressed, but this time, show up with my 3 main points drilled into my head, ready to spew out of my mouth regardless of what she asks me. I probably won’t have much time to prepare, just like today, so I’ll know if I get the 3 points out, I was successful.

Jerry Sienfeld gave me confidence today. He gave me the confidence to admit when it’s not in the flow and when it doesn’t quite work. He gave me the strength to keep working hard until the segments are all hit out of the park. He also gave me the motivation that even if a performer regrets the segment they just did, there is always another show tomorrow and the day after. The key is to never give up, always keep trying, and go easy on yourself when you feel you bombed. Even the best performers have off days.

So I learned? No more regrets! Thanks Jerry!

Tell People You Love Them

Have you ever met a person who knows exactly what to say at the right time? He or she is the type that always makes you feel good, respected and loved. It’s the rare individual who has learned that this simple quality is one of the most important ones to develop good relationships with others.

Today at church my husband was speaking to a guy we know and like from Boy scouts. This guy has a few kids and is one of those easy going and funny individuals that always makes you feel good to be around. The first thing he said to me was that he loved my new hair cut and that I looked “beautiful”.

And then he told me that he was just telling my husband how lucky our community was to have him around and that he really loved us.

Imagine how we felt? Oh my gosh, we were just in awe that this guy who we really enjoy but don’t know all that well, took the time to make us feel good ourselves, needed and loved. And of course since this is the type of guy who always strives to make everyone feel good, he’s a very popular guy and people want to be around him.

So why don’t we all do that to one another? Certainly there are people that we see in our every day lives that we admire and respect. There are individuals who have that sunny outlook on life and are always upbeat and fun to be around. Are we telling them? Could we do better at that? What could it hurt after all? And if we have the opportunity to make someone feel good, should do it?

I learned a valuable lesson today. It’s that each one of us want to feel connected and important for who we are, not just for what we do or what we look like or for the money we make. We want our lives to count and to matter, to others and to the community at whole.

I was given a gift today by a valued member of our community and now it’s my responsibility to pass that gift along to someone else. Perhaps at the store today I’ll tell the cashier that she’s doing a good job. Or I’ll wave to a neighbor or compliment them on their nice yard. Or, I’ll tell a child that he is talented at the scooter or the hula hoop!

We can all have immediate impact on those around us. We can make or break their days, just based on whether we are looking for the good in others, or just looking at the obvious and complaining about that. We have a choice. That choice can and does effect others in a positive or negative way.

So when we start our day, ask yourself, “How can I make others feel good about who they are today?” If we keep that message in the forefront of our thoughts, good relationships will be developed with others. In return, people will always want to have you around.

If you tell them you love them.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Do Working Women Make Lousy Wives?

The recent controversy that was recently posted on Forbes.com between Michael Nor, the editor and his associate Elizabeth Corcoran about whether or not working women make lousy wives is the same controversy that working women versus stay at home mom’s have been fighting over for the past 30 years. People dramatically defend their positions based on their own personal point of view, regardless of the statistics that support theirs or their opponent’s side.

Let’s take a look at the so called facts according to the article by Michael Nor:

If you marry a working woman:

Working women are more likely to get divorced, and less likely to have children
If they do have children, statistics show that they’re more likely to be unhappy about it

But, let’s also look at the facts:
They still carry the majority child rearing duties
The average woman does 7-9 loads of laundry a week and are carrying the majority of the housework and still are working the same average of working dads at 7 hours and 50 minutes.
These numbers change when the couple has small kids.

On the flip side:
Non working women aren’t as happy according to the polls
Don’t have as much in common with their husbands as the young ladies at the office do
Working women aren’t controlled by their husbands because they have more freedom if they earn their own money.

Let’s face it! We’ve heard it all before and we all have an opinion about it based upon our own experience. What I’ve learned by coaching and speaking with men and women about this subject is that we are all painfully aware that we’re basically living in a different day and time from the time any of us grew up. In the good ol’ days, most of us came home to a mom after school who gave us snacks and then we kissed her goodbye until dinnertime when she served us a home cooked meal. If and when we did homework, it wasn’t until middle school that we really had to study at home, and we might turn on the Brady Bunch or Gomer Pile to unwind after an afternoon at the neighborhood pool or playing Simon Says. We worried about whether we were going to get picked on a team for kick ball, and whether or not the neighborhood boy would sit next to us on the bus.

Fast forward 30 years and our teenagers are dodging bullets in our schools. Kids are learning to make explosives off the internet and as parents we’re scared stiff for our child to wander out of our site for 5 minutes so our child isn’t molested or kidnapped. Mom’s are working just as many crazy hours as their husbands or ex husbands and the kids have to fend for themselves spending hours upon hours with their best friends, the TV’s, and Video games. Conversely, they’re also getting to travel more, have more luxuries and have more conveniences than we did as children.

What is the answer to this question of working or not working outside the home? We want our kids to excel in school so we work to provide them an excellent education. We want them to be able to explore the world and travel so we work to give them opportunities that we never had. The pressure is on both moms and dads to compete for promotions at the office or to build their personal incomes or empires. Our world is globally competitive and we’re no longer competing with just the people in our own community, but now, we’re competing with everyone else around the world.

As a result, we have added tremendous pressure and stress to our lives. We’re burning out more often and our families are suffering. The divorces are up because stress is up, and if we don’t personally take control of our own lives, we can all end up being a statistic.

The bottom line is this: YOU GET TO CHOSE FOR YOURSELF! We all make personal choices depending on what is important or what we value at that point in our lives. If the kids are small and we feel that they’re better served by us saving for their future by working for their college tuition, that’s a personal choice a couple has to make. If the kids are in high school and need someone to monitor them more closely, the couple may choose to have one of the parents at home during that season of their lives.

What I’ve learned is this: We’re all doing the best we can given the resources we have at the time. Are we all making the best choices? No, not necessarily, so here are a few tips that can help aid the process along.

Put the marriage first. Couples will only stay strong as a unit if they’re able to connect frequently to discuss their ups and downs. If the couple sets aside 10 minutes a day to “dialogue” with each other about their feelings and events, the marriage has a better chance of staying a priority. Just like a car, if you don’t do regular maintenance, the car will die. A marriage is the same, without the regular focused time given to the relationship, the marriage will die and the couples will individually turn to outside sources for their support. Do things like write emails to each other during the day, have a regular coffee time where you call each other on the phone, or meet nightly in a special setting that you set up to do a dialog with each other. Practice only using encouraging words to each other and stop yourself before you use words like “you always, or you never”. These destructive words damage and don’t heal or support. Focus on supporting your mate first and foremost before everyone else.

Focus next on the family. When you married and had kids, you chose a life, and a lifestyle. Your family is going through seasons all the time. Having little children is the most demanding time of all. Discuss the needs of the children and what is going to work best for them, then plan accordingly. Kids need to feel secure so setting family time every week such as Friday night is movie night, or Saturday is chore or play time. Make things a game and decide together how the family will spend family fun time each week. We’re lucky in Orlando that there are so many things to do for families such as the theme parks, beaches and resorts are close by. Make events such as the first lost tooth memorable by doing something special. Create special holidays and traditions that are unique to your family. And try to eat together at least once a day for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

3. Realize that all of our choices bring positive benefits but also have a down side. You will have to make sacrifices along the way. Discuss these fully by making a pro and con list before you make major decisions in your lives such as should we hire a nanny or use day care? Should I go part time and receive no benefits at work in order to have more time at home? What is more important at this point in our lives, having a beautiful wardrobe or going on a nice vacation? These should all be joint decisions. And always have something to look forward to so you don’t feel like you’re never coming up for air.

For husbands:

Thank and acknowledge your wife for what she’s doing right! Tell her that you appreciate her making the meal even if she threw it together at the last minute.
Realize you’re NOT married to June Cleaver and that a messy house is the sacrifice that you might have to make if you are both working. Realize that you are now a modern man, and modern men change messy diapers, clean the toilets and occasionally do laundry.
Only have eyes for your wife and tell her how beautiful she is and that you’re blessed to have found her!
Take time out for yourself and do self care by working out and meeting with your buddies for lunch every so often. Your career isn’t going away and statistics show you’ll be more productive if you take time off every week to refuel.
Be a good partner by loving and respecting your family and their differences.

For wives:
Thank and acknowledge your husband for him working hard to support your family. Even if you do it too, understand the toll he’s taking at work and appreciate the time he spends taking care of the family.
Praise him for every thing he does in the house to help you. Yes if you are a typical family, you probably do more, but you can encourage him more by being sweet than by arguing and by nagging.
Treat him to a special dinner now and then, and make sure you have fun date nights where you dress all up and look great for him! Call it old fashioned, but guys love to have their wives look nice, so put on that make up, put on some heels now and again, and take care of your man!
Get support if you need it from friends, co-workers, counselors or experts in the areas where you need help.
Take good care of yourself by doing lots of personal self care to nurture your mental, physical, spiritual and emotional sides.

We’re all in this world at a crazy time. We’ve got stresses with money, war or children. Realize you’re just in a SEASON of life and it will get better eventually. Hang in there, and know, that the weekend is coming, and you can kick back for a few hours on the weekend to recharge, and do it all again on Monday.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

We Don’t have Friends, We have Mirrors

Tonight I was in a coaching class and the instructor made the statement: “we don’t have friends, we have mirrors”. I thought that was so interesting because it is describing the law of attraction, that what we are, we attract. What we reap, we sow, etc. We develop friendships with people who have similar interests, backgrounds, or other commonalities such as location, career choice or even mental outlook.

The friends as mirrors concept is really great. If you’re anything like me, you’ll have lots of different friends that reflect different sides of your personalities, or your different moods. I admire my friends for different reasons and have different types of conversations with them when I’m with them.

I have my old friends from high school. With a couple of my friends, we can’t go 10 minutes without reverting back to talking about people from high school or talking about the “old days”. My husband just LOVES to hang out and listen to us rant and rave about all of these people who he doesn’t know! But even though I know how bored he is, I cant’ help but laugh and whoop it up with these friends even when the stories we’ve told have grown so old that my husband could recite them from memory. Then, I have friends that I talk “kids” with on a regular basis. We share our secrets for motivating our kids or swap stories back and forth of how the kids are doing at school. Several of these friends I see at school so we also have that in common. I find it comforting to connect with these friends a few times a week for short minutes at a time. I know they’re living their personal or work life in between the hours of 8-3:00PM like I am and many of us are doing kid stuff in the afternoons like Taekwando.

I have my “beautiful friends” who I talk to about staying in shape and working out. I want to spend even more time with these friends as this is an important part of my life right now. But truth be known, I sometimes avoid these friends if I’m feeling particularly sluggish, fat, or the feeling I’m having a bad hair day. And if I’m going to see any of them, I usually work out hard for several days in a row to drop a few lbs before I have to go out with them. It’s always great motivation having friends like these. I know they’re not judging me, but they genuinely know my desire to be in shape so they come armed with lots of ideas and motivation.

I have my “TV” or “PR” friends who have creative minds and are constantly in the “Know”. I find them intriguing and exciting and when I’m around them, I want to appear brilliant, creative and witty. Of course this doesn’t always happen and so I sometimes have to get back with them about something I’ve found out that they might like. I always want to feel like I’m bringing them as much value as they bring me. These folks are similar to my work associates or friends. These are people I’ve worked with or for through the years, and we catch up a few times a year. I enjoy hearing about their lives and their triumphs as well as their struggles. I knew them for a “season” in my life when we were close and although we’ll never be that close again, we’ll still remain friends, just at a distance.

Then I have a few of those, “just come as you are” type of friends. We have no masks, no games, and no agenda. We can pour out our hearts to one another without the risk of rejection and no fear of losing the friendship. These are the friends whose calls I’ll take any time of the day or night, and will return their call promptly as soon as I see it on the screen. These friends include my mom and my sister, and a few others who will always be some of my best friends. We can go months without talking, or talk every day, but the intimacy and realness is always there.

I’ve had to let a few friends go here and there. The ones who had unreal expectations of the amount of time I was able to offer in friendship, were told the truth. Others had other agendas in their lives that made it hard to relate. Still others, didn’t understand my role as a mom and the choices I made separated us by our own individual beliefs. Some new friends have had to be told that I’m just not able to get together now due to some additional responsibilities, and that in a few months, my personal situation will probably be a bit different. I’ve found that honesty is the best policy, because even new friends can tend to get their feelings hurt when you don’t respond to their invitations.

Some friends I’m surprised are still with me. I’ve been through so many personal ups and downs that I can’t believe they’re still around to cheer me on. Other friends, I wish I could connect with more, but for one reason or another their lives have taken them on a completely different journey. Many of them I miss, and will always think of them often.

If our friends are our mirrors, I’m feeling pretty good right about now. Even though my life isn’t full of socializing, I still feel the closeness of a few very dear friends and blessed to enjoy the personalities of many interesting individuals who I enjoy wholeheartedly. Lives become rich because of the friends we keep and the relationships we nurture.

We don’t have friends, we have mirrors. Who is in your mirror today?

Thursday, July 27, 2006

What Parents Can do when their Child is Bullied

I have a friend Roxanne who complained to me all year that her child was ridiculed by a few boys at his school. Her boy was highly academic and on the small side and didn’t care much for sports. The kids at their school constantly made fun of her child’s physique and called him “skinny” and “dorky”.

Her son, a very sensitive boy in the 6th grade, never complained that much and didn’t want his mom interfering. He feared that the older kids might retaliate even worse and call him a “mama’s boy” if she stepped in and met with the teachers and principals. Finally, at the end of the year, my friend got up the nerve to call several of the parents and ask them if THEIR child had been the object of anyone’s aggression. She asked them if anyone had called them names and she did it from the point of view that she was just trying to get to the bottom of the issue and didn’t accuse anyone. She acted like she had no idea who any of the culprits were and told them that her son hadn’t told her any names. The parents were all surprised that anyone had been negatively singled out at the school and promised to ask their sons about it.

The next day, several of the boys came to school and apologized to my friends’ son.

I have another friend, Linda, whose daughter is in the 4th grade. She’s a beautiful girl and gifted in music. She also does gymnastics and has a very pleasant personality. She’s on the shy and quiet side and comes from a very good and moral family. She’s been taught to respect everyone and to help out the less fortunate. Unfortunately, some of her classmates hadn’t been taught to do the same.

Her classmates have young moms who are still trying to look like teenagers themselves. They drop off their kids wearing short shorts and halter tops, hoping to score a few looks with the married dads. They allow their kids to dress sexy and go to PG 13 movies. They live a bit differently from my friend who is trying her best to protect her daughter from getting exposed to the world at too young of an age. Because my friend’s daughter is on the young side for her class, and a bit shy, she is constantly made fun of for not being able to go to PG 13 movies and for the clothes she wears. The other girls have often started rumors about this young girl and have threatened the other girls that have attempted to be friends with her.

Both of my friends have kids who were bullied. This year, neither of my friends will take it any more. They are going to take action this year!

According to research, bullying can be physical, verbal or relational/psychological. Teasing or spreading rumors is just as damaging psychologically as kicking, biting or hitting. Bullying has long term consequences on kids’ self esteem. Nipping it in the bud early can allow kids the opportunity to blossom and to concentrate on school and their extracurricular activities and not have to worry about their social standing.

Parents need to know that they can and should take action. First, talk to your kids to determine what is happening at the school and casually ask if there are any bullies at the school. It’s possible that your child is being bullied or is a bully without your knowledge. It’s best to take on a supportive tone when dealing with this subject and never take action without your child knowing about it. Getting kids to open up and discuss it by listening to their feelings about it can help you gain trust with your child.

Next, if there is no anti-bullying policy at the school, it’s time to start one! Enrolling help from the teachers, PTA and other parents is the first step. You might need to have a phone campaign to find other interested parties to help. Then, the awareness campaign must begin! Meet with teachers, the principles and students start peer mediation groups will help others take over the role of educating the school. Encourage everyone to speak about it, to discuss it and to brainstorm of ways within the school to deal with bullying. Meet other schools locally to understand how they’ve been able to deal with bullying and research the internet for speakers and organizations who help parents and kids.

The bottom line is this: if your school doesn’t have an anti-bullying program in place, more than likely bullying IS happening at your kid’s school. And whether or not your kid is being bullied or is the bully, its going to take parents who are willing to step up to the plate and teach the kids that it is not acceptable behavior.

Becoming an advocate is one of the best things that you can do for your kids. They’ll learn to take care of things from a leadership point of view by taking action instead of just complaining. And complaining to others creates more frustration. But frustration coupled with strong action plan equal positive results!

Working together, we can stop the bullies! Parents and kids UNITE and stop the bullies!

Friday, July 07, 2006

Schmooze Your Way to Social Success!

If you are like 99% of the population, you probably get a bit nervous before going to a gathering of people who you don’t know. Why are we humans like that? Aren’t parties and social functions intended to be fun? Aren’t we supposed to relax, enjoy the moment, and feel energized by connecting with new people? Perhaps.
But then why is drinking alcohol so popular at parties or at bars?
Believe it or not, just knowing that everyone in the room is feeling more or less the same can help you realize that you are not alone in your apprehension. Surely, many people debated whether or not to even show up at the party. Others called around and asked what their friends were wearing, what time they might arrive, or even tried to back out at the last moment. Some of them downed a quick beer or glass of wine or perhaps took a prescribed medication to calm their nerves before scooting out the door.
Why all of this trepidation for something as common as a social party? The simple answer is that we all desire to fit in and be liked. We want to feel at ease and comfortable in any environment. We worry if what we are saying is going to be appropriate and we worry if we’ll be able to THINK of something to say. Our fear is that we will stand there with a blank look on our face and appear stupid. Luckily, there are ways you can prepare……..
There are a few easy steps that are guaranteed to help the individual who really wants to get out and develop new friends or network to improve their business or social life. While the steps are simple, they take practice and so it may be a few parties before all of the steps feel natural to you. My suggestion is that you give them a try one by one.
First, realize that everyone is in the same position. Several are probably MORE terrified than you. Knowing this will help you understand that part of your job at the party is to help OTHERS feel less threatened. Take the lead! People will be so relieved that you started a conversation, any conversation, that they will immediately think you are dynamic and interesting.
Secondly, before you arrive at the party, take a few minutes to visualize yourself enjoying yourself at the party. Imagine yourself relaxed and having a good time with others and enjoying their company. This type of preparation can be crucial to your success because once you have a mental picture of yourself in a given situation, when you are actually placed in the situation you feel as though you’ve already been there.
Third, make sure that you are in a great place emotionally. Take a minute to assess things in your life that you are grateful for, things that you love, and people that you admire. Think of how you feel about a person when the only thing they have to say is negative or complaint-based.
So keep your complaining to yourself and be ready to be optimistic, hopeful and fun. If you’re really having trouble finding something to talk about compliment your surroundings or the wonderful job the host did by bringing everyone together. Enter the party in a relaxed state.
Deep breathing is a great way to calm the nerves.
When you arrive, take a look around the room and try to connect eyes with as many people as you can, and give a slight smile. Smiling and strong eye contact says to others, "Hey, I’m nice, friendly and optimistic and I’d love to get to know others who are the same". Wander over to the punch bowl or buffet table; people naturally congregate around the food and drinks.
Another great idea is to scan the newspaper or the internet and take a minute to review what is going on in the world so you’ll be able to comment on any current events that come up. It isn’t necessary you know ALL of the details, just a few simple ones. Remember this when getting briefed on news events: who, what, when, where, why and how.
Never worry about someone else knowing more about a topic than you do- chances are they will! And they will LOVE you for giving them a chance to talk about something they are knowledgeable about and be thrilled to have someone willing to listen.
And lastly, as QUESTIONS. Let others do the talking. For instance, "This seems like a GREAT party. Do you know many people here?" And then ask to be introduced to the people they know. If you don’t want to talk about the weather, then ask if the person comes to the area or neighborhood frequently. People love to tell others about their favorite haunts in a given area. Or if you’re from the same area, ask if they’ve been to your favorite haunts. Be willing to ask questions of others, and then share of yourself. The conversation should be equally split between the two or three people who are standing in clusters. Make sure you include everyone who is near you and draw each into the conversation.
Parties are a great place to network, develop new business, or just learn about what others are exploring in their lives. It is a great opportunity to increase your own knowledge about topics you know nothing about. People will LOVE you if you become naturally curious about them and their interests and are able to talk about things other than yourself. Once you implement these steps on a regular basis, your personality will become magnetic and people will be looking for YOU, instead of the punch bowl!

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Formal Versus Informal Behavior

I met and coached a CEO recently and he confided in me that it can be lonely at the top. He is recognized throughout his organization as a wise and competent person. He is there to bounce ideas off of, is running the company, having regular management meetings and retreats and is managing the hiring and firing of the company.

The big distinction that came out of the coaching when to be formal versus informal. It’s a great lesson to learn.

Being folksy and informal is part of the American way. It’s down home, “Bill Clintonesque” and fun and lively. I teach charisma which shows a person how to have the ability to switch on the personality when it’s needed. This particular CEO felt a bit taken advantage of by one of his managers. They became good friends and golf buddies and slowly the friendship was mirrored in the boardroom. Slightly, ever so slightly, the formality wore off around the other managers and the CEO became more like one of the guys and not like the leader he once was.

We discussed that every human has basic needs and one is the need to be loved and admired. Those needs need to be filled, but the question is, by whom? Does a leader need to be loved by those he leads? Does he need to be strict or a lovable teddy bear type to be effective? What about you? Can you ask yourself: When should I act formal, if ever, and when should I act informal, if ever?

Certainly, each person has the right to answer those questions by themselves but the truth is that in most circles, being completely folksy won’t garner the type of respect that a person needs in order to maintain respect for ones work. Structures, protocols and guidelines can help a person who has the tendency to be down to earth in their personality, seem more formal in work. Without those structures, the “feel” is a bit loosey-goosey and not all that credible.

I’ve gone through my own formal versus informal game recently. I’m new in a community and am building a PR, coaching and communication business. I’ve got one of those gregarious, fun and lively personalities so that’s fun when I’m socializing. I’ve realized though that in business, that personality is best left on the shelf until I’ve proven my effectiveness in business. I have found that it’s best to be effective first, and have fun later. I’ve even decided that because I’m in the community with friends AND potential clients, to save my gregariousness for close friends and family. It’s a choice that I’m making for the good of my business. And business is my priority and responsibility right now, not just having fun all of the time.

Try it on yourself. Imagine yourself with your mate’s work associates. How do you want to be seen? What about with the President of the US? How would you act with him or someone else you greatly respect? Now, imagine yourself with your best friends and your potential best clients? How is it that you want to appear and act then?

Monitoring our own behavior sometimes is a difficult thing to do. As humans we want to tend to make ourselves right all of the time and any critical look at our actions are somewhat hard to take. However, this is the best way to grow, and to improve relationships, our image and our business, by looking at ourselves.

The old saying goes, if you want to grow your business, grow yourself. What have you done to grow yourself lately?

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Workshop Savvy

I’m giving a creativity workshop tomorrow for a group of people at a hospital. This is the first time that I’ve given a workshop to this group and I’ve tried to come up with several things that might make it fun. That was my only requirement: FUN.

The workshop is on creativity so I will be giving them strategies that they can use at home and in the workplace. We’ll also do several exercises that will open them up to being more creative. These will be fun of course.

But knowing what I know about it’s really more about how the participants FEEL about me, then I know that I’m going to do some exercises that will be geared towards improving their sense of self while in that room. I want them to feel GOOD about being different, unique and even a bit wacky if that’s what they do. I’ll laugh with them and not at them, and I’ll do exercises where the participants are endorsed for bringing up their special strengths.
I’m excited to give a creativity workshop to a bunch of left brained people. I know it’ll be a stretch to them but my goal is to get them to loosen up and then show them their own brilliance!

I’m hoping that’ll be the key tomorrow and I’ll let you know!

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Helping Your Child Deal with Bullies

I’ve been contacted on several occasions by moms of girls who have been bullied. Most of the times, these daughters are beautiful girls who are sweet and don’t stand up to the other kids when they get teased or criticized. There are things that you can do to help your child without overstepping your boundaries. I know because I was one of those good girls who got teased and bullied in high school by some girls. They saw my “good girl” mentality as weakness and they didn’t hesitate to pounce on it. I did suffer some awful days as any young girl does, but I came out of it just fine. I also learned that there are ways to move beyond this stage of life.

Junior high and high school are the times when children are stretching their independence and learning who they are in the world. They’re falling in and out of love and dealing with the emotional turmoil of maturing physically and nature isn’t always so kind during that phase of life. I remember sweating so profusely often times that my mom had to bring me new clothes to school and that none of the female deodorants worked for me. I was an athlete and didn’t just “glisten” from the sweat. I sweat like a pig when I went out to PE and it was quite embarrassing! That’s awfully hard to try to look cute after you’ve been drenched with sweat. Luckily for the girls of today, athletes are more common and accepted. They’re also more open about things like breaking out, and getting their monthly. Still, there is a tremendous pressure these days to be thin and to look good.

I went through a phase where my best friend who I had grown up with all of a sudden developed other friends and completely turned on me with a vengeance. She started poking fun at me and telling the boy on the bus that I had a crush on him. I was completely mortified! Every day she and her friends would make fun of what I was wearing, my hair or just call me names. Just the shock of her turning on me was enough to hurt me deeply, but the fact that she pulled other girls in on it made it worse. I remember going home and laying on my bed crying because I had to face the girls every morning and every afternoon on the bus.

Since she had been my closest friend up until that point, my mom took it upon herself to pray for me that I’d get a new best friend. I was in the middle of 8th grade then and somehow, I ended up in class with an old friend of mine from 2nd grade. Alison and I started hanging around in school and then I joined in with her friends to go to the football games and shopping after school. Before I knew it, I had a whole new set of friends and the bullying pretty much stopped. I now had a pack of friends at school that were strong and so now I wasn’t alone and weak.

Later in high school when the majority of my friends graduated from the swim team, I again became the target of a pack of girls who saw me as a weakling. I was one of the “good girls” again who didn’t drink, smoke or sleep around. The girls who picked on me were on the swim team and got really good at thinking of mean things to say to me. I took it silently and put up with it for a while. My come backs were “shut up” or “grow up” but they’d all start giggling and walk on together. I was left with the other nice girls who didn’t’ have the guts to stand up to the girl bullies.

The sad thing was that I ended up losing my passion for swimming and ended up quitting the swim team that year. But my mom pulled out all of the stops again and prayed that I’d meet some new friends again. She then strongly suggested, or forced me to go on a Catholic retreat through the church. When I got there, the only person I knew was one of the most popular football players at our school. Things were looking up for me then! That weekend changed my life. I met a whole bunch of kids from the Catholic private school in town who knew my fun cousins and accepted me into their group. For the next year and a half, I had my new friends from the private school merge with some friends from our school and we all started dating each other and hanging out. It made my high school experience absolutely incredible and I’m proud to say that one of the couples is now married with 3 kids and I’m still in touch with several of those kids who are now successful adults.

I’ve since seen and forgiven my former tormentors and we’ve never spoken of it. I prefer to live in the present and not the past. But because I was bullied, I understand the hurt and the pain of a close friend turning into the enemy. The key for the parent is to switch gears, pray for guidance and for help with the teen, and then find other activities to delve into. Forcing the kid may be the only option because of the fear of the unknown but not doing anything is the alternative and that’s worse!

Parents can be the strength during a time of torment for kids. It’s a time to teach that having faith in God can turn around all things and that He can help us find the right friends. It’s a time to learn that life isn’t easy all of the time and sometimes we have to do something different in order to break us out of our shell. Walking through these tough times together can ease the pain and bring new growth. And certainly when you allow God to chose the friends, expect good days ahead!