Communication Skills During the Holidays

November 20, 2015

Easy Communication Tips

“As we struggle with shopping lists and invitations, compounded by December’s bad weather, it is good to be reminded that there are people in our lives who are worth this aggravation, and people to whom we are worth the same.”     – Donald E. Westlake

Is your home the peaceful, happy place you always wanted it to be? Let’s be honest, having “peace” during the bustle of the holiday season is not always easy!     As much as you love your family, partner and kids, frustrations, disagreements, and arguments can allow an entirely different atmosphere to permeate the entire house.  One negative word leads to another, all day long! Especially around the holidays.

We all have good intentions, but there is not one person I know how doesn’t get stressed this time of year.  So what can you do to reduce this negativity?

As it turns out, most of the difficulties you encounter with your loved ones most likely occur from miscommunication.  Add in some spiked egg nogg, a drunk uncle, and a packed house…well, those communication issues are bound to come up.

The tips below can help to alleviate some of those misunderstandings :

  1. Be open and honest with one another. While being honest, be kind when saying something that may cause a family member any distress.  Although you may want to shout out in frustration, or just hide away from confrontation, it is important to address the situation head on.  Be nice.  They are more receptive when you use kind words and a pleasing tone of voice.  When your family members are stressed they are more prone to being overly sensitive. Don’t make your mother cry over the turkey!
  2. Have some fun each day. It’s important to have fun together as a family. Family fun doesn’t have to take up the whole day, it can just be a small activity to break up any tension. It can be as simple as having a favorite appetizer (CHEESE!) or playing a quick board game. Simple things can make a big difference in how the communication flows in a home.
  3. Set priorities for chores that everyone must do. Agree on who does what chores and when they should do them. Let everyone participate with age-appropriate tasks. Write them on a chore chart for clear communication. Setting them up ahead of time can prevent a lot of arguments! Trust me on this one…late night fighting over dirty dish duty is never fun.
  4. Keep privacy boundaries. Adults and kids both need their privacy on a regular basis. Ensure that the kids understand the importance of respecting this priority. The holidays brings everyone together and can create chaos if there are not some defined boundaries set.
  5. Allow some free time. Everyone needs some time to do things on their own or with their friends. Meeting this need will help each family member feel more satisfied, fulfilled, and open to communicating.  Just because it is the holidays doesn’t mean it needs to be family time 24/7.
  6. Learn to negotiate. Learning to compromise and come up with win-win solutions for everyone involved is a priceless skill that will serve your family members well throughout their lives.
  7. Say, “I love you.” Each day, remember to show your family, spouse and kids how much you love them. Share loving, encouraging words and hugs freely throughout the day – even if it’s a hard day. (Especially if it’s a hard day!)

I know the holidays can be a nerve-wracking time for everyone, but try to practice these communication strategies to create a loving environment in your home. Just by taking a few simple steps to make sure you are communicating, laughing, and trying not to fester will make a gigantic difference.

Now go gobble up some turkey…and don’t forget the cheese! Continue Reading

All the Perspective You Need

November 13, 2015

-The only thing you sometimes have control over is perspective. You don't have control over your situation. But you have a choice about how you view it.-

It’s easy to get bogged down with all the available self-help information, and lists of “how to’s and must try’s”.  I get it. I have read them all!  To be honest, there are days where reading a good self help article makes me more stressed than ever!  But, the truth is that you don’t have to dive into the sea of self help.  You just have to sit down and reflect.

You might be surprised at how much you can benefit from asking yourself just a couple of questions!  

Really.  It is that simple.

Take a few moments every month to check in with yourself.  Your answers will help you determine if you’re on track to reaching your goals and enable you to make an action plan that will get you there in record time.

 Keep it basic.  Keep it honest.

Ask yourself these two questions to help you get some perspective:

  1. “If an invisible person followed you around all day, what would they see?” Would they see joy or frustration? Would they see you working at your goals? Would they see someone that is just going through the motions?
  • Our lives are largely the result of the actions that we take each day. Are you taking actions that move you forward to the future you desire? Even during life’s tough times (and we all have those bumps!), what is your outlook?
  • What would that invisible person logically conclude about you, your life, and your future?
  1. “If you lived that average day, every day, for the next 5 years, what is the logical outcome?” So if you kept living your average day over and over, where is your life likely to end up? Now compare that logical conclusion with the life you’d like to have. How close are they?
  • Are you likely to end up where you want to be financially? Are you currently taking consistent action to have the financial life you desire?
  • Are you likely to have the body that you want? Are you making sure that you are taking care of your health? Or are you waiting to start tomorrow, or Monday, or the first of the month, or the first of the year? Trust me on this… I hate (loathe is a better word) exercising, but I know that for my mental and physical health I have to.  Some days I only do a 20 min walk with Arthur and that is ok.  You don’t have to be a health goddess.  Take baby steps!  It is the same with food.  I adore my cheese, but I try to limit it to the weekends or at least make sure I don’t have it at every meal.
  • Are you likely to be enjoying the type of relationships you desire? This could be with friends, partners, or your family.  What are some things that are holding you back from communicating? Are you in a relationship that helps you grow or holds you back?
  • Are you likely to be advancing in the career you seek? You don’t have to change careers overnight, or even at all; where would you like to see yourself in 5 years?

What do you need to do on a consistent basis to achieve the life you hope for?

People largely fail to end up where they wish to be for two reasons:

  1. They have no idea where they’re going. If you don’t have a plan (even a small one), you must live by default, sitting around until something goes wrong and then spending your energy fixing the issue. Start with small, easy goals.  And remember to give yourself credit when you make a move forward!
  2. They don’t do the things each day that will create the life they want. In spite of what many gurus seem to claim, you can’t wish your way to success. Success is the result of making positive decisions and taking actions that reflect those decisions.  Like I said, it can be small steps toward a goal…it doesn’t have to be a huge powerhouse leap.  Give yourself 20 min a day to do something for you.  Take a class online, or try out a favorite new healthy recipe.  Walk around the block, or put on your favorite music and dance around the living room.  Remember to be patient with yourself, and give yourself time to discover what makes you zing!

It doesn’t take a lot to be very successful, but it does take consistency.

For instance, imagine if you did 1 pushup every day this week and added 1 pushup a week. In 5 years you would be doing 250 pushups a day and you would never struggle for a minute. Trust me, if I can do this than so can you.  The first time I tried to get back into my exercise routine (after 3 years)  I thought I was going to have a heart attack.  It was bad. Very bad.  Now, I can make it through 25 min of dance cardio….I still hate it….but I am getting better every week.

In the same way, establishing daily habits that move you forward toward achieving your goals will result in your success.

So which habit will you start today?

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A Simple Guide To Keeping a Journal

November 6, 2015

Journal Writing

Trust me, I am not going to suggest that you write a lengthy prose about all your thoughts.  But, small time journaling has always been key for me.  Especially now with so many changes going on in my life.  Some days I only write a few sentences.  Some days I simply paste inspiring pictures or quotes down on the paper.  It is never forced, but it is always healing. Journaling in any form forces you to reflect on your life regularly, and it is fascinating what you discover about yourself.  It becomes more obvious where your challenges lie when you have to put your experiences down on paper.

It can also serve as a great way to record your life and see how you’ve grown over the years. You might be surprised three years from now when you look back on today.

It can be tough to get started: what do you write about? Should you use a notebook, word processor or something fancy like a leather-bound journal? How much time will it take? What if I don’t like what comes up?

Breathe, my friend.  It is all good.  Journaling is YOUR time.  You do whatever you please.

Just start.

Write one sentence today.  “Today I walked the dog and was able to take 20 min for myself.  I listened to the new Adele song as escaped my busy life for a few min”.

These tips can help you get started:

  • Choose your medium. It really doesn’t matter where you record your life; all have their advantages and disadvantages. Just choose something that works for you.  It can be a small notepad, or sticky notes that you put in a journal.  It can be a scrapbook of magazine pictures, quotes, or headlines that mean something to you in that moment. You can color, you can draw. It is all about how you want to express yourself.
    • Notebooks do tend to be a better choice. Many of us spend all day typing away on our computers. Journaling in a notebook gives you a chance to manually write something. It seems more sacred to write with our own hand. Computers can also be distracting; you might sit down to do your journaling and end up surfing the Internet.  Step away from the computers my friends!
  • Never miss more than one day. Things come up, and it’s easy to miss a day here and there. If you miss more than one day in a row, you might wind up missing five days before you know it. Be consistent. It can be difficult to go back and fill in the blanks at a later date.  If you travel or do not have a consistent schedule, than keep a small notepad in your purse to jot down ideas as they come.
  • Set a schedule. If you use a notebook, keep it by your bed or the coffee pot; that way you won’t miss it. Set a reminder on your computer. It makes more sense to do it at the end of the day as you reflect on your day, but any time is better than never. Choose a time and stick to it.
  • Keep it short. Of course, you can write as much as you want. But if you keep it short, you’ll be a lot more likely to do it regularly. Even just a few bullet points can be enough to capture the essence of what happened in your day.  It takes the pressure off of feeling that you have to write a novel.
    • If you do forget and skip a couple of days, rely on your records. You can look back at your calendar or planner and your emails to jog your memory about how the days were spent.  Sometimes reflection can create some real awareness of how you are moving forward, or being held back in your life.
  • Track your progress toward your goals. List the things that are most relevant to you at the time. For example, if you’re trying to lose weight, mention related victories, missteps, and your weight fluctuations. If you’re trying to earn an extra $1,000 this month, keep a running tally of your progress.
    • CELEBRATE your victories!  Give yourself credit when you hit a goal, or even make a small move forward.  We forget to give ourselves a pat on the back, and tend to only focus on our setbacks.  Journal about your smallest victories, and be proud of even the smallest of accomplishments. THEY ALL COUNT.

Before you know it, you’ll have a shelf full of your journal entries. Consider that writing just half of a page each day would be over 3,000 pages in 10 years!
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Making the Best of Sick Days

November 3, 2015

brenebrownquote Doctors do a funny thing.  They prescribe a thousand different medications, intent on making you better; the medications in turn make you feel like death.  Fun!

In truth, this whole process of “healing” has been a frustrating bag of headaches, nausea, severe exhaustion and body chills.  Once again, super good times had by all.  I am not gonna lie, having to suck it up and deal with three different antibiotics, painkillers, and bland food has made me quite cranky.  At first I fought back and tried to pretend like I didn’t feel like crap. That lasted about a day. You know that something is up when I crawl under the covers by 630pm and wake up 12 hours later!

So, last week I gave in and admitted temporary defeat.  I had a very important wedding on Thursday, so I locked myself in my house Mon-Wends and took care of myself (shocker!!).  I cooked myself some soup. I finally read the books that had been collecting dust in my office.  I gave in and caught up on the shows that were filling up my DVR.

I let myself heal.

I allowed myself to say “I need to rest”.

And guess what?  The world did not fall apart.  My friends understood.  My husband picked up the ball and helped with meals and the house.

Some things that filled up my days (besides naps.  glorious, glorious naps.):

  • Books! Ugh. I have been so bad at giving myself permission to sit down and read, yet as a writer I need to absorb myself with words and stories.  Having the time to catch up on my reading was soul satisfyingly good.  No Facebook. No social media.  Just good old fashioned hardbound books.  The books below I have been devouring. LOVING. I couldn’t recommend them more.  booksilove
  1. Elizabeth Gilbert:Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear
  2. Brene Brown:Rising Strong
  3. Noelle Hancock: My Year with Eleanor: A Memoir
  4. Start Where You Are: A Journal for Self-Exploration
  • Catching up on some of my favorite websites, that had nothing to do with news or celebrity gossip
    • My friend Jessica Ertle has created a beautiful blog following her journey with a toddler, and a new pregnancy with twins.  Her writing is honest, filled with love and generosity, just like Jess herself.  One of my favorite blog posts is her “It’s good, but not that good”  which focuses on how we tend to only share the good on social media and are afraid to be honest with the not so good moments in our lives.  I couldn’t agree more.  We are missing the connection of saying “me too!” and “I am struggling too”.  I love her bravery in the post and can’t wait to follow her journey.
    • A new memoir site Awash With Wonder has some incredible writing and personal essays that feel as though you are talking to a friend.
    • When I needed a laugh, I look no further than Whine About It with Matt Bellassai.  He slays me.  I will forever use his quote “WHY am I size mouse at Gap and size Walrus at H&M.”  

What do you do when you have to hibernate at home?  I still have two more days on sick leave, so help a sister out and share you lazy day goodness. xo Continue Reading

Give Yourself A Personal Reboot

October 28, 2015

Give Yourself A Personal

Lately, I have been feeling such a shift in how we all are feeling. Too much stress, not enough care for ourselves.  Last week was a huge wake up call that I needed to stop ignoring symptoms of overwhelm and stress.  I am the queen of putting myself last, which is not anything to be proud of.  So, in the spirit of taking care of ourselves, and giving ourselves a reboot, I wanted to share some tips I have been trying to follow myself:

Here are some tips from some of my favorite experts to help put yourself first:

Tip No. 1: Fill Your Personal “Pitcher”

Before you can be bighearted towards others, you have to do what is called “filling your pitcher” first.  By taking care of yourself, your health, and your emotions first you are making sure that you are the best you can be.  Without taking care of yourself first, you will begin to feel depleted and therefore not able to truly help those around you.

Tip No. 2: Ask Yourself Some Tough Questions

“The first step to becoming your best self requires brutal honesty,” says Kerry Connelly, a certified life coach. “Ask yourself what you’re good at, what your faults are and what are the things that repeatedly come up that hold you back. By becoming aware of your constant frustrations and the ways in which you’re responsible for them, you’ll experience a greater sense of peace and well-being.”

Tip No. 3: Find a Way to Be Compassionate

So much of our negative actions are based in fear, says Jen Hancock, author of several books, including The Humanist Approach to Happiness. Ironically, the antidote to that fear is compassion. “When we view negative people and situations through a compassionate lens, we no longer view people who scare us as giant ogres. They’re frail humans, just like us.” Next time someone cuts you off in traffic or posts something on your Facebook feed that gets under your skin, think a kind thought: “Maybe he was in a rush because of a family emergency,” or “I may not agree with her, but I admire her passion for her cause.”

Tip No. 4: Own Your Own Stuff

That means taking responsibility for both your successes and failures without beating yourself up for it, says life coach Elaine Taylor-Klaus. “Decide that you’re going to stop making excuses to anyone, especially yourself. No more: ‘Sorry I’m late, there was a slow truck and I hit every light.’ Try, instead: ‘Sorry I’m late. I just didn’t allow myself quite enough time to get here.’”

Tip No. 5: Be Thankful for the Good — and Bad

It’s not always easy to be thankful for rough times, but they help you to become a better person, suggests Colene Elridge, a life coach in Lexington, Ky. “When you’re experiencing something unfavorable in your life, stop and say, ‘What am I learning from this that I didn’t know before?’ Use every experience as an opportunity to learn.”

Tip No. 6: Avoid Gossip and Drama

Resist the temptation to join in the fray when your friends dish about work or the Kardashians. “When we gossip, it’s hard to feel good about ourselves,” says Alanna Zabel, a certified yoga instructor whose company, AZIAM Yoga, created a 30-Day Non-Judgment Challenge this spring. “Judging others will only drag you down.”

Tip No. 7: Always Apologize

If you’ve made a mistake, ‘fess up. “Tempting as it can be to pretend to be perfect, we all fail from time to time,” says Lauren M. Bloom, author of The Art of the Apology: How, When and Why to Give and Accept Apologies. “An effective apology can not only restore trust and heal relationships, it can also help the person making the apology cultivate honesty, humility and empathy — all wonderful qualities.” Continue Reading

A momentary set back

October 26, 2015

The secret to life is, fall seven times

Last week threw my life upside down. I got sick. Very sick.  At a time when the last thing I needed was to be was down and out, ER visit type sick.  But, it happened, and I couldn’t control a god damned thing about it.  Because that is what happens when you run a thousand miles an hour, and forget that you need to take care of yourself too.

“But. But. But…I have things to do!! I have my husbands 40th birthday to plan! My father was just in the hospital…this is ridiculous! I can handle the pain!”  I cried as they were wheeling me into the ER.  Not my best moment, I admit.

In truth, I was frustrated that I couldn’t be the superhero.  I was supposed to do it all! I was supposed to get my new website done, and prep for the party, and get new clients…the list goes on.

I was so pissed that my body had let me down once again.  I was so pissed at yet another set back.

But, sometimes our bodies know better.  Sometimes we get so busy, and so stressed that our bodies have to give us a wake up call.  Sometimes we need a time out.

So, my friends, I am here with a good old fashioned bout of acute colitis.  Lots of antibiotics, lots of painkillers, and lots of downtime to think about how I can make sure I don’t let my immune system get compromised again.

Meaning, I have to start being a superhero to MYSELF this time around.

As one of my favorite poets says: “The secret of life is to fall seven times, and get up eight”- Paulo Coelho

Life has a funny way of teaching us those lessons, even if it has to send you the ER to get the message.

Continue Reading

10 Ways to Deal With High Stress

October 16, 2015

10 Ways To Deal with STRESS

We all have days that are considerably more challenging and stressful than others (honestly, sometimes we have bad weeks!). Unfortunately, stress is a monster on both the mind and body.  Although I hate to use the term “stress” as an excuse for everything, I can wholeheartedly say that stress is indeed a powerhouse that can make easy tasks seem impossible.

Too many high stress days can really take its toll. For me, I know I am getting in over my head when I start to use the sentence “everything is FINE” way too frequently.  And what’s worse, you could even become so used to being in this “high state of alert” that you start to feel like it’s normal!

Don’t let this happen to you. You deserve better than allowing yourself to think that being stressed out 24/7 is normal.

It’s essential to develop some techniques that help you relieve stress and strengthen your self-soothing abilities. 

This will take time, and some days it will be harder to do…but practice.  Taking care of yourself is key.

When you’re struggling to stay calm, relaxed, and focused, try some of these strategies:

  1. Breathe deeply. Breathe in for 5 seconds and hold it for 5 seconds. Now exhale for 5 seconds. Do this 10 times and focus only on your breathing. These breaths should only be slightly larger in volume than a normal, relaxed breath. It will feel weird at first, but believe me IT WORKS!
  2. Take a walk, even if it is around the block.  Practice the breathing technique above during your walk, focusing on your breathing, walking, and surroundings. Nothing else should enter your mind. If your mind insists on wandering to non-productive thinking, you might have to simply keep repeating, “Taking a step” to yourself over and over. I am an avid overthinker, so having a word to repeat, such as “breathe” or “calm” helps me focus and quiet my busy mind.
  3. Get some exercise. Trust me, I hate this one…but it is true.  Comfortably tired is what you’re looking for. Work out your frustrations by finding an activity you love, whether it be yoga, crossfit, or running. Hit the weights and show them who is boss. Any exercise will do as long as there is some intensity involved. Shuffleboard isn’t going to cut it (even though I wish it would!).
  4. Sit outside. A little time at the beach or park can work wonders. Find a relaxing spot with pleasant scenery. Pay attention to what’s going on around you and keep your mind off your challenges. Even 10 to 15 minutes can greatly reduce your stress. You have the right to step away and give yourself a break.
  5. Take a day off. Everyone needs a break once in a while. However, on your day off, it’s important to avoid just sitting around and brooding about all of your current difficulties. Take your mind off of things and have some fun. Lose yourself in activities that you enjoy, or find new ones that you have been curious about.  I love going to painting classes, or even doing something silly such as miniature golf. Living Social is a great way to find new things to do!
  6. Find something engrossing to read.  I am a huge reader. Huge. The ideal book would be able to take your mind off of things for a few hours. Ask your friends for some recommendations, or if you’re like most people, you probably have a couple of books on the shelf that you’ve never gotten around to. Now is the perfect time to read it. If you can’t think  of anything, I would be happy to share some recommendations!
  7. Listen to music. Again, it should be something engrossing that really captures your attention. Don’t be afraid to get up and dance; no one is watching anyway.  Music is my form of therapy, so there is always something blasting around the house.  Find your jam and press play!
  8. No phone and no computer. Turn off everything that connects you to the outside world. Then you can really relax. Stay offline for as long as you can.
  9. Take a nap. There’s no better way to start over than to take a nap. When you wake up, it feels like another chance to start your day over. What happened before your nap is in the past! Now you can deal with it and move on. 20 min is all you need.
  10. Hang out with people that are fun. Get the gang together and meet for a drink. Or have dinner with the friend that always makes you laugh. It’s easy to get caught up in our own little world. Being with others can jolt you out of that perspective.

Don’t let high stress get you down. The key is to actively do something about it. Some people develop a habit of being paralyzed when things start going sideways, but this does nothing to make you feel better or solve your stressful issues. I have been there, and as I said before, you must practice these steps to help you when you start to see yourself heading down the stress path.

You deserve 20 min, or even a day, to take care of yourself.  You are no good to yourself, or the people you love when you are stressed to the max.

Actively relax so you’ll be better able to tackle your challenges. Using these tips can help you minimize the pressure and anxiety you’re feeling and take control of yourself and the situation. Dealing with your challenges effectively is crucial to living the peaceful life you deserve! Continue Reading

Overcoming the Bad Days

October 15, 2015


Bad days, bad moments, and unexpected illnesses.  They all happen. It takes a toll on you, and you feel like you’ll never overcome it. That you are “cursed” with bad luck. But there’s also the belief that the only way to experience true joy is to first experience darkness.

This week was hard and scary, as my father suffered some heart issues late Monday night.  Two nights in the hospital with doctors giving us different answers, and nurses giving us a thousand different possibilities.  It is during those moments when you are drained, panicked and beyond worried about the future that you have to try your best to focus on something good…and that is a ridiculously tough thing to do.

Especially when your 9 year old sister is wondering why “bad things like this happen”.  How do you tell her to be brave, and to find the best in the situation?  Yet, these emotions and experiences from opposite ends of the spectrum work hand in hand to give you real appreciation of the positive side of life. But, just how does one overcome these bad, unexpected moments and replace it with joy when the hard times seem unrelenting?

You try to find a moment to laugh.

You try to focus on the family that is surrounding you.

You take it a moment at a time.

I told my sister that we were lucky.  That this small “bad thing” was a chance for us to focus on his health, and that we were now aware of some issues surrounding his heart that could have become much worse in the future.  That this small attack happened so that we could find the medicine that would keep his heart pumping away.

But, it is not easy.  By no means is it ever easy to find something good in these moments.

Especially when you are exhausted, your nerves are frayed, and you are scared.

You have to dig deep.

Trust me. I have had a lifetime of bad moments, from unexpected illnesses to the loss of loved ones.  There is never a set plan on how to get through these times.  You can’t put a schedule on grief, or the mental toll that these type of upheavals take on you.  You have to have patience.  You have to have a little set of tools in your arsenal to help you find your footing again.

The key is to identify other things that bring you joy and peace, and infiltrate your dark space with these things.

  1. Consume yourself with a new activity. Look into something that would be calming.  My sister and I broke out some plain paper and doodled. It was simple, but it got her mind (and mine) off of the surrounding chaos.  Sometimes doing something new is what you need to take your mind off the negative situation you’re dealing and find joy in something unexpected.
  • Try your hand at a activity that’s time-consuming and enjoyable.  I know that it seems counterproductive to be doing something “joyful”, but by taking these moments to refocus your energy on something pleasurable you will be able to have the strength to get through the next hump.
  • Don’t consume yourself with technology.  Turn off your phone, and give yourself some quiet reading time.  Find a book that would encourage you, comfort you, or simply distract you.  Even 15 min of reading can give you a momentary mental boost.
  1. Enjoy the company of others. Spending time with family and friends is another great way to rehabilitate your state of mind when life seems unbearable. Remember, they love you unconditionally and can offer as much support as you need. During these “bad moments” is when you will truly see the best in people. Hang out with them more than normal; you’ll start to experience healing from all that positive energy around you. Allowing yourself to be vulnerable and asking for help during these difficult times can truly help you to find your peace again.
  1. Hold firm to your faith. It’s very likely that your faith is what has brought you through the difficulty thus far. Your faith in yourself, or your spirituality to sustain you should not be overlooked. Take it a day at a time. Meditate. Listen to music. Focus on the moment, and not on the uncertain future.
  2. Rest. Take care of yourself and rely on naps to get you through long days.  You cannot help anyone else if you are mentally and physically exhausted.  Find a quiet spot (even if you have to go to your car…I do this all the time) and put aside 20 min to close your eyes.  I promise you this will give you more strength than you realize.

Think with your mind, not your emotions.

Make a conscious effort to separate thinking and reasoning from feeling. Otherwise, you’re likely to start believing that nothing can ever work out.

  • Apply reasoning to the circumstances and use the same reasoning to get you to a brighter place.
  • It’s not always going to be an easy road, but you’ll be able to travel it if you commit to allowing outside influences to help turn things around for you.

“Maybe it’s not about having a beautiful day, but about finding beautiful moments. Maybe a whole day is just too much to ask. I could choose to believe that in every day, in all things, no matter how dark and ugly, there are shards of beauty if I look for them.”
Anna White, Mended: Thoughts on Life, Love, and Leaps of Faith

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Making the most of a fresh start

October 7, 2015

Fresh starts take place in your life every day. We evolve. We grow. We fall down and stumble our way back to find our footing.  The term “fresh start” has a warm, exciting sound to it, but the reality is that something new isn’t always something you look forward to.  Trust me, there have been many times when I go kicking and screaming into a “fresh start” because I would much prefer to stay warm and cozy with what is known.  Sometimes “fresh start” is actually just a very nice way of saying “starting from scratch”…and that can be terrifying.  Change is good, but it also comes with a truckload of worry.

For me, clean slates take a ton a patience.  I have a problem with wanting everything to be PERFECT.  Meaning, I sometimes can’t even get out of the gate because everything isn’t in its perfect place.

Even with this site, it has been hard for me to move forward when it is still in the process of transformation.  There was a huge part of me that wanted to wait until the new layout was done, the books were finished, and I had everything in place.  I was afraid that my message wouldn’t be acknowledged unless it was presented in a beautiful package.  Old habits die hard.

As Julia Cameron says “Perfectionism is a refusal to let yourself move ahead”.

So, I am here with you, trying to learn that clean slates, fresh starts and CHANGE don’t always come in the prettiest box.  We must be patient.  We must.

Yet, how can you make the most of a fresh start – especially when it’s proving difficult?

What we need to wrap our minds around is the fact that an unfamiliar position or situation serves as an opportunity for us to utilize talents we never knew we had.

It gives you the chance to challenge yourself and see just what you’re made of. Are you ready to do this with me?

Here are some tips I have gathered and depended on to help you make the most of your fresh start:

  1. Embrace it with an open mind. As scary as your fresh start may seem at first, it’s really important that you embrace it with an open mind. You’ve likely seen situations in the past that turned out to be only half as bad as you had anticipated. How many times have you stressed over a possible senario, only to have it go smoothly without any incident?  Anticipation with anxiety can make anything seem worse than it is, so make a conscious effort to keep an open mind.
  • Remind yourself that newness brings with it exciting opportunities to prove your capabilities. Amaze yourself!
  • Less is sometimes more, and knowing less about something you’re about to embark on makes it more rewarding when you conquer it!
  1. Begin with the end in mind. Okay, so your fresh start has you feeling a little nervous and insecure. But have you stopped to consider what you want the outcome to be in the end? By knowing the desired outcome, you can plot the path to getting there.
  • Consider how you’d ideally want the situation to turn out.
  • Assess whether your ideal scenario is actually a realistic outcome.
  • If it’s realistic, start making a step by step plan that will take you where you want to go. Baby steps!
  • At this point, you might start getting really excited about your fresh start. Don’t let the fear of not being perfect get in the way.
  1. Faith is stronger than any fear, doubt or insecurity you may have, so feel free to rely on it when you need to.
  • Remember how your faith has gotten you through tough situations in the past.  Remember your strength. Remember your fortitude.
  • Believe in yourself and everything else will fall into place. I promise you on this one!
  1. Liken it to a past experience. There’s a saying that goes, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” If you’ve had similar starting points in the past and are here now to tell about them, it means you’ve made it through them!  We do not give ourselves enough credit for the adversity we have forged against.  And if they were anything like your newest fresh start, chances are you’re more than capable of making it through this one.

You have what it takes to make the most of a fresh start and come out with a positive experience to be proud of. It is not always easy, but it is worth it.  Everytime. 

Go after this new situation with all the gusto you’ve got because you know you’re equipped with the tools to win!

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The lessons grief can teach us

October 2, 2015

The Lilypad

Yesterday we watched as another mind-boggling shooting took place; taking the lives of 10 people. I cannot express myself properly when it comes to these massacres.  There is no reason for it. The only thing that I can do is quietly hope for the families and friends whose loss is beyond measure.  Grief and loss shifts every part of you, and you are never the same person afterwards.

Whether it’s the death of a loved one, divorce, or the loss of a job, we all will have moments when life turns on its head. Grief is a normal healing process, as many say, but that doesn’t make it any less life altering. It requires healing to understand these events and slowly try to move on from them.  As I have said before, it is not because “everything happens for a reason”, because that is too painful a thought to bear.  But, these unexpected moments can provide some truths about our lives, and ourselves.  While grief can seem all consuming, the lessons are there to help you rise again. It is during the times of our greatest challenges that we finally understand our strength.

These are some truths that I have come to understand, and hope that it can help anyone who is in the wake of mourning.

Learn from your grief:

  1. Grief creates gratitude.  This was the hardest concept for me to accept.  You might not be able to see beyond the difficulty of your loss, but grief can help you to appreciate what you had, as well as what you still have. It is a time to reflect, and try to understand how life moves forward and pushes us to our limits.  It’s easy to take things for granted. Grief is a profound way to learn to be more grateful, but the opportunity is there if you are open to it.
  2. Grief can help you engage with your life. It’s very easy to float along without really committing to anything. We all get too frazzled and busy to truly engage. Tragedy can be a wake-up call and remind you to take in every moment.  Ensure that you’re making the most of each day.
  3. Grief can’t be solved by avoiding it. You might try to avoid your grief by staying busy. Men are especially good at this.  But denial can be just as damaging. You can’t stuff your grief into an overhead compartment without something falling on your head sooner or later. You’ll find that your grief will be waiting for you and your sadness will knock you off your feet eventually.
  4. Grief can help you to refocus. Perhaps you spend too much time focused on work at the expense of your family life, or have let your health go due to life overwhelm. Use grief as a time of reflection. Are you spending your time in the best manner for you? Are you truly taking care of yourself? What is it you really want to do with your time? Have you ever thought about it?
  5. Life doesn’t stop. After a tragedy, life continues and 99.999% of the people on the planet are unaffected. Everything keeps moving forward. It can be frustrating and make you want to scream.  When you are hurting, the isolation can be crushing.  But, your life must continue, too. It doesn’t seem fair that the world doesn’t take a timeout for your grief…try to remember that at one time everyone has been broken by loss of some sort. Find someone to talk to who can guide you through the process with compassion and understanding.  You are not alone.
  6. Bitterness only creates more pain. Some of us tend to be bitter regardless of the occasion.  We focus and stew in the anger.  Grief highlights the fact that bitterness isn’t a viable strategy for dealing with life. Find the moments when you can honor how you are feeling, how strong you are during this time, and how you want to move forward.  Grief can facilitate a less bitter view of life if you let it.
  7. You’ll find out who your friends really are. It’s uncomfortable to be around others in pain. But your true friends will still be there for you. The others will find an excuse to stay away. This can also be a blessing.  I have never once looked back toward the people that walked away when my life got “uncomfortable”.  It was the friends that stood by my side, offered support, love, and helped me to laugh again that fill my soul.
  8. You can overcome anything. Your life will eventually recover from your loss, even if you can’t see that now.  It’s surprising how good things can be after enough time has passed. You are a warrior! You can then approach the future with the knowledge that you can handle anything life has in store. You’ll be stronger than you’ve ever been. 
  9. You become less small-minded. After dealing with great heartache, it’s not easy to be petty. The small things become even smaller. The important things become more important. Grief can be a blessing in this regard. Your life has the potential to become richer in the future. There is something incredibly powerful in finally not caring about the mindless chatter or cattiness of others.  You KNOW what is important to you.

Grief gives you an opportunity to reevaluate your life and refocus.  Believe in your strength.  You are not alone. xo

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